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Saad signs six-year contract with Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- It wasn't all sand, sun and fun for Brandon Saad on his vacation this week while he got over the shock of being traded by the Chicago Blackhawks and awaited word on a contract from the Columbus Blue Jackets.

But Saad started the holiday weekend by signing a six-year contract with Columbus reportedly worth $36 million.

"It's nice to be on the beach and in the sun," Saad said from Myrtle Beach, S.C. "At the same time, it's always in your mind you want to get things done and be on the team and excited to go, so that's been a little stressful."

Saad won his second Stanley Cup in three seasons with the Blackhawks in June but was a restricted free agent and a victim of Chicago's salary-cap space. The Blue Jackets were happy to trade for a player who had 52 goals and 74 assists (126 points) with 44 penalty minutes and a plus-44 rating in 208 NHL games. He had 34 points (15-19) in 67 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

"Both parties wanted to get a deal done, and get it done sooner rather than later," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen told The Columbus Dispatch. "Brandon wanted to get it done so he could concentrate on hockey and get to Columbus.

"It took a couple of days, but it was more about the smaller details than anything else. We weren't far apart at the start."

To get Saad, the Blue Jackets traded forwards Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Corey Tropp and Jeremy Morin, and a fourth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. Columbus also added defenseman Michael Paliotta and center Alex Broadhurst.

Kekalainen said he envisions Saad playing on a line with all-star center Ryan Johansen, although that will be up to coach Todd Richards.

"I'm not sure who I'll be playing with when it comes, but they've got a lot of talented guys," Saad said. "I know playing against them, for how hard they work and the system they play, they're tough to play against. With that talent and skill on top of that, it makes them lethal. I'm happy to be a part of the team."

Saad joins forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Nick Foligno and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky as Blue Jackets who have signed long-term contracts in the past two years.

"I couldn't be more excited to get this thing done and get the season started," Saad said.

He brings the type of playoff pedigree the Blue Jackets lack. They've missed the postseason two of the past three seasons.

"It's the experiences of being there and going on deep playoff runs and winning a few years," Saad said. "It's really helped my game grow.

"I can be go and be a leader. I'm sure they have plenty of leaders there, guys who've been around the League a while and know what they're doing and have different experiences. I just want to go in and be myself. I'm not trying to change my game. I'm going in to be a part of a team and I'm excited to join a team of young talent and move forward."

He's heard via text or phone messages from Richards and a handful of teammates.

"They've all been supportive," Saad said. "It's a difficult time being traded and moving to a new city. Hockey's a small world. They're a bunch of great guys."

With contract in hand, Saad can relax and enjoy the remainder of his vacation, although there's another big decision looming: what to do with the Stanley Cup. Every player on the winning team gets it for a day. He's done it once, but this will be a strange experience now that he's no longer with the Blackhawks.

"It's going to be a little different for sure," Saad said. "I'm not sure the exact date, but it's the end of July or the beginning of August. I don't have an exact plan yet."

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