CHICAGO -- Brandon Saad wants to stay with the Chicago Blackhawks, and general manager Stan Bowman is intent on making it happen.
Saad, who can become a restricted free agent July 1, did nothing but reinforce his standing as an integral part of the Blackhawks' success throughout the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 22-year-old forward scored eight goals, including two in the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and was strong defensively playing on the top two lines.
"He's grown as a player," Bowman said Wednesday. "We want him to continue to grow and take a bigger role next year. We've seen him emerge over the last couple of seasons. He's just starting to grow into a big role on our team, and that's going to continue for many years to come. We'll work that out."
Saad could receive offer sheets if he doesn't reach agreement with the Blackhawks prior to free agency. Despite Chicago's difficult salary-cap situation heading into next season, Bowman said he isn't worried about it.
"I have a lot of confidence in that, in terms of bringing a player like Brandon back," Bowman said. "He's going to be a big part of our group for many years to come. We'll make it work. Those things aren't of a concern to me."
The Blackhawks are going to be crunched under the salary cap this summer because of identical pay raises given to forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane last summer; each will count $10.5 million against the cap beginning with the 2015-16 season. If Saad signs an offer sheet with another team and Chicago matches it, the cap situation will be that much more precarious.
Bowman said he views Saad, who the Blackhawks selected in the second round (No. 43) at the 2011 NHL Draft, as a cornerstone player for future championship runs. It should make it easier that Saad says he wants to re-sign with the Blackhawks.
"It's about winning, and we have a tight group here," said Saad, who had career highs in the regular season with 23 goals, 29 assists and 52 points. "I'm close with a lot of the guys. It's fun out there on the ice and off the ice, so the goal is to be in Chicago."
Reports recently surfaced that the Pittsburgh Penguins may be interested in extending an offer sheet to Saad, who is from western Pennsylvania. Saad said winning two championships in Chicago, with the potential to win more, trumps the desire to go home.
"I was obviously a fan of Pittsburgh growing up there, and they had some good teams and good players come along," Saad said. "But to play in the NHL is the goal and to win, and I couldn't be happier in Chicago.'
Author: Brian Hedger | NHL.com Correspondent