So the “summer of Savard” has finally ended.
And for the Bruins and their fans, it couldn’t have had a happier ending, with general manager Peter Chiarelli acknowledging that he won’t be trading Marc Savard and expects the star center to arrive at camp next week in an effort to return to his pre-concussion form.
The team also learned early Saturday morning that there will be no penalty or repercussions from the extension Savard signed last December, as the NHL agreed to drop its circumvention investigation into the contracts of Savard and three other players as part of a CBA amendment agreement related to the Ilya Kovalchuk situation. The Bruins can now rest easy knowing that not only do they still have Savard and all their draft picks and cash, they also have one of the league’s premier point-producing centers under contract at the same cap-friendly number of $4.007 million per year.
The alterations to the CBA in terms of long-term contracts, which are now designated as deals of five years or longer, will have little impact on the Bruins in any upcoming negotiations. In a press release, the NHL and NHLPA described the new salary-cap computation approach like this:
For the purpose of Salary Cap calculations, any long-term contract that extends past a player’s 41st birthday will be valued and accounted for in two ways: The compensation for all seasons that do not include or succeed the player’s 41st birthday will be totaled and divided by the number of those seasons to determine the annual average value (AAV) charged against the team’s Cap for those seasons. In all subsequent seasons, the team’s Cap charge will be the actual compensation paid to the player in that season (or seasons, as appropriate).
Additionally, in any long-term contract that averages more than $5.75 million for the three highest-compensation seasons, the following rule shall apply: Solely to determine its value for purposes of the Salary Cap, a player’s compensation for any season in which he is age 36, 37, 38, 39 and/or 40 shall be valued at a minimum of $1 million.
Two marquee players, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara, are ticketed for unrestricted free agency next summer if they don’t sign extensions. It’s doubtful that Bergeron, 25, or Chara, 33, will sign a contract that includes his 41st birthday. In Chara’s case, his deal might exceed $5.75 million in his late-30s, but all that means is Chiarelli and his staff has more numbers to crunch and loopholes to hunt for.
Truly, the only way the end of the Kovalchuk saga now affects the Bruins deals with Savard’s psyche. Earlier this summer, Savard told his hometown paper his feelings were hurt by the trade rumors. Well, that’s understandable. No one expects NHL players to be unfeeling, Spock-like robots. But now what has passed is in the past, and it’s time for Savard to make his biggest statements with his stick.
While this blog has never endorsed the trading of Savard, and has detailed the numerous reasons why a Savard-less Bruins team would not be a better one, you can understand some of the motivations for Boston’s efforts to make a deal. First and foremost is the salary cap, which will be suffocating the Bruins’ efforts to field the best team once Marco Sturm is ready to return from last spring’s knee surgery. Chiarelli will be faced with some tough decisions both during training camp and then after Sturm’s winter return with Savard and Tim Thomas still on the roster.
Then there’s Savard’s injury situation, which even his agent acknowledged left him as a lesser player once he returned to face Philadelphia in playoffs. The concussion-causing Matt Cooke hit definitely gave the Bruins pause about how much bang they’d get for their buck in the seasons ahead, and was probably a reason not too many teams stepped up with an attractive offer for Savard that Boston would’ve accepted.
Now Savard can go out and turn those hurt feelings into assists, and those doubts about his health into goals and faceoff wins. When he shows up in Boston over the next couple weeks, he’ll no doubt address the media and say all the politically correct stuff about focusing on the future and always wanting to be a Bruin. Hopefully, he’ll keep saying those things – even if he doesn’t believe them – to his teammates and friends because complaints have a way of leaking out, and no one wants to be seen as a source of locker-room dissension.
But really, words are meaningless regardless of their tone. This season will be all about Savard’s play. The Bruins were the worst offense in the league last season, their power play while Savard was hurt had many wishing Boston could decline its man-advantages, and Nathan Horton isn’t going to score his projected 30 goals without a set-up man that’s ready to work some magic.
Inadvertently, Chiarelli might’ve created a new level of accountability for his club. Players now know that if the team would entertain the idea of trading Savard, its best offensive player, it won’t hesitate to ship out an under-performer or two – veteran or youngster. And that accountability extends to Savard as well. Any thoughts he might’ve had of sulking over his injury or becoming complacent playing under a contract that lasts the entirety of his career have to be out the window. Savard knows now that even though a no-trade clause isn’t a guarantee – and it’s debatable whether that should be the case – he can make sure he doesn’t someday wind up playing out his career in Florida or Nashville.
The best way for Savard to avoid again becoming trade fodder, or to even make him more appealing to a team or two of his choice for a future deal (should he really not be over the “hurt feelings”), is to once again return to form as Boston’s best point-producer, a solid penalty-killer and faceoff-winner and show that he can shake off the off-ice distractions as well as he continues to recover from the post-concussion symptoms.
A healthy Savard with a little bit of a fire lit underneath him might be the best type of Savard the Bruins could want to have on their team.