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NHL

Blackhawks star Saad's still the one who got away for Penguins

| Tuesday, June 16, 2015, 7:36 p.m.
The Chicago Blackhawks' Brandon Saad celebrates after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday, June 15, 2015, in Chicago.
The Chicago Blackhawks' Brandon Saad celebrates after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday, June 15, 2015, in Chicago.
Gibsonia native Brandon Saad hoists the Stanley Cup after the Blackhawks defeated the Lightning on June 15, 2015 in Chicago.
Getty Images
Gibsonia native Brandon Saad hoists the Stanley Cup after the Blackhawks defeated the Lightning on June 15, 2015 in Chicago.

George Saad hadn't heard.

In Chicago for much of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Saad said he was unaware of the collective sentiment among Penguins fans toward his son, Brandon.

Essentially, that they wished the Gibsonia native and Pine-Richland product was theirs, not Chicago's.

“I haven't followed the news in Pittsburgh, but I can imagine (the feeling) given what Brandon has been doing,” George Saad told Trib Total Media prior to Monday's Game 6, a 2-0 win that helped Brandon Saad's Blackhawks hoist the Stanley Cup for the third time in six seasons.

“He's a great loss to the hometown, you know?”

They know, George. They definitely know.

Former general manager Ray Shero won a Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh. Won a lot of games, too. Yet selecting defenseman Joe Morrow over Brandon Saad in the first round of the 2011 NHL Draft is a decision that Shero again has been scrutinized for thanks to Saad's sensational postseason run of eight goals in 23 games.

George Saad insisted he was as surprised as anyone the Penguins didn't draft his son. He and his wife, Sandra, had twice met with Shero: once at Consol Energy Center, another time in Minneapolis, Minn. They “thought he was on the radar screen for Pittsburgh to draft.”

“When they passed on him in the draft, I was kind of surprised because that's not what I anticipated,” George Saad said. “I understand, at the time of the selection, they felt a defenseman would be a better fit for the team. Sometimes you make a mistake as a GM, unfortunately. I think that was a mistake personally, but it is what it is.”

And what it became was a directive given to current GM Jim Rutherford.

“(My bosses) have shared with me the disappointment that we don't have a local player,” Rutherford said. “I keep that in mind, not only if it's the draft but also if one comes up in the league who's local.”

George and Sandra Saad live here seven or eight months out of the year but have been spending more time with their successful, Stanley Cup-winning son in Chicago.

Brandon, meanwhile, took a huge step in his development in 2014-15. He scored a career-high 23 goals in 82 regular-season games.

“I've been trying to get to the net more and shoot pucks,” Saad told Trib Total Media in February. “I want to contribute instead of just being part of a line.”

The Saad family harbors no ill will toward the Penguins but have admittedly become hooked on the Windy City.

“I would love to have seen him play in Pittsburgh, but I love the city of Chicago just as much right now, to be honest,” George Saad said. “The Blackhawks have an outstanding team. They know how to win.”

Brandon Saad will soon become a restricted free agent, which theoretically means the Penguins could put together an offer sheet and bid for his services, the idea being to make an offer Chicago can't match.

Given NHL rules and what the Penguins have to offer — they have no second-round pick in 2016 — such a scenario is highly unlikely.

Almost as difficult, George Saad said, as imagining the Blackhawks letting his son walk given what he has become: a world-class player entering his prime and coming off a career-best year.

“He's earning his time on the ice in the playoffs this year, you know?” George Saad said. “He's competing more. I love that about him. His demeanor about the game is changing. He's trying to take over. He doesn't want to be a complementary player anymore.

“I don't think Chicago, at this stage of the game, would let him go. He's a vital part of their team.”

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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