Getting a centre for Kessel

Look, Brian Burke insists he is not looking at bringing Marc Savard to Toronto.

“The rumor – what I read anyway – is that Boston is looking to move this player,” he said. “We have some options presented to us over the weekend, trade wise, that do not involve this player (Savard) that we are looking at.”

Fair enough. If Burke says it, I believe it. The guy is a legendary straight shooter.

But I can tell you this. There is only one available centreman with a proven record with Phil Kessel. If there are other number one guys nudged out of their cities by the perfect confluence of a potential franchise player arriving (Tyler Seguin) and four capable to excellent players already clogging the middle (Savard, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Seguin), it’s news to me. There is only one player who finds himself the odd man out because of a potential nasty abutment with the salary cap (the Bruins face some tough choices right now and Bergeron and Zdeno Chara are looking for new deals at year’s end). There is only one player with enough term and salary cap to scare off most suitors.

Aside from the Sabres’ Tim Connolly, there isn’t anyone with a concussion fresh enough to scare off what few are left. And there is only one who has publicly named two teams, the Leafs and Ottawa, for which he would waive his no-trade clause. The Sens, you may remember, are nicely stacked at centre with the enigmatic Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher.

That player is Marc Savard.

It’s not up to me to advise Brian Burke and, naturally enough, this piece does not reflect the thoughts of anyone but the devil-may-care rake whose handsome mug goes beside my name.

Probably just as well. The Marc Savard issue stymies me. Yesterday, I considered his acquisition such a bad idea I did not list it among the myriad of good, bad and middling remedies to the Leafs spotty pack of forwards. Now I am wondering if it isn’t a capital idea. Talk to me tomorrow, I might give you a different scenario. Yes, Brian Burke will be seeking my advice any time now.

So why, you may ask, is it so important to acquire Savard that you would look past the wacky contract, a half season lost to concussion and an ominous birth certificate (Savard is 33)?

Just this…I think the Leafs are close. Like Burke, I see a solid defence. If I were Ron Wilson, I would have no fear trotting out either Jonas Gustavsson or J.S. Giguere. Phil Kessel is a big-time talent. Colby Armstrong will give you 15-20 goals and invoke a palpable hatred among opponents. I think Kris Versteeg will get you 20 goals and 50 points. They have some size and enough toughness.

It’s not like he’s 1,000. Savard recorded 70 points two years ago. He missed half of last season with a concussion delivered by Matt Cooke, but a pro-rated year would have brought him 66 points, 11 points more than the top Leaf. And did we mention his presence might push Kessel into a new orbit.

Three years from now, Savard is 36 and moved down the lineup. A $4 million cap hit for a front line centre is a bargain and the Leafs’ real expense would be mitigated.

After four seasons, Savard’s contract would pay him only 2.5 million over his final three seasons. Teams needing to reach the cap floor, would find in Savard an enticing commodity. Right now four teams, Atlanta, Colorado, the Islanders and Nashville are under or within spitting distance of the $43.4 million floor. The value of the no-trade clause Savard would keep in his contract is evidenced by the way the Bruins are reportedly easing him out. It’s not nice, but it’s business.

The longer you look at Savard, the more enticing the prospect of acquiring him. The Bruins are likely looking for prospects or young players (please no jokes about first-rounders). The Leafs have nicely restocked their shelves. If Savard suffers more concussions he can retire and the Leafs are out nothing.

There is limited but very real risk here. While he is no Joe Thornton, Marc Savard is an inexpensive alternative who could buy time for the Leafs prospects to mature. He would improve the club’s dismal power play and extra-time performance while leaving enough money for more help via free agency.
Depending on the price, I would go out and get him. And when they make me GM, I’ll do just that
But that’s about it and that’s not enough. Just.
Within the first two months of last season, the Leafs lost seven of their eight extra time decisions. Over the campaign, they would lose nine of 13 shootouts.
One guy can make a big difference. Right now.

Marc Savard is a short-term answer. He would be your number one guy for three years. By then, Burke would have had plenty of time to find a new pivot or Nazem Kadri or Tyler Bozak would have squeezed Savard out.

Thanks for reading and hope that you get my view