One of general manager Marc Bergevin’s biggest offseason moves was adding defenseman David Savard to the Montreal Canadiens fold. The 30-year-old signed a four-year deal carrying an average annual value of $3.5 million as a free agent. Here are five things to know about the Habs’ new acquisition.
He’s Coming Home
After spending the first 10 seasons of his NHL career with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Savard was traded at the deadline this spring to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Fresh off a run to his first Stanley Cup, he is joining the team the Lightning beat in the Final to capture their second consecutive championship and the franchise he cheered for as a kid while watching hockey on Saturday nights with his grandparents. His dad still follows the team closely.
“It was a family decision. It’s the chance to play for a historic franchise. I grew up watching Montreal. It was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. I’m extremely happy to join the Canadiens. Regardless of the salary or the contract, we accepted the moment we got the offer,” Savard explained.
Savard was born just outside of Montreal in St-Hyacinthe. As a big fan of goaltenders, he grew up playing street hockey pretending to be former Habs netminders Patrick Roy, Jocelyn Thibault and José Théodore. Safe to say he has a good idea of what he’s getting himself to.
“This should be fun in terms of the pressure to perform and play well. You want to win and you want to play on the big stage. That’s why Montreal should be a very special place for me,” Savard said.
He Had a Successful Junior Career
Selected by the Blue Jackets in the fourth round of the 2009 NHL Draft, Savard set a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) record in 2009-10 for assists by a defenseman with 64 for the Moncton Wildcats and finished the season with a plus-32 rating. His stellar numbers helped him earn three awards, including Defenseman of the Year in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL).
The Wildcats also won the President’s Cup in 2010, a talented team that included the likes of Mark Barberio, Brandon Gormley, Louis Domingue and Gabriel Bourque in addition to Savard.
He cracked the Baie-Comeau Drakkar roster in 2007-2008 not long after being selected in the fourth round of the QMJHL Draft. But his stay in Baie-Comeau didn’t last long as he was traded to Moncton midway through his first season and spent the next two years with the Wildcats.
He’s a Shutdown Defenseman
While it will be impossible for the Canadiens to replace captain Shea Weber, who is expected to miss the entire 2020-21 campaign, signing Savard gives them a consistent and reliable defenseman in his own end. He can play on the penalty kill and shut down the opposition thanks to his 6-foot-2 frame and strong positioning.
Savard has amassed 166 points (41 goals, 125 assists) and 331 penalty minutes in his career. He ranked eighth in the NHL last season with 109 blocked shots.
With Tampa Bay in the playoffs, he formed a formidable third pairing alongside former Hab Mikhail Sergachev. The duo was physical, tough to play against and didn’t allow many high-quality chances to their opponents.
Savard should be a great mentor and potential partner for Alexander Romanov.
Patrick Roy Is His Idol
Given his love of goalies and the fact that he grew up in Quebec when the Canadiens won two championships with him between the pipes, it’s no surprise that Savard looked up to Roy.
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“Obviously being a Habs fan growing up, they were pretty big. Patrick Roy was huge when I was a young kid. I had a poster of him in my bedroom. After he retired, I was always a Montreal fan, so it was great,” Savard said.
Maybe that’s why he is so good at blocking shots.
“I wish I played goalie. I think it would be awesome. After I retire, I’ll get my goalie equipment.”
Savard does have a piece of hardware that the legendary netminder didn’t win during his Hall of Fame career. He won gold at the World Championship with Canada in 2015, finishing the tournament with four assists.
He Has an Affinity for Fine Dining
Savard had his day with the Stanley Cup last week and spent it touring Quebec City and eating caviar and seafood out of the coveted trophy at Tanière3 restaurant. A far cry from the poutine and maple taffy which were the meals of choice for Mathieu Joseph, Cédric Paquette and Yanni Gourde a few days earlier.
Even though he prevented the Canadiens from winning the Cup this season, he has every intention of bringing a title back to Montreal during his tenure with the club, hopefully, sooner rather than later.
“We’re going to try to bring it back (to Montreal), that’s the plan for next year,” Savard said. “What I’d like is to be back in Lac-Beauport with the Cup next year.”
While Habs fans are still getting to know the team’s newest rearguard, it’s refreshing to hear a Quebec-born player express his excitement about playing for the Canadiens, especially knowing that he could have avoided the pressure cooker that is the Montreal market and signed somewhere else. Surely that passion will translate to his performance on the ice. Not to mention that he has one of the best beards in the NHL.
Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media Community Manager and a co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she spearheaded the social media initiatives for Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup and was the primary person responsible for their upkeep for over 10 years. She has written articles for multiple tennis websites and interviewed the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her career in sports started in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a journalism degree from Concordia University.