It's too soon to decide a winner of the June 2017 trade that saw the Chicago Blackhawks send Artemi Panarin to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Brandon Saad, according to Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman.
Bowman told The Athletic's Mark Lazerus that scoring statistics alone shouldn't determine which side wins a trade.
"You can't try to measure it just on the performance in one season," Bowman said. "You've got to remember there's the bigger picture, which is the players' status and their leverage and contract negotiations. There's not one factor."
Panarin can become an unrestricted free agent next offseason, and the Blackhawks projected that his next deal would not fit their salary cap structure.
"If it was just based on their offensive production last year, then you would have concerns," Bowman said. "But it's a different story than that. I understand why you're asking, and why people look at it that way. But I don't look at it that way."
Ultimately, those concerns may prove to be right. Despite early success in Columbus, reports indicate Panarin is not long for the Ohio capital and his sights are set on a free-agency payday come July 1.
Interestingly enough, cap concerns originally led the Blackhawks to ship Saad's rights to the Blue Jackets in the 2015 offseason. In Columbus, Saad excelled, notching a career-high 31 goals in his first campaign, while his second season saw him equal his 53-point finish from the year prior. But when Panarin, the 2016 Calder Trophy winner, became available, Saad was sent back to the Windy City.
On paper, the early results have been a clear win for the Blue Jackets, as Panarin finished his first season in Columbus with a team-leading 82 points, while Saad sank to 35 points, his worst showing since his freshman campaign.
It now appears those struggles have seeped into the new season, as Saad has picked up just two points through eight games, while head coach Joel Quenneville has already contemplated making the $6-million winger a healthy scratch.
Still, Bowman says the season is young and, while Saad may not be producing as expected, he's providing value in other areas of the ice.
"A little bit I think has been overblown. He's played, what, six games? He's probably played two games that I thought he played poorly. Other than that I think he's played fine. He's not scoring. That's the thing," Bowman said. "He's still killing penalties. When you look at other numbers, he's not on the ice for many chances against, he plays against good players and he's able to shut them down. So that's an aspect of that.
"I realize that's not the one that maybe gets a lot of attention. But no, I'm not that concerned about it. It's similar to last year - he does a lot of good things. It's just the biggest thing is the production's not there, and that's what gets people's attention."