Enjoy your holiday weekend, Blue Jackets fans.
On the eve of our nation’s 239th birthday, Jarmo Kekalainen locked up another core piece of his team, signing newly acquired forward Brandon Saad to a new six-year contract reportedly worth $36 million.
The deal, which ties Saad and the Blue Jackets together through the 2020-2021 season, took less than 72 hours to complete and solidifies an elite two-way player on the top line, most likely on the left wing of star center Ryan Johansen – though he’s going to leave that decision up to his new coach, Todd Richards.
BRANDON SAAD SIGNS
Saad tried not to worry about the business side and let his agent, Lewis Gross, handle it, but admitted he found it difficult to ignore his phone and wait for word that a deal was complete.
Even in sunny Myrtle Beach, where he’s currently vacationing at his family’s condo, Saad wasn’t completely detached as negotiations were ongoing, but he was happy to report the good news to everyone on Friday afternoon.
“I’ve been excited ever since the trade happened, and really just hoping to get it done as soon as possible,” Saad said. “This side of the business is not my favorite; (my agent) deals with things like that. At the end of the day, I couldn’t be more excited to get something done and get the season going.
“I’ve been sitting by the phone a little bit, waiting to get something done. I’m enjoying vacation, obviously, it’s nice to be around the beach and the sun, but at the same time it’s always in your mind. You want to get things done and be on a team and be excited to go, so that’s been a little bit stressful but I couldn’t be more excited now.”
Saad’s acquisition means he joins a list of players in their 20s who are under long-term agreements with the Blue Jackets, including Johansen, Cam Atkinson, Brandon Dubinsky, Sergei Bobrovsky, Nick Foligno, Boone Jenner and others.
“(The Blue Jackets) have a lot of talented guys, and I know from playing against them how hard they work and the type of system they play,” Saad said. “They’re tough to play against. Their talent and skill on top of that makes them lethal, and I’m happy to be part of the team now.”
He comes to Columbus battle-tested and with two rings, captured in 2013 and 2015 as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. In this year’s playoff run, Saad was a fixture in coach Joel Quenneville’s top six, playing over 20 minutes per game in all situations and his eight postseason goals were bested only by two guys named Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
It’s hard to believe that he’s only 22 years old, but being a leader is something Saad is ready to take on when the time is right. Having been there and done that as part of one of the sport’s more incomparable championship runs of late (three Stanley Cups in six years), Saad is off to a strong head start as he begins his career’s next chapter in Columbus.
“It’s the experience of being there and going on deep playoff runs – it’s really helped my game grow,” Saad said. “It’s really incredible for my career and it’s helped me progress a lot.
“I think I can go and be a leader. I’m sure they have plenty of leaders (and) guys who have been around the league a while. They know what they’re doing. But I just want to go in and be myself; I’m not trying to change or things like that. I’m going in to be part of a team and I’m excited to join a great group of young talent.”