Tell me how to feel on this crazy day, pls. Saad coming home makes me happy, everything else.. not so much... But there's got to be some sense to it, right?
It took me a little bit longer than expected, but I think I’ve rationalized at least the Saad/Panarin trade, so let me see if I can bring you some peace there, dear anon.
Currently, Saad and Panarin have identical cap hits. That means, right now, this trade gave the Blackhawks exactly $0 in cap space to use toward other players (or to just not be over the cap at all, which they still currently are). The only logical place to go from there, then, is that the Hawks weren’t looking at the salary either player would have to be paid in the upcoming season. Instead, the Hawks were likely looking two seasons ahead here. After the 2018-2019 season, Panarin will become a UFA and will likely be looking for a huge payday (I’d argue he probably could have found one anywhere else but Chicago even before then). Saad, on the other hand, will still have the same cap hit through the 2021-2022 season. That’s an additional two seasons that the Hawks could keep Saad without having to pay him a penny more. Could the Hawks have held onto Panarin for one of those remaining two seasons and then traded him, before his contract was up and he deservedly expected more money? Sure. Would it be a guarantee, at that time, that the Hawks could have flipped him for Saad? Not at all.
Additionally, the Hawks already know that Saad fits into their system. They didn’t have to take a gamble here. I honestly doubt that Panarin would have been traded for a player that the Hawks were even slightly unsure of. Panarin already fit the system, he already had a solid place on the second line, he already had a role on the team. Basically, if the Hawks weren’t getting Saad in this deal, I would expect that Panarin would still be a Blackhawk. There was no way Bowman could have risked letting go of one of the few important pieces of the team without absolutely knowing that what they were getting in exchange would work. And Saad works. We know that already. He slots in on the first line obscenely well, and I can almost guarantee that’s where we’ll find him on opening night.
On top of that, it’s obvious that the first line was a weakness last season (and the season before that). It’s been a weakness since, well, we lost Saad. No ifs, ands, or buts about it, that line has not been able to really find its groove for the last two season. Do I think the trade was made purely to benefit Jonny, then, considering we all know which line our Captain will center forever and ever amen? No, I don’t. And for all the talk of Jonny not being able to produce without Saad, he still had 58 points in both of the last two seasons without him, just eight less than he had when Saad was on his wing in 2014-2015. Still, I think, if you look back on the chemistry of the team and of the lines especially, you’ll see that, yeah, Kaner has been able to produce on a line with just about every other forward on the team on any given game night. Jonny, not so much. So while it’s hard to see one half of such a dynamic duo in Kaner and Panarin go, this isn’t the last we’ll see of Kaner absolutely slaying in points production, we don’t have to worry about that too much. What Bowman was worried about, at the time the trade was made, was that our top line wasn’t exactly on top of anything at all, and this trade could fix that, without impacting the overall production of our other talented core players. This isn’t to say I believe Kaner should be expected to fit with whatever new linemates he’s paired with, but that’s an entirely different discussion (or rant) to have at another time.
I’ll also tell you right now I don’t buy two arguments that I’ve seen going around to justify this trade. Number 1 is that Saad is younger than Panarin. Sure, when you get down to it, Saad is actually the younger of the two. But Saad is 24 and Panarin is 25. You’re not going to convince me that the Hawks thought about those 12 months (almost exactly, actually, with Saad turning 25 on October 27 and Panarin turning 26 on October 30, eerily enough) and gave a one year age difference any sort of significance in making this deal. The second argument is that Jonny and Kaner somehow made it known that they wanted Saad back on the team. I saw the tweet that’s been going around, claiming that our two superstar players loved Saad and let the front office know their feelings. Do I think that they do love Saad and would have liked to see him back in the Hawks jersey? Of course I do. They won two Cups with him and clearly shared a friendly relationship with him. Do I think they actually approached Bowman and asked him to make a trade happen? No. Do I think Bowman asked for their opinion before making this particular trade? Again, no. I don’t buy it. Kaner and Jonny might make $10.5 million each and they might have helped the team win three Cups (so far), but there’s no way I think Bowman approached Pat and asked him if he’d like to lose his linemate for Saad. I don’t see it happening.
As for the Hjalmarsson trade, I’m still not convinced it makes any sense at all. Sure, Hammer only has two seasons left on his current contract and I’d expect him to get paid at the end of it. But Hammer, even more than Panarin, seems like he would have benefitted the team in sticking around for at least those next two seasons, before he either walked or made another deal with the Hawks. He’s one of only three dependable defensemen we have at the moment, at least as far as I can see, and we don’t really have any defensemen coming up in the system that are ready to fill his role in the lineup on opening night. I don’t know enough about the two defensemen we got from Arizona in this deal, and maybe Stan’s seen some tape on them that makes him believe they can block slapshots from Chara all night long, but I think we’ll really have to just wait and see on this one, at least.
This got a little out of hand but hopefully, dear anon, it brought you some peace of mind, at least where one of these two blindsiding trades is concerned. At least until the other shoe ultimately drops (and I’m not saying it’s happening on or just after June 30, but that’s when Kruger’s bonus kicks in, so, jussayin’).