The Lightning have been cap-strapped all season long but have been looking to add to their back end. It appears they’re making some progress on that front as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports (Twitter link) that they are discussing a David Savard trade with the Blue Jackets. TSN’s Frank Seravalli tweets that Savard has been notified of the trade although the exact return is not yet known.
Savard has been a reliable stay-at-home defenseman for the better part of the last decade, averaging more than 20 minutes per game in 597 career NHL contests, all with Columbus. That had him positioned to be potentially the top blueliner to move between now and the trade deadline despite what has been a particularly quiet season by his standards. He has just a goal and five assists in 40 games with a team-worst -19 rating and a career-low possession rate with a 43.1% Corsi mark. However, given how much the Blue Jackets have struggled this season, he’s certainly a prime candidate to rebound and GM Jarmo Kekalainen knows that with the asking price in recent days for the pending unrestricted free agent involving a first-round pick. Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic notes (via Twitter) that Columbus may indeed get that as part of the return and as we saw last year with the pickups of Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow, Lightning GM Julien BriseBois isn’t against moving first-rounders at this time of year.
With a $4.25MM cap hit, Columbus will almost certainly need to retain a sizable part of Savard’s contract to facilitate a move; they can retain as much as 50%. Even so, with Tampa Bay having just $370K in LTIR room per CapFriendly, other moves will need to be made to make this happen. If Jan Rutta is going to be out for the rest of the regular season, he could be shifted there which would add another $1.3MM to their already high LTIR pool which would help but not completely open up the space to do this deal.
If Tampa Bay is able to get this done, Savard would represent a big addition to their back end, a group that is already pretty strong at the top with Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Mikhail Sergachev, and Erik Cernak. However, they’ve struggled to put a reliable third pairing together with none of their options playing more than Rutta’s 16:02 per night; Luke Schenn and Callan Foote have both seen somewhat regular minutes but are logging less than 13 minutes a game. Adding Savard, someone who is capable of handling more than 20 minutes a game, certainly would bolster their depth and allow them to take a bit of pressure off their top-four down the stretch and give them some crucial injury insurance heading into the playoffs.