June 28th, 2010 by

Shipping Savard out of Boston: Good move, bad timing

Savard's time in Boston could soon be over.

As the trade talks around Bruins’ No. 1 center Marc Savard continues, the thought of losing one of the NHL’s premiere set-up men after drafting Tyler Seguin just a few nights ago is enough to make most Black-and-Gold backers pull their hair out.

The day after picking Seguin second overall in Friday night’s 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the Bruins dealt center and impending RFA Vladimir Sobotka to the St. Louis Blues for defensive prospect David Warsofky, opening up a possible third-line center slot for Seguin if in fact Savard is shipped out soon. If the point of dealing the Bruins power-play pivot is to clear cap-space ($4M) then we already know the Bruins won’t get equal value for No.91.

The Bruins currently have five roster forwards making at least $4M—Savard, Horton, Lucic, Ryder, Bergeron—and seven who take in $3.5M and up—Krecji, Sturm (Sturm’s cap will be null for the time he’s placed on LTIR).  Certainly ridding an albatross contract like Ryder’s would be ideal, but the reality of any general manager willing to take on that existing contract is a fable.

Good move:

  • Despite the injuries and long-term contract, Savard’s stock is probably at its highest right now. Take a look at some unrestricted free-agent centers come Jul. 1 (Olli Jokinen, Matt Cullen, John Madden) and it’s clear to see that Savard is the best talent of that pool. Finding an available No. 1 center of Savard’s caliber is far and few between, therefor (theoretically) bringing in the most bang for the buck.
  • Signing Savard long-term was a poor contract decision in the first place. Inked on Dec. 1, 2009 to a seven-year extension, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli still had seven months to deal with the 32-year-old’s existing contract; Jul. 1 being the NHL’s free-agency date. And on Apr. 13, especially, Chiarelli and the rest of the Bruins’ brass knew their 2010 draft pick would have been either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin; still two-and-a-half months away from the open market. Wiping away a contract worth over $4M from the books for each of the seven years for a soon-to-be 33-year-old would be lucrative.
  • David Krejci’s slow start to the 2009-10 season may have been a direct result from rehabbing a surgically-repaired hip during last off-season, and being bit overzealous by jumping right in for Game 1 of 82. But in his second full season in Boston, Krejci’s post Olympics break run (21 points in 22 games) and stellar playoff performance (4-4-8 in nine games) proved that his is ready to be a No. 1/2 center in Boston. By cutting ties with No. 91 would also bump Bergeron up the ranks; perhaps putting more effective wingers by his side.

Bad timing:

  • After bottom-dwelling dead last in the NHL in goals-for last season, the Bruins are trying to rectify that this year with the acquisition of Horton and the drafting of Seguin. Shipping their best point-getter (295 in 279 career games in Boston) now makes little sense. Even without the stats, the Bruins are much better with Savard than without him. Keeping their best player on the man-advantage in their lineup provides, not only the quintessential power play quarterback, but depth as well. With Savvy centering and setting-up the first power play unit, Krejci can work the half-wall while Bergeron slides over to wing after being the second units’ face-off guy (Bergeron broke into the NHL on the wing).
  • With a No Trade Clause (NTC), Savard has just two teams he would waive that for: Ottawa and Toronto. The Maple Leafs have been looking to shop their No. 1 defenseman Tomas Kaberle since his NTC has expired. While a stud like Kaberle would really round out the Bruins’ back-end with another legitimate top-3/4 blue-liner, the act of clearing cap-space becomes moot as Kaberle’s cap-hit is at $4.25M. That is unless Leafs’ general manager Brian Burke wants to take on another expensive contract (Ryder).
  • Allow Seguin a full season to learn the NHL game at NHL speed, without the added pressure of  a centerman’s responsibilities, could be beneficial. Krejci, who was drafted by Boston essentially NHL-ready, quickly moved his way up the Bruins’ depth charts after some brief stints between Providence and Boston. Allowing Seguin a year or two in Boston (since he’s ineligible to play in the AHL) alongside some seasoned centers—Savard, Krejci, Bergeron—while gaining some necessary NHL experience before anointing him the savior is imperative.

This all goes back to bad contracts: Tim Thomas (4/$20M), Milan Lucic (3/$12.25M) Andrew Ference (3/$6.75M). And it looks like Chiarelli is trying to right-the-wrong, but at what cost? Does Horton, Campbell and the compensation for Savard make this a  better Bruins’ team than with Wideman and Savard?

Unfortunately for Savard supporters, that question may soon be answered.

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