Lightning: Getting to Know David Savard

As the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline looms near as Monday approaches, the Tampa Bay Lightning did not wait to make a roster move gearing up for their next Stanley Cup championship run. In what was a busy Saturday for deals (defenseman Brandon Montour was traded to the Florida Panthers and goalie Devan Dubnyk moved to the Colorado Avalanche), the Lightning made a trade to acquire defenseman David Savard in what was a three-team deal that also included the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Detroit Red Wings.

The result of this deal is that the Lightning skate away with both Savard and former Red Wings defenseman Brian Lashoff. The Blue Jackets acquired a 2021 first-round pick as well as a third-round pick in 2022. Detroit, meanwhile, gets a fourth-round pick in 2021.

This will be Savard’s first time changing organizations in the NHL. For those who may not know about him, here is some background on the Lightning’s new addition.

The Adventure to Ohio

Before becoming the talent hockey fans know today, Savard developed his game with both Baie-Comeau Drakkar and the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). His tenure with Drakkar only lasted 35 games during the 2007-08 season before he was dealt to Moncton. He gradually improved with each passing campaign, not only defensively but also on the stat sheet. He posted the following regular-season numbers while in the QMJHL:

  • 2007-08 (Baie-Comeau): 1 goal and 6 assists for 7 points in 35 games
  • 2007-08 (Moncton): 5 assists in 32 games
  • 2008-09 (Moncton): 9 goals and 35 assists for 44 points in 68 games
  • 2009-10 (Moncton): 13 goals and 64 assists for 77 points in 64 games

Savard ultimately caught the attention of NHL scouts and was a possible pick in the 2009 Draft. He was selected by the Blue Jackets with their fourth-round pick (94th overall). Following the 2009-10 Wildcats campaign, Columbus signed him to an entry-level contract, and he started his time with the club’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Springfield Falcons, during the 2010-11 season. Throughout parts of three seasons with Springfield (176 games), he posted 20 goals and 76 assists for 96 points in the regular season. On top of that, he put up some offensive numbers in the 2013 postseason for them as well, accumulating five points in eight games (two goals and three assists).

David Savard Columbus Blue Jackets
David Savard got his first NHL opportunity during the 2011-12 season with Columbus. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The first big opportunity for NHL play came during the 2011-12 campaign for Savard. He played in 31 games and put up two goals and eight assists for 10 points. He joined a Columbus locker room that consisted of players such as veterans in Rick Nash and Vaclav Prospal among others, but it was a revolving door at-the-time for the organization on multiple levels.

A few players were traded, but head coach Scott Arniel was relieved of his duties and replaced on an interim basis at the time by Todd Richards. Savard was getting playing time at the end of the day, but he wasn’t in a good situation to start his NHL career. However, things did turn around on a certain level for the organization seasons later. As for Savard, he officially earned his spot as an NHL regular for the club starting in the 2013-14 season.

Savard became an important face in the locker room throughout parts of 10 seasons in Columbus. Players came and went over the years, but he was always one who remained. It got to the point where he and forward Cam Atkinson were tied for longest-tenured player on the team.

Savard accrued the following stats during his tenure with the Blue Jackets in the regular season:

  • 2011-12: 2 goals and 8 assists for 10 points in 31 games
  • 2012-13: 0 points in 4 games
  • 2013-14: 5 goals and 10 assists for 15 points in 70 games
  • 2014-15: 11 goals and 25 assists for 36 points in 82 games
  • 2015-16: 4 goals and 21 assists for 25 points in 65 games
  • 2016-17: 6 goals and 17 assists for 23 points in 74 games
  • 2017-18: 4 goals and 12 assists for 16 points in 81 games
  • 2018-19: 8 goals and 16 assists for 24 points in 82 games
  • 2019-20: 11 assists in 68 games
  • 2020-21: 1 goal and 5 assists for 6 points in 40 games
Cam Atkinson #13, Columbus Blue Jackets
Cam Atkinson was tied with Savard for longest-tenured player on the Blue Jackets before Saturday’s trade. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

On top of this production, Savard also had a goal and 10 assists for 11 points in 37 postseason contests that spanned a total of five playoff runs. Now, though, it is on to the next chapter for the 30-year-old.

His Fit in Tampa

Tampa strengthens their stability and depth on defense with this move. Savard joins a blue line that was already arguably considered one of the best in the league. Norris and Conn Smythe Trophy-winning defender Victor Hedman leads the charge for the Lightning as one of the best two-way talents in the sport. They also get stellar results in various ways from other players in Mikhail Sergachev, Ryan McDonagh, Erik Cernak, and Luke Schenn. That is not even mentioning someone like Cal Foote who is just breaking into the league in his first season as a 22-year-old. Savard will potentially complement the rest of the blueliners on the squad. He might not necessarily contribute many goals while donning the Blue and White sweater, but his defensive skills are at a high level.

For example, one of Savard’s defensive specialties is blocking shots. He was so good with Columbus in that regard that he currently is the franchise leader in that category. He blocked a total of 958 shots during his time there. So far this season, he is ranked fourth overall in the whole NHL in blocked shots. The only defensemen ahead of him currently are Alec Martinez of the Vegas Golden Knights with 121 blocked shots, Adam Larsson of the Edmonton Oilers with 110, and Derek Forbort of the Winnipeg Jets with 90. Savard currently has 89.

David Savard
Savard has the Columbus Blue Jacket franchise record for most blocked shots. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois also brings another right-handed defenseman into the fold. Some of the best blue line talents on the roster right now shoot left, and adding Savard strengthens the right shot more. There are some who may not feel this factor makes a difference, but other hockey minds believe there is a value there when it comes to which hand a player goes with. (from ‘Why are right-handed defensemen such a commodity in the NHL?,’ Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 09/28/2019) The other right-handed defensemen with Tampa right now are Cernak, Jan Rutta, Luke Schenn, Foote, and Ben Thomas.

Overall, the Lightning made another transaction to try and further bolster the roster to defend their Cup championship from last season. Savard can possibly be another solid blue line puzzle piece that helps keep the group as dominant as they can be. The hockey world will see how much of a fit he is to the lineup, and worst case scenario he leaves in the offseason as a free agent if it does not work out. Best case scenario, though, is that he makes the Lightning’s blue line even more dangerous. It is only a matter of time before fans get their answer.

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