Burke ready to deal and has Savard in his sights

His seven prospects locked up in his suitcase as he returned to Toronto, Leafs GM Brian Burke set his mind on what will be a busy few days leading up to Thursday’s free agent frenzy.

First up is Marc Savard. The Bruins are said to be ready to ship their playmaking centre. The Leafs are in the mix, and the price tag is much cheaper than Thomas Kaberle.

This opportunity is an unintended consequence of the Phil Kessel trade.

When the Bruins drafted Tyler Seguin No. 2 overall with the pick that had gone to Boston in the Kessel deal, they gave themselves an NHL-ready offensive centre. They already had Savard, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron.

Facing cap pressures of their own, a story emerged out of Boston that they’d love to move the high-earning Savard. Savard has a no-trade, but is said to be willing to waive it, naming Toronto as the front-runner for family reasons. Chicago, Montreal, Ottawa and Philadelphia are the others, according to multiple media reports.

Savard is not really a Burke-type player – he’s not big and plays a bit soft – but Burke-type players aren’t aplenty on the free agent market. Burke has already said he’s not interested in Ilya Kovalchuk, the dynamic New Jersey winger who’s heading to free agency.

But Savard is a playmaker and points producer, with 696 points in 792 career games.

But Savard is a playmaker and points producer, with 696 points in 792 career games.

And Burke wants to add a top six forward, so he might have to have another look at a readily available one – Savard – who just happens to have been Kessel’s former centre. Savard’s cap-hit is a reasonable $4 million, but the money he’s actually getting paid is much more — $7 million, $7 million, $6.5 million and $5 million over the next four seasons.

Burke won’t comment specifically on Savard due to tampering rules, other than to say he’s got an open mind about making trades to make his team better.

The Bruins have committed a tad over $53 million and want some salary cap breathing room. The other player they were marketing at the draft was goalie Tim Thomas and his annual $5 million salary cap hit, now redundant with the emergence of Tuukka Rask.

If Burke trades for Savard, it’s doubtful Tomas Kaberle would go the other direction. It’s believed Burke has already turned that offer down.