Should Burke Acquire Marc Savard? The Why/Why Not
Classic Savvy. Just classic. Absolutely classic Savvy. Just classic. Photo: Dave Sandford/Getty Images
Superstar playmaker Marc Savard apparently doesn’t fit into the plans of the Boston Bruins, and he’s reportedly agreed to accept a trade involving the Ottawa Senators or Toronto Maple Leafs.
Here is a player the Leafs could really use. As of this moment, their number one centre is Tyler Bozak, a promising talent the team has high hopes for, but one who has only 37 pro games under his belt on which he can be judged.
Savard is a superstar, and one of the best passers in the game. He’s superbly talented. He is a true number one centre. It’s hard to argue against what he brings to the rink.
However, Marc Savard has had concussion problems and carries a contract that expires around his 40th birthday.
So does Brian Burke acquire a proven producer despite the health and contract risks?
The debate has already begun to rage in Maple Leaf circles. There’s plenty of valid points to be made for both sides:
WHY THE LEAFS SHOULD ACQUIRE SAVARD
– Boston has very little trade leverage
The Bruins have initiated the trade talks; teams haven’t been banging on Peter Chiarelli’s door with offers. Any trade partner can negotiate to their advantage based on Savard’s injury history (several concussions), the length of his deal (7 years), as well as the cash owed to the soon-to-be 33-year-old centre (a ton of cash). It’s been speculated that the Leafs wouldn’t have to surrender one of the organization’s more valuable assets to acquire Savard — rather, a couple of prospects or perhaps a lesser defenseman might be enough. A rare opportunity has presented itself in which a front line talent can seemingly be had at an unheard of discount.
– History with Phil Kessel
Not only did Phil Kessel score 36 goals in ‘08-09, but the Bruins were the best team in the East with Savard and Kessel leading the way offensively. Kessel has matured as a player and shown he is a 30-goal man no matter who is by his side. With Savvy in the fold, the question heading into the season would be if Kessel can score 40, not 30.
– Immediately puts the Leafs in playoff contention
Adding an 80-point player improves a team in a hurry. If the post-Toskala Leafs can carry over their renewed enthusiasm from the Spring, the addition of Marc Savard and a couple of mid-level UFAs will have the Leafs in contention for one of the bottom four playoff spots in the East.
– Lessens the value of Boston’s first round pick
Brian Burke maintains that he “hopes Boston gets a good player” out of the Kessel deal, and that he wasn’t terribly disturbed watching a franchise centre picked by a division rival with his team’s former draft pick. Burkie is a great straight-faced liar, and he’ll clearly do all he can to improve the Leafs and ensure that Boston isn’t handed a second premier player in the 2011 draft.
– Savard may retire early
This may sound like a reason to not make the deal, but the ideal scenario for Burke and the Maple Leafs would be for Savard to play a few productive years and then hang ‘em up before he becomes a burden. Savvy’s contract lasts another seven years, but it’s conceivable that he will only play another 3-5 years of that contract. Further, when you take into account Savard’s finesse style, which hinges on intelligence and passing ability more than speed and athleticism, he should be fairly productive for the next four seasons. It would take a tremendous decline in production for Savard to fall short of his cap hit in terms of production.
– Cap hit is reasonable, especially for a star
Considering Brian Burke’s miraculous roster shuffling to get Jason Blake out of Toronto, consider this: Jason Blake’s yearly cap hit is virtually identical to Savard’s. Prior to Blake being dealt, had someone told you that Blake could be off the books in a year replaced by Marc Savard at an equivalent cap number, you would have thrown them to a mob of flesh-hungry Kopitars (zombies).
– The Leafs will have cap space for further shopping
With such a modest cap hit on Savard’s deal, Leafs will have room to make competitive offers in free agency and squeeze more talent into the lineup within the constraints of the salary cap.
WHY THE LEAFS SHOULD NOT ACQUIRE SAVARD
– Risk of long term headache
One more concussion and Savvy could be through with professional hockey. Head injuries can quickly put a stop to once-healthy careers. The Matt Cooke incident was frightening enough to ripple through the league and prompt immediate action/investigation regarding blind side hits to the head. Savard won’t become a more durable human being as he approaches his mid-thirties, so the Leafs might be facing a difficult scenario if he fails to deliver upon being acquired.
– Size up the middle?
Tyler Bozak isn’t a physically imposing fella, nor is top prospect Nazem Kadri. While Kadri does have a physical edge, he lacks the body to accompany it. The Leafs don’t have a big-body centreman, and that’s something Brian Burke mustn’t be content with. He had Getzlaf in Anaheim to compliment the diminutive Andy McDonald, but no such player is close to NHL-ready in the Leaf organization. Is Burke willing to commit to another player who barely cracks six feet?
– Giving up futures and getting older
So far, the re-tooling of the Maple Leafs has emphasized drafting and getting younger along with acquiring NHL-ready talent and improving through trade. If Burke is required to give up a couple of his better prospects in the deal, it might reek of prior Maple Leafs management decisions in which the future was ignored in making deals. Worst case scenario: Savard is a dud in Toronto and the Bruins acquire yet another former Leaf prospect who blossoms into a marquee player.
– The “Rod Brind’Amour” situation
That old camel in Carolina has become a burden to the salary cap and to the organization — as Jim Rutherford attempts to turn the page and rebuild, Brind’Amour apparently takes pleasure in seeing his name in the ‘minus’ column on a nightly basis. He refuses to call it a career. It’s possible that Savard intends to play out the remaining seven years on his deal, even if he’s ineffective in the latter portion of the contract.
– No-trade clause
For the first three years of the deal Savard would be very tough to move. Suppose he isn’t a fit in Toronto, and this becomes evident after the first year of the deal. In such a scenario, Brian Burke would have limited options in shipping Savard elsewhere. However, if Savard’s stance towards being dealt is any indication, he’s the type of player who complies with management if they show no interest in retaining him.
So what’s the right call if you’re Brian Burke? Everyone should have an opinion by now.