“He was affectionately called “Man Child” by his teammates…
“…If Saad kept progressing, into what Joel Quenneville believed would be one of the top power forwards in the game, the Blackhawks were going to need to pay dearly either way…
“… Make no mistake: Saad was far and away the centrepiece, a commodity hard to come by in today’s game. He finished fourth on the Blackhawks last season in scoring, setting career highs with 23 goals and 52 points. He chipped in with another 11 points in 23 playoff games, including one game-winner.
“Kekalainen spoke highly of the fact Saad is a “proven winner,” a key contributor on two different Stanley Cup teams at such a young age.
“The bonus is Saad is intimately familiar with the Ohio area. He played junior hockey in Youngstown and grew up on the other side of the Pennsylvania border near Pittsburgh.”
USA Today “For all intents and purposes, Saad was a big part of the future of the Blackhawks. A skilled player, a good teammate and a fan favorite who was starting to thrive under Joel Quenneville until the harsh reality of monetary compensation got in the way.”
“The Blackhawks’ fast, tough and talented left wing was sent to the Blue Jackets. The Hawks general manager was consigned to facing hard questions about a hard decision.
“Understand, both sides did the right thing. It’s what happens when you pay to win a Stanley Cup and must serve the salary cap…
“…I get the shock and anger in Hawk Nation. It looks as awful as it feels. The Hawks received four forwards who combined did not match Saad’s 23 goals.”
“His range of skills, his understanding of the game and his maturity are that impressive.
“He has two Stanley Cup rings to his credit and has already played in 67 postseason games. This past spring he played top-six minutes, moving up the Chicago lineup ahead of players like Patrick Sharp and Antoine Vermette. He scored eight times, two of which proved to be game winners.
“And did we mention that he’s just 22 years old? “
“…Kekalainen is already imagining Saad playing with top center Ryan Johansen, also 22.
“Factor in another possible linemate in Boone Jenner, 22; captain Nick Foligno, 27; Cam Atkinson, 26; hard-nosed veteran Scott Hartnell; plus a defense corps that includes Ryan Murray, 21; and veteran Jack Johnson, 28; and former Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky; and this is a team built for both the short and long haul.
“Saad, a few weeks ago seen as untouchable in Chicago, now becomes a foundation piece in Columbus. With the New York Rangers in a bit of a state of flux and the Pittsburgh Penguins also in transition, the Blue Jackets are no longer just cannon fodder…”
“Saad is the best player involved in the deal.
“Saad, 22, had 52 points (23 goals, 29 assists) last season, and continued his growth into an impressive blend of size, skill and speed.”
“Saad is still incredibly young, coming off of a postseason where he was one of the most dominant players on the ice for the Stanley Cup champions, and best of all, he is capable of filling numerous roles and playing in all sorts of situations because of his on-ice intellect and skill set…
“… Anyone suggesting that Saad will be easy to replace is either delusional or way too eager to sugarcoat things…”