Big Z to Hawks in Saad trade; Burakovsky, Nichushkin in fold
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Another offseason, another big trade.
The Avalanche on Saturday acquired forward Brandon Saad and defenseman Dennis Gilbert from the Chicago Blackhawks for defensemen Nikita Zadorov and Anton Lindholm.
They also announced re-signing forwards Andre Burakovsky and Valeri Nichushkin -- both restricted free agents -- to two-year contracts, and minor-league forward Jayson Megna to a one-year deal.
Back on July 1, 2019, the Avalanche acquired center Nazem Kadri from Toronto in a trade that sent defenseman Tyson Barrie and Alexander Kerfoot to the Maple Leafs.
Kadri filled a major void as second line center, producing 36 points (19 goals, 17 assists) in 51 regular-season games, with 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) in 15 postseason games.
The 6-feet-1, 206-pound Saad, 27, is a two-time Stanley Cup champion who helped the Blackhawks win in 2012-13 and 2014-15. He had 33 points (21 goals, 12 assists) in 58 games this past season with five points (two goals, three assists) in nine postseason games.
Saad has one year left on a six-year, $36 million contract; Chicago will cover $1 million of what remains, according to capfriendly.com, making the Avalanche responsible for $5 million.
Saad, who is from Pittsburgh, has 347 points (169 goals, 178 assists) in 588 career regular-season games for the Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets. He has 42 points (18 goals, 24 assists) in 81 playoff games.
A five-time 20-goal scorer, Saad had a career-high 31 goals and 53 points in 2015-16 with Columbus; he also had 53 points with the Blue Jackets the following season.
Chicago’s second-round pick (No. 43) in the 2011 NHL draft, Saad was a finalist for the Calder Trophy and made the NHL All-Rookie team in 2012-13 when he had 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 46 games. The Blackhawks reacquired him in June 2017.
“In Brandon we are acquiring a two-time Stanley Cup champion who brings veteran leadership and experience to our team,” general manager Joe Sakic said. “He is a proven goal scorer and at age 27 is in the prime of his career. We are also adding a sturdy, young defenseman in Dennis, who plays a physical game and will help our depth on the blue line. We thank Nikita and Anton for their time with the Avalanche and wish them the best of luck moving forward."
The 6-2, 216-pound Gilbert, 23, has one year left on his entry-level contract. He split the 2019-20 season between the Blackhawks and the AHL Rockford IceHogs. He had three points (one goal, two assists) 21 games with Chicago and seven points (one goal, six assists) in 30 games for Rockford.
Gilbert, who is from Buffalo, was the Blackhawks’ third-round pick (No. 91) in the 2015 draft. He played three years at Notre Dame, where he had 42 points (six goals, 36 assists) in 116 games. He was named Hockey East’s Best Defensive Defenseman and to the Third All-Star team as a sophomore in 2016-17.
The 6-6, 235-pound Zadorov, 25, who was a restricted free agent, signed a one-year $3.2 million contract. He spent five seasons with the Avalanche following his June 2015 acquisition from Buffalo in the multiplayer trade that sent Ryan O’Reilly to the Sabres.
The popular and engaging 'Big Z' was in and out of coach Jared Bednar's doghouse at various parts of the past couple of seasons because of inconsistent play. He had 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 64 games this past season while leading the Avalanche in hits (175) for the fourth consecutive season. He had five points (three goals, two assists) in 15 postseason games.
A first-round pick (No. 16) of the Sabres in 2013, Zadorov has 75 points (22 goals, 53 assists) in 356 regular-season games with eight points (four goals, four assists) in 33 playoff games.
Lindholm, 25, was the Avalanche’s fifth-round pick (No. 144) in 2014 and has spent most of his pro career in the minors. He had five assists in 66 games with the Avalanche.
The 6-3, 201-pound Burakovsky, 25, will make $4.4 million next season and $5.4 million in 2021-22 after setting career highs this past season for goals (20), assists (25) and points (45) in 58 games. He had 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 15 postseason games.
“Signing Andre was a priority for us this offseason,” Sakic said. “He has been a great addition to our team and was a big part of our success this season. He’s a very skilled player who brings speed and scoring to our lineup, and we’re excited to have him under contract for two more years.”
Acquired from the Washington Capitals in a June 28, 2019 trade, Burakovsky has 190 points (82 goals, 108 assists) in 386 regular-season games. He was a member of Washington’s Stanley Cup championship team in 2017-18. He has 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 35 playoff games.
The 6-4, 210-pound Nichushkin, 25, has a two-year, $5 million contract. He had 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in 65 games after being signed as a free agent on Aug. 19, 2019. He had three points (two goals, one assist) in 15 postseason games.
“Valeri played important minutes for us this season and had one of the best years of his career,” Sakic said. “He is a big, young winger who provides depth scoring, can play up and down our lineup and is reliable defensively. We're happy to have him back for another two seasons."
Nichushkin struggled his final three seasons with the Stars, who made him a first-round pick (No. 10) in 2013. After getting 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in 79 games as a rookie in 2013-14, he had 40 points (nine goals, 31 assists) in his final 144 games with them.
He has 101 points (36 goals, 65 assists) in 288 career regular-season games with six points (three goals, three assists) in 32 postseason games.
The 6-1, 195-pound Megna, 30, had 34 points (18 goals, 16 assists) in 43 games for the Colorado Eagles in 2019-20. He didn’t have a point in eight AHL playoff games.