The Bruins received sweet news today in knowing their ailing center, Marc Savard, is one big step closer to returning to action. And with the way Boston has been lighting the lamp as of late — or lack thereof — especially on the power play (just two power play goals in their last 25 times with the man advantage) that news was even sweeter.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli issued a statement earlier this evening regarding Savard, enlightening the Hub that No. 91 will be back on the ice for contact participation with the rest of his Black and Gold teammates:
“Today Marc passed the tests administered by Dr. Micky Collins from the Sports Medicine department at UPMC, and is now cleared for contact. Marc will rejoin the team tomorrow for morning skate in Florida. There is no time-table at this time for Marc to start playing games.” stated Chiarelli.
The Bruins are in the beginning stages of a grueling schedule that lies ahead; 11 games scheduled over the next three weeks including travels to Atlanta, Philadelphia, Toronto, Buffalo, Montreal, and of course, Boston. Savard needs to get legs and cardio back into game shape, but the team will be sure not rush things considering the jam-packed schedule.
So now that $10,000 question still remains: which player(s) does Chiarelli waive or trade to clear the sufficient cap-space needed to insert Savard back in the lineup when he’s ready to go.
The first name on most peoples’ minds in the $4 million-man and ’09-10 bust, Michael Ryder. From a financial point-of-view, it makes sense. But from a statistical and production standpoint, not so much.
With a scoring line of 6-6-12, Ryder is off to the second best start of his career through the first 19 games — his 8-5-13 totals in ’05-06 with the Montreal Canadiens was tops when he finished the season with 30-25-55. He’s fifth on the squad in points; his six goals ranks him third; and half of those coming via the power play has him tied at the top with Nathan Horton.
Keeping Ryder on this current team — at least until the NHL trade deadline in March — could certainly have its benefits. For one, Boston could keep their current first-line in tact — Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, and Horton. And up until last night’s 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning where that first-line was non-existent, the trio has been one of the combinations in the league. Plugging the play-making pivot Savard with Ryder could not only boost his confidence and play even more when 91 does return, but could also snowball his production.
If not, plugging Ryder back with Krejci and Blake Wheeler (if he’s still around town) is another option. Although their success in ’08-09 (totaling 70-101-171, plus- 101) was overshadowed by the underperformance of last year (53-70-123, plus-7), the trio could begin something special again — especially now being healthy.
When defenseman Johnny Boychuk had 10 games with a fractured forearm earlier this year, we witnessed the reemergence of Adam McQuaid ($565,000 salary), and his ability to step right in to the NHL level and produce. We also watch Andrew Ference stepping up and into that No. 2/3 role, logging an extra seven more minutes of total ice time — and a good chunk of that on the penalty-kill — while Boychuk was sidelined.
Unfortunately Matt Hunwick hasn’t panned out to be the offensive, puck-moving, top-4 defenseman that the Bruins had expected — posting just 1-2-3 totals thus far. Although his $1.45 million salary wouldn’t put much of a dent in the cap if he were to be shipped, it could be a good start knowing that McQuaid can fill that No. 6 blue-line role confidently.
A healthy scratch for all but seven games this season, Daniel Paille and his $1.075 million contract should be the next one all but gone the moment Savard and Marco Sturm are ready to return. Placing rookie Jordan Caron ($1.1 million) back in the AHL could be a toss-up decision, but it would also bring the cap that much closer to even.
Ryder has never argued the fact that last season was personal disappointment and under-achievement. He has clearly put the disgruntles of last season behind him and is proving his spot in Boston.
And there’s no doubting Savard will help the NHL’s 13th ranked power play and middle-of-the-road club in goals-for when he’s ready.
But don’t doubt Ryder’s production, and don’t be so quick to count him out.