In the silly season we call the off-season, many hockey fans consume any semblance of a rumour that comes their way. Montreal Canadiens fans are no exception. So, imagine how spirited a conversation can be when someone suggests, rather confidently, that the Habs will trade for a player.
TSN 690 host and fellow colleague Mitch Gallo threw out a fascinating target that he felt the Habs could see themselves landing at some point this fall:
The Canadiens are totally going to acquire Brandon Saad.— Mitch Gallo (@MitchyGallo) September 17, 2020
As assured as Gallo sounded in his tweet, it should be noted that he didn’t say the team was linked to Brandon Saad. Nor did he quote any sources. So it isn’t a rumour. It’s likely just an educated hunch from someone who’s covered the Canadiens for close to a decade through different platforms.
Good enough for us, and Hockey Twitter.
Debates and comments soon started after Gallo’s tweet was sent off. Perhaps not at the same pace as fellow colleague Joey Alfieri’s suggestion that the Canadiens land Roope Hintz from the Stanley Cup finalist Dallas Stars, but enough to stimulate the mind and consider how he fits on the Habs.
Saad is a 27-year-old winger who hasn’t scored fewer than 18 goals in a season since the 2012-13 lockout. He was drafted by Chicago in 2011, the same year current Habs general manager Marc Bergevin became assistant GM of the ‘Hawks. So, you could say Bergevin knows him some.
If the Pittsburgh native’s $6-million salary scares you, just know he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the 2020-21 season. Chicago currently has over $8 million in cap space, a shade under the $10 million in cap space the Canadiens have after the Joel Edmundson signing.
Twenty-one of Saad’s 33 points in the regular season came from goals. When compared to Habs players, Saad was only outscored by Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher (22 goals each), and he’s been able to help his offence generate more shots at five-on-five near the front of the net than when he isn’t on the ice.
It means he could provide some help for a Canadiens offence that was tied for 18th-best in goals for. (The other team the Habs are tied with? Chicago.)
He could help defensively as well. While his 2019-20 defensive chart from HockeyViz.com leaves a bit to be desired, Second City Hockey has raved about his defensive abilities, and he’s shown to be a useful penalty-killer.
A trade would allow Chicago to clear some salary and give them more room to manoeuvre, while the Canadiens would be hugging the cap if they took on Saad’s salary and didn’t exchange any back. But if the Habs find themselves striking out in terms of landing top-tier wingers who could solve their finishing woes, it might be worth giving Chicago a phone call to see if they’d be willing to budge on Saad.