COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets have been stockpiling draft choices and prospects for years now to allow them to pull off a trade like they did Tuesday, when they sent four players and a future pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for left wing Brandon Saad.
"If we get good depth, some quality depth, then maybe we can put together a package and try to get an elite player like Brandon Saad on our team," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said.
Columbus traded forwards Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin and Corey Tropp, and a fourth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft to Chicago.
In addition to Saad, the Blue Jackets received two prospects: center Alex Broadhurst and defenseman Michael Paliotta.
Saad can become a restricted free agent at noon ET on Wednesday, but Kekalainen said he is confident the 22-year-old forward will sign a long-term contract with Columbus, possibly even Tuesday night. The Blue Jackets have scheduled a teleconference with Saad for Wednesday morning.
Saad's eight goals were third on the Blackhawks in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In 67 NHL playoff games, Saad has 34 points, including 15 goals.
"He's a winner," Kekalainen said. "We want winners here, and he's a proven winner. He's won two Stanley Cups. He's 22 years old and been a big part of it. He's got all the right tools. He's got size (6-foot-1, 204 pounds) and strength.
"He's exactly what we were looking for. He's going to be a big piece of our team for many, many years to come."
Saad had 52 goals and 126 points in 208 regular-season games for Chicago.
In order to get Saad, the Blue Jackets had to part with Dano, a top prospect who had eight goals and 13 assists in the first 35 games of his NHL career last season.
Columbus selected Dano with its third first-round pick
(No. 27) in the 2013 draft.
"It was really hard (to trade Dano)," Kekalainen said. "I even told Marko Dano it breaks my heart to include him in this deal."
But the Blue Jackets had 14 forwards under contract, and when earlier trade talks with the Blackhawks involving Anisimov expanded Monday to include Saad, Kekalainen jumped at the chance.
"We had talks about Artem Anisimov in various scenarios, then when Brandon Saad became part of it, we started moving fairy quickly after that," Kekalainen said.
Anisimov became expendable because the Blue Jackets believe second-year center Alexander Wennberg, also a 2013 first-round pick, is ready after he had 20 points (four goals) in 68 games last season.
"That's sort of been our philosophy and how we've approached it the whole time," Kekalainen said. "We knew we might have to package something together, build some depth with extra picks. We had three first-round picks the year we drafted Dano.
"If you have too many good players, if you have the luxury of saying something like that, then you make decision to try to package something together to get a player like Brandon Saad. If you have patience and a little bit of luck, and the timing is right, then the right deal can be done. Those things came together today.
"We've been looking for left shot, left wing for Ryan Johansen, who's a right-shot centerman. Brandon seems to be a very good fit for that role."