David Savard is scheduled to play in his 600th NHL Game on Apr 12 assuming he doesn’t miss any games between now and then. The question is which team will he suit up for in that game?
With just 15 days and eight games until the NHL’s Trade Deadline, things will start ramping up in quick order. Savard’s name has been all over the reports since he is a pending UFA and it doesn’t seem likely he’s returning to the Blue Jackets next season.
So how will the Blue Jackets handle this situation? It honestly might come down to the wire to see where they are at in the standings. If they are in a playoff spot or right in the hunt, GM Jarmo Kekalainen has demonstrated in the past that he is not afraid to keep a player through the season despite the risk of losing them in free agency.
Despite the Blue Jackets awful loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, they’re still in this race even if it looks like they’re dead in the water. It’s not about style. It’s about making the dance whatever it takes.
Still the Blue Jackets are going to have to decide if they are in full sell mode or if they think they can make a real run to get in. If they think they have a chance, Savard could stay. Deep down, the vets on this team want another crack at the playoffs.
But with just nine regulation wins in 35 games this season and a points percentage that puts them seventh in the Discover Central Division, the Blue Jackets don’t have math on their side. With 11 of their next 15 away from Nationwide Arena against good competition, even their best efforts might not be enough to get in this year.
Kekalainen will have a tough decision to make. On one hand, he’s as ultra competitive as there is. He would like nothing more than to give this team a boost in the hopes that it sparks them to a late run. But on the other hand, what exactly have the Blue Jackets done this season to deserve a boost? Their offense looks lost. Top players are nowhere to be found. Is a deadline deal really enough to wake this team up from its season-long slumber?
If the Blue Jackets choose the latter scenario where they do sell, contending teams will speed dial Kekalainen to see what it might take to land Savard. He will be a very popular name leading up to the deadline given everything he brings to the table. What does he bring? Great question. Let’s fill you in.
It’s Not About the Scoresheet
Savard’s stats are not going to jump off the page at you. He has no goals and five assists in 34 games this season and is a -15. We attribute this to the poor team play all around.
The Blue Jackets top four struggled mightily early in the season. The normally dependable pair of Savard and Vladislav Gavrikov weren’t stopping anything. Speedy teams were able to take advantage of them. This led to them even being split apart for some of this season in the hopes they can find their game.
In recent games, they’ve been put back together but aren’t having the same kind of impact they’ve had in the past. The forward situation with the Blue Jackets is a work in progress to put it lightly. Savard landing on a contender would put him in a much better situation to do what he does best. And that’s do the dirty work.
Savard is fifth in the entire NHL in blocked shots with 77 while averaging just under 20 minutes a night. He is fearless. You will always find him in the shooting lane giving himself up to block shots. He is one of John Tortorella’s favorite players because of the way he handles his business: like a true professional.
Savard is just outside the top-30 in hits as well. When he’s most successful, he’s in your face playing an honest game. But when you look at the scoresheet at the end of the night, you’ll see a handful of hits and blocks on his line. He’s made for playoff hockey. Close, tight-checking games fit his style perfectly.
Savard Has Offense Too
Here’s the thing that won’t get enough attention. Savard can low-key add some offense. He has no goals this season but does have 40 goals and 165 points in his career.
Earlier in his Blue Jackets tenure, Savard was depended upon to provide more offense. But with the likes of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski roaming everywhere on the ice, Savard has settled into a defensive role. You can depend on him playing that role to the best of his ability.
But when the opportunity presents itself, don’t leave Savard room. Just ask Victor Hedman. Remember this moment from that monumental upset of the Tampa Bay Lightning? A toe drag and a beautiful goal.
He also spent time on the power play in previous seasons. He has 25 power-play points on his resume. I wouldn’t expect him to go to a contender to add offense, but he does have that element in his game should a situation warrant it.
Savard’s Leadership Speaks For Itself
This is the part that contending teams should be most excited about. Savard is a well-respected leader in the Blue Jackets’ room. He lets his play do the talking. But when he does speak up, people listen. He is the rep for the Blue Jackets for NHLPA matters.
Savard will bring that leadership and professionalism to the room of a new team. He says all the right things and holds himself and others accountable. He’s the kind of player that can help galvanize a contender.
Who Would Be Interested?
The list of interested teams should be a lengthy one. But in my mind, four teams stand out as those who should be most interested.
- Winnipeg Jets: If they miss out on a Mattias Ekholm, Savard would be a perfect fit on the Jets’ blueline.
- Toronto Maple Leafs: Savard would be a great fit here surrounded by lots of offensive talent.
- Colorado Avalanche: The rich get richer, but Savard would go to a team with a real shot at winning the Stanley Cup.
- Florida Panthers: There’s familiarity here and Savard could help a young Panthers’ squad find their way.
There would be others interested, but these four make the most sense to me given their current needs. As for a potential price, the Blue Jackets should start with a first rounder. But in a buyer’s market, that price might seem steep.
Realistically, I could see the Blue Jackets landing two seconds in a potential package for Savard. Alec Martinez went to the Vegas Golden Knights for two second rounders going back to the Los Angeles Kings. This trade happened last season so there is precedence on this kind of price. As another example, Brenden Dillon went from the San Jose Sharks to Washington Capitals for a second and conditional third rounder.
The Blue Jackets will have to make a tough decision on Savard. He has spent his entire career with the Blue Jackets. Trading him would be a tough pill to swallow. But given the state of the organization, they need to restock their cupboards because compared to other teams, it is quite bare.
With the likes of Andrew Peeke on the verge of a full-time role and the recent acquisition of Mikko Lehtonen, it seems Savard’s days in a Blue Jackets’ uniform might be coming to a conclusion soon. Whether it’s by the trade deadline or after the season is another story. But they cannot let him walk for nothing.
Savard defines what being a Blue Jacket means. Only three players in team history have played more games with the Blue Jackets than him: Rick Nash, Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno. That is it.
Contenders are lined up because of what all Savard will bring to their team. The puck is now on Kekalainen’s ice to determine how to navigate this situation. Regardless of how it ends, we are starting to witness a potential end to one of the greatest careers in Blue Jackets’ history. That’s what will make this a tough decision in the end.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.