Blackhawks Trading Artemi Panarin To Re-Acquire Brandon Saad

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The Chicago Blackhawks promised changes would be coming this offseason, but nobody could have seen what’s just occurred over the past 30 minutes Friday morning.

Brandon Saad is coming back to Chicago.

The Blackhawks are sending Artemi Panarin, Tyler Motte and a 2017 sixth-round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets and will re-acquire Saad and also get goaltender Anton Forsberg and a 2018 fifth-round pick. Saad was traded by Chicago to Columbus in 2015 when a long-term extension couldn’t be reached.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman had the first report and it was corroborated by multiple reporters.

It’s been a wacky 30 minutes for the Blackhawks, who have already confirmed a trade sending longtime defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes for defenseman Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin.

Panarin emerged as one of Chicago’s top playmakers after joining the Hawks out of the KHL for the 2015-16 season. He recorded 61 goals and 151 total points as Patrick Kane’s running mate on Chicago’s lethal second line.

Everyone remembers Saad as a two-time Stanley Cup champion with Chicago. He recorded 126 points in 208 games with the Hawks and made a home with Jonathan Toews on the first line. Saad recorded 55 goals and 106 points in two seasons for the Jackets.

Some could argue Saad is an upgrade over Panarin, who was originally signed to help soften the blow after Saad went to Columbus. This move seems to indicate the Blackhawks are intent on getting Jonathan Toews a reputable linemate after playing musical chairs on the first line the past two seasons.

Saad has been in the league longer, but he’s actually younger than Panarin. Saad has four more years on his contract with a manageable cap hit of $6 million per year. Panarin is only signed for two more seasons and also accrues a $6 million annual cap hit. So the salaries are essentially a wash.

This is a tough loss for Kane, who has put up outstanding numbers with Panarin opposite him. But he’s shown a knack for being a better creator on his own than Toews.

The Blackhawks promised change, and we’re getting it. But the means at which all of this is happening seems bizarre.