June 27, 2010
Leafs have Savard in their sightsBut Buds won't give up Kaberle for Bruins centre
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
Given that he is a central character in the latest blast in hockey’s silly season, surely Brian Burke is well aware of the suggestion that Marc Savard is being touted as the potential answer to his team’s offensive woes.
The Maple Leafs general manager won’t knock the Boston Bruins’ playmaker and certainly he must recognize the offensive talent the elite centre brings.
But the only way Savard will be reunited in Toronto with his former Bruins sniper, Phil Kessel, is if the quoted price drops significantly.
A source told QMI Agency that the Leafs have no interest in giving up their strongest asset — defenceman Tomas Kaberle — to acquire Savard. And there goes that rumour.
From a Leafs perspective, that pretty much establishes the price for both players, loosely setting boundaries with the July 1 start of free agency now just days away.
Burke is clearly committed to sticking to his guns with Kaberle, the veteran defenceman whose no-movement clause was lifted on Friday.
If Savard isn’t enough for the veteran Czech, clearly Burke won’t settle for anything less than a talented forward who can contribute immediately on offence.
Word was floating around Sunday that Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli had downgraded his demands for Savard to what has been characterized as a “softer deal.”
That term can mean different things for different GMs, but essentially suggests Chiarelli would consider some combination of prospects and draft picks for Savard now that he suddenly has a glut of centres and salary on his roster.
When the two GMs talk over the next couple of days, of course Burke will listen. Just how intently he listens remains to be seen.
Here’s how things could be most productive for Burke, should enough cards fall his way.
What if the Leafs GM were to get Savard for a lesser price — say Mikhail Grabovski or Nikolai Kulemin packaged with others — before free agency starts?
Then, on Thursday, he could get serious about shopping Kaberle so that, by week’s end, he could have another legitimate forward to nicely improve the team’s outlook. As far-fetched as it all sounds, you can see that, at least, possibilities exist.
That said, Burke won’t be pushed into making a deal, either for an incoming Savard or an outgoing Kaberle.
For all his offensive flash and flair, Savard has no shortage of baggage and a reputation, well-earned some of his Bruins teammates will tell you, of being a touch prickly.
His history of concussions — most recently from the savage hit by Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke — is also worrisome. One more thundering hit and that could be it. He played just 41 games last season and, although he returned for a brief and rejuvenated run in the playoffs, there are still questions.
There are reasons Chiarelli is willing to dispatch Savard. He will be 33 next season and with the drafting of Tyler Seguin second overall (thank you, Leafs), Boston has added depth at centre. Savard is also in the early stages of a seven-year, $28-million US contract which makes him a strain on the Bruins’ salary cap.
Savard is undeniably a producer, however, having some of his best seasons when he centred Kessel, a marriage that made both better.
And how would a Leafs power play with Savard, Kessel and point man Dion Phaneuf look?
Since 2005-06, Savard has twice flirted with 100 points and, in his last season with Kessel, the latter had a career high 36 goals as the Bruins finished first in the conference.
When word first leaked out that Savard was available for trade — a plant, perhaps? — it didn’t take long for the speculation to get silly. It only escalated when Savard tagged Toronto and Ottawa as the two teams he would remove his no-trade clause for, reportedly to be closer to his children, who live in Ontario.
It would be wrong to assume at this point that Burke is actively pursuing Savard. But when trade talk picks up Monday, if the right opportunity arises with any player, the Leafs’ GM is ready to strike.