By Jay Zawaski–

(CBS) — I was warned Monday, but I never believed it would actually happen. The Blackhawks have traded Brandon Saad.

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Chicago sent Saad, defenseman Michael Paliotta and forward Alex Broadhurst to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday afternoon in exchange for forwards Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Corey Tropp and Jeremy Morin.

So what happened? Where did it all far apart? After all, Saad had said he could take less to play in Chicago, while general manager Stan Bowman said he’d do everything he could to bring him back.

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie — who in my opinion is the absolute authority as far as hockey insiders go — Saad was seeking a six-year deal carrying a $6.5 million cap hit annually.

That’s the kind of contract that would sink the Blackhawks. Already in cap hell, the Blackhawks would have swallowed hard and signed Saad for $5 million, maybe even $5.5 million, but $6.5 million is too rich. With Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell already presumably gone, that number would have forced the Blackhawks to trade even more players. It could have cost them Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger and maybe more. There’s no doubt that Saad is a great player, but the Hawks have to be able to ice an NHL team.

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Knowing he couldn’t get a deal done and fearing an offer sheet from another team, Bowman did what he had to do to get the right return. The compensation for Saad signing would have been a first-round, second-round and third-round pick. That’s a nice return, but with the trade, the Hawks get an established second-line center in Anisimov. They also get a potential future star player in Dano. Morin is a player who the Hawks know and can play on all four lines, while Tropp brings some of the physicality they lack.

In the short term, the Hawks have a bit more wiggle room for the beginning of free agency than they had probably expected. The CBA allows teams carry a team salary 10 percent higher than the current cap until opening day. The hard cap is $71.4 million; adding 10 percent of that means you can carry contracts up to $78.54 million.

I would look for the Hawks to add an established No. 4 or 5 defenseman in the coming days. They’ve already been linked to Blues defenseman Barret Jackman.

Some have asked why the Hawks would trade Paliotta. They’re thin on defense and just signed him this spring. To me, this is another indicator that a free-agent signing could be coming. If you look at the Hawks’ organizational depth chart, on defense you have Trevor Van Riemsdyk, Stephen Johns (who would have played in the playoffs, had he not broken his arm), Ville Pokka (whom the Hawks acquired in last fall’s Nick Leddy trade) and Viktor Svedberg (who also almost played in the Cup Final.) Put David Rundblad and another free agent defenseman to that list, and Paliotta is outside looking in — for a long time.

In trading Saad, Bowman was faced with a very difficult decision. Instead of getting caught off guard, instead of worrying about public reaction and outrage, he made the better hockey decision — as he usually does.

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Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Spiegel and Goff Show on 670 The Score and the Blackhawks columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JayZawaski670.