Tampa Bay Times
Even with cap constraints, Lightning land defenseman
TAMPA — Julien BriseBois admits he didn’t think he’d be able to pull off a trade for veteran defenseman David Savard.
The Lightning’s general manager knew he wanted Savard and that the bounty for the rental would be high. His biggest obstacles: Would the Blue Jackets, on the fringe of the Central Division playoff race, be willing to unload Savard? And how would the Lightning find the money to fit Savard on their roster given their salary cap constraints?
Ultimately, BriseBois found a way to make a deal work, giving up draft picks and getting not only Columbus to eat some of Savard’s salary but bringing in another team, Detroit, to do that, too.
Officially, this is how the trade, announced Saturday, went down: The Blue Jackets traded Savard to the Red Wings, and Detroit sent him to Tampa Bay. The Lightning sent this year’s firstround pick and next year’s third-round pick to Columbus and this year’s fourthrounder to Detroit.
Columbus will pay for half of Savard’s remaining salary, and Detroit will cover the other half. Savard’s remaining cap hit is about $1 million.
The Lightning also received AHL defenseman Brian Lashoff from the Red Wings.
“We (essentially) used our draft picks to purchase cap space to acquire a good player and squeeze him onto our team,” BriseBois said. “And I know that we’re going to be a harder out now come playoff time because David Savard is going to be wearing our jersey.”
Savard, who had spent his entire 10-year career with the Blue Jackets, seemed headed somewhere since he was a healthy scratch for Columbus’ game Thursday against Tampa Bay.
“The last 48 hours have been kind of interesting,” Savard said. “It was kind of a weird situation to be in, not playing and battling with your teammates. But obviously the way it turned out, I’m really excited to join Tampa. They’ve had a great team for a number of years, so I’m really excited to be going to the team that has a chance to win the Stanley Cup.”
The Lightning’s defense corps, particularly the right side, has been decimated by injuries. It was without veteran Ryan McDonagh for four games. The Lightning’s top rightshot defenseman, Erik Cernak, returned Thursday after missing seven games. Another right-side defenseman, Jan Rutta, is on injured reserve.
As BriseBois prioritized acquiring a top-four, rightshot defenseman, he targeted Savard as the best fit.
“We had the chance to see David play against our team during the last two playoff runs, get to see how hard he is to play against, to see how tough he is and heavy he plays, and how reliable he is defensively,” BriseBois said. “And we knew that he’s the type of player that you want on your team for a long playoff run.”
Savard, 30, gives the Lightning a tough, battle-tested defenseman who can play on the penalty kill. Last season he was second in the NHL with 163 blocked shots.
In BriseBois’ past deadline moves — trading for Braydon Coburn in 2015, McDonagh and J.T. Miller in 2018, and Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow last year — he made deals for players who had time left on their contract beyond the current season. Savard can become a free agent after this season, but BriseBois said he believed he owed it to the team to upgrade if he had the means.
“My thought was, if I have the opportunity to acquire David Savard and I pass up on that opportunity, and then the playoffs start and eventually we fail in our quest for a championship because our right-side D wasn’t good enough, that was going to hurt,” BriseBois said. “That’s going to hurt a lot.
“It is so hard to win a championship. It’s really, really hard to win the Stanley Cup, and as for any great feat, if you’re going to accomplish something great, you kind of have to put yourself out there at some point and you have to be willing to make sacrifices.”
BriseBois said he’s unlikely to make another move before Monday afternoon’s trade deadline, but then again, he didn’t have faith he could pull this one off.
Savard could play in his first game with the Lightning on Tuesday against the Predators. He was expected to meet the team in Nashville today, and Savard hoped to practice Monday.
BriseBois said it was realistic to expect Savard to pass through all the proper protocols to play Tuesday.