Trade Tree Friday: Brandon Saad

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Brandon Saad Blackhawks

Trade Tree Friday: Brandon Saad

Chicago Blackhawks

Every Friday this summer we’ve been looking back at trade trees that helped build the current and future Blackhawks rosters. This week, sadly, we take a look back at a trade tree that includes a couple tough blows to the franchise along the way but that still could pay dividends in the future.

Let’s talk about Brandon Saad.

Why this week? Yesterday — June 22 — was the fifth anniversary of one of the harder trades for fans to justify in recent Blackhawks history. But there is still a chance that the long, winding road of Saad’s relationship and trade tree could help Chicago down the road. And this coming week is another anniversary of a trade on the Saad Trade Tree.

And the trade tree begins almost three years before Saad was even drafted. Strap in, because this one’s gonna get crazy.

  • Sept. 12, 2008 — the Blackhawks acquired Toronto’s second-round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft from the Montreal Canadiens for forward Robert Lang.

Lang played one season in Chicago and was moved to Toronto.

  • July 27, 2009 — the Calgary Flames traded Wayne Primeau and a second-round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Colin Stuart, Anton Stralman and a seventh round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft (No. 186 – Matthew DeBlouw).

Yeah, this deal didn’t mean anything to Blackhawks fans at the time, but it was a relatively big deal to get Stralman to Toronto.

  • Sept. 5, 2009 — the Blackhawks traded a second-round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft to the Toronto Maple Leafs (No. 32 – Jared Knight) to the Toronto Maple Leafs for picks in the second (No. 43 – Brandon Saad) and third rounds (No. 70 – Michael Paliotta) of the 2011 NHL Draft.

So here’s where things start going off the rails. The Blackhawks traded Toronto a second-round pick that was originally their back to the Leafs for two second-round picks the following year. Why did the Leafs want this pick back? Because they were terrible at the time, and were trying to dramatically change the trajectory of their franchise.

The Leafs traded this second-round pick in 2010 with their first-round picks in 2010 and 2011 to the Boston Bruins for Phil Kessel. The two players Boston selected with the first-round picks in the trade: Tyler Seguin (No. 2 overall in 2010) and Dougie Hamilton (No. 9 overall in 2011). This was one of the biggest trades in the NHL at the time.

The second-round pick that originally belonged to Calgary in 2011 that was traded to Toronto and then subsequently traded to Chicago in the afterthought deal that was a precursor for the Phil Kessel trade became Brandon Saad.

Between the 2011-12 season and 2015, Saad was a big part of two Stanley Cup championship teams. He was billed as “Marian Hossa Jr.” and was strong all over the ice, though he did spend some time in the AHL during the NHL lockout that delayed the start of the 2012-13 season.

But the good times weren’t going to last because of the Blackhawks’ salary cap issues, and Saad’s pricetag and age made him an attractive player for other organizations (sound familiar, Alex DeBrincat fans?).

  • June 30, 2015 — the Blackhawks traded Saad and Paliotta with Alex Broadhurst to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Artem Anisimov, Blackhawks legend Jeremy Morin, Marko Dano, Corey Tropp and a fourth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft (Anatoly Golyshev).

We’ll start at the bottom. Golyshev never appeared in the NHL. That pick was a waste, but we’ll get back to him in a minute…

Fans loved some of the hype around Dano, but he was another in a long line of Stan Bowman’s attempts at turning a former high draft pick into a winner in Chicago that simply didn’t work. The Blackhawks knew Morin; he was drafted by Chicago years earlier. The real win in the trade for Chicago was Anisimov, who was a serviceable center.

The fact that Saad and Paliotta — the two picks that were acquired in the deal from Toronto that helped them make the Kessel trade — were traded together puts a nice bow on that trade. For now…

Golyshev Branch

We interrupt this ridiculous trade tree for a quick branch from Golyshev. No, he didn’t play in an NHL game. But the Blackhawks still turned that into something that is still influencing their NHL roster today.

  • June 25, 2016 — Chicago traded Golyshev to the New York Islanders for a fourth-pick in the 2016 draft (No. 110 – Lucas Carlsson) and a sixth-round pick in the 2017 draft (No. 170 – Jonathan Davidsson).

Keep that sixth-rounder in mind when we get back to the trunk of this trade tree…

  • April 8, 2021 — the Blackhawks traded Carlsson and Lucas Wallmark to the Florida Panthers for rights to Henrik Borgström, Riley Stillman, Brett Connolly and a seventh-round pick in the 2021 draft (No. 216 – Jalen Luypen).

Luypen is still playing well in the Memorial Cup for the Edmonton Oil Kings and might have a bright future with the organization despite being a seventh-round pick. Stillman has been a nice defenseman thus far and Borgström is another Bowman reclamation project that is TBD. Connolly is a waste of cap space.

But this shows how an afterthought fourth-round pick in a more significant trade could become a player who never played in the NHL, but two trades later has three players on the Blackhawks’ payroll and a talented prospect in the organization.

Back to the trunk

  • June 23, 2017 — the Blackhawks traded Artemi Panarin and Tyler Motte to Columbus for Saad, Anton Forsberg and a fifth-round pick in the 2018 draft (No. 142 – Mike Callahan).

Well that sucks. Saad came back for three underwhelming years while Panarin was exciting in Columbus and then got the bag from the New York Rangers. The Blackhawks traded Panarin because they couldn’t afford a third $10+ million contract on their books and already had Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in that territory. Panarin had incredible chemistry with Kaner and is still a special player.

Motte wound up a teammate of Panarin’s with the Rangers this spring after a deadline deal and has become a really nice player.

  • October 10, 2020 — the Blackhawks trade Saad with Dennis Gilbert to the Colorado Avalanche for Anton Lindholm and Nikita Zadorov.

Lindholm played 16 games for Rockford before going back to Russia. Zadorov was a big body on the blue line that didn’t fit — another hallmark of the final half-decade of Bowman’s tenure.

Zadorov Branch

  • July 28, 2021 — Chicago sent Zadorov to the Calgary Flames for a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.

So there’s still a pick coming from Zadorov that we’ll see in play this summer.

Anisimov Branch

  • July 16, 2019 — Chicago sent Anisimov to Ottawa for Zack Smith.

Smith was limited by injuries and retired.

Tropp Branch

  • February 29, 2016 – the Blackhawks traded Tropp to the Anaheim Ducks for Tim Jackman and a seventh-round pick in the 2017 draft (No. 215 – Josh Ess).

Ess just finished his fifth year at Wisconsin and signed overseas. Jackman never appeared in a game for Chicago or Rockford.

In Summary

So we started with Robert Lang and wound up where?

The current assets in the Blackhawks organization from the Brandon Saad Trade Tree are Henrik Borgström, Riley Stillman, Brett Connolly, Jalen Luypen and a third-round pick in 2022.

Along the way, the Blackhawks won two championships with Saad as an integral player. The trades involved in this tree landed Phil Kessel in Toronto and Artemi Panarin (ultimately) in New York. That’s some heavy lifting that even I didn’t consider when starting this tree.

Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab