The Blue Jackets went into the off-season reportedly looking to upgrade their defense. And then, on the eve of free agency, the hockey world was taken by surprise when it was announced that the Jackets had acquired Brandon Saad (along with Michael Paliotta and Alex Broadhurst) from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Corey Tropp, and Jeremy Morin.
All of a sudden, things had been changed, but it was the forward corps that looks drastically different.
GM Jarmo Kekalainen talked of pairing Saad with Ryan Johansen, and the team set about getting the RFA Saad signed to a six-year extension to remain in Columbus into his prime.
In a word, woah.
We did extensive analysis of the trade back in July, and it seems clear that Saad adds to the potential for Columbus to have what amounts to a kick-ass-and-take-names kind of offense. Considering the defense wasn't upgraded at all, it might need to be.
Saad, in short, does it all. He's big. He's fast. He can finish (career 11.2% shooting percentage). He plays both ways, and in all three phases. He has experience playing with some of the best players in the game, and has done well playing against some of the toughest competition matchups in the league. He has played in 57 more playoff games than the CBJ franchise has played in. He has two rings. Consider this quote from Matias Strozyk of EliteProspects:
A hard-working winger who protects the puck well. A strong skater with an excellent shot. Moves well and is a good finisher. Plays hard and with a lot of strength. Reads the game well.
Oh, and he's only 22.
What's not to like?
Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Draft Status: 2011 Second Rounder (43rd, Blackhawks)
Cap Hit: $6.0 million