How Good is the David Savard deal for Tampa Bay?

David Savard
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Acquiring Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman David Savard, the defending Stanley Cup Champions are back at it again. After acquiring Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow for relatively steep prices at last year’s deadline, they made a deal ahead of this year’s to bolster their defensive core. Here’s how this trade looks for Tampa Bay. 

David Savard Traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning

This deal is a mouthful, and it took three teams to finalize. It started with the Columbus Blue Jackets dealing Savard to the Detroit Red Wings for Brian Lashoff, while retaining 50% of Savard’s contract. Then, Detroit traded Savard to the Tampa Bay Lightning for their fourth-round draft choice in 2021, while Detroit retained 25% of his total salary. Finally, Columbus dealt Lashoff to the Lightning for their 2021 first-round pick and 2022 third-round pick. 

Ultimately, Columbus retained 50% of Savard’s contract, acquiring Tampa Bay’s 2021 first and 2022 third. Detroit retained 25% of Savard’s contract and received Tampa’s 2021 fourth-round pick. Tampa Bay received Savard, at 25% of his contract, and Lashoff. 

What the Lightning are losing

For this piece, we will be focusing on Lightning and what they gain and lose in this deal. First, the salaries. The Lightning had no remaining cap space, relying solely on LTIR (Long-Term Injury Reserve) relief, to even play with the roster that was currently constructed. Adding Savard, even at a measly $1,062,500 cap hit, would put them over the cap. So, how did they do it? Jan Rutta, who was listed as week-to-week, missed the last five games and was injured early in the game in which he went down. The injury was apparently severe enough that the Lightning placed Rutta on LTIR, opening up $1,300,000 in relief. 

Rutta is expected back prior to the end of the regular season, however, and with $608,000 leftover with LTIR relief, there will be some roster juggling down the stretch. One of Ben Thomas or Cal Foote could be sent down to AHL Syracuse to become cap compliant when the time comes. 

David Savard also cost draft picks

The Lightning also lost their 2021 first, 2021 fourth, and 2022 third. This year, they are left with a third, fifth, sixth and three sevenths in this year’s draft, and will be without their second and third-round draft choices next year. The Lightning were without their 2020 first-rounder, dealt for Goodrow last year. They traded 2019 first-round pick, Nolan Foote, last season as well, for Coleman. In fact, Tampa Bay’s last first-round draft choice to still be in the organization is the 2017 first-rounder, Cal Foote. 

It’s no secret that the Lightning prospect pool is thin. The Athletic ranked them 30th out of 31 teams, ahead of just Boston, for a reason. This loss of draft capital will hurt in the long haul, certainly, which makes this run for a back-to-back Cup all the more important for the team. Once this team falls, they will fall hard. 

What David Savard will bring to the Tampa Bay Lightning

With all that going the other way for Tampa, what exactly are they going to potentially receive? For one, they add another NHL-level body to a very good d-core that has been, at times, ravaged by injuries. The Lightning lost both Ryan McDonagh and Erik Cernak at one point, going on a 3-5-0 skid in the process. That led to a revolving door of depth defensemen in the ilk of Luke Schenn, Andreas Borgman and Ben Thomas drawing into the lineup. Savard will at the very least provide a steady veteran presence and injury insurance. 

Savard, on the ice, provides 10 years and 597 games of experience to the Lightning roster. To put that in perspective, not counting Victor Hedman or McDonagh, Lightning defenders have combined for 459 games played. When it comes to offence, Savard’s 0.28 points per game brings very little to the table. However, with his partner likely going to be Hedman, the offence is not the issue. 

Savard’s defensive abilities

Tampa Bay, as a collective unit, ranks 16th in the league for SCA (scoring chances against), 9th in SCF% (scoring chances for percentage), 8th in HDCA (high-danger chances against) and 10th in HDCF% (high-danger chances for percentage) at five-on-five, per Natural Stat Trick. 

Savard’s 293 SCA tally would rank him fifth on Tampa amongst defensemen with at least 300 minutes played this season, and his 42.44 SCF% would rank seventh. His 105 HDCA would rank him fifth, while his 45.31 HDCF% would place him sixth. However, he played for a Blue Jackets team that ranked 25th in SCA, 29th in SCF%, 23rd in HDCA, and 30th in HDCF%. 

Savard also paired up with Vladislav Gavrikov more than any other teammate, according to Natural Stat Trick. In the league, amongst 188 defensemen with at least 300 minutes played, Gavrikov ranks 144th in SCA, 165th in SCF%, 123rd in HDCA, and 110th in HDCF%. That being said, Savard could easily have been anchored by Gavrikov overall. 

Deeper dive into Savard’s defensive analytics

To dive further, let’s head over to the always reliable Evolving Hockey. Using their player cards visual and looking at his last three full seasons, Savard ranks in the 90th percentile of players in his defensive impact, and 76th percentile overall. This season, Savard has provided the Blue Jackets with a 4.1 EVD-GAR (even-strength defensive goals above replacement), ranking eighth league-wide amongst all skaters. That would rank him first on the entire Lightning squad, with the next best player on the Lightning providing a 1.9 EVD-GAR impact (Cernak). 

Tampa’s middling defensive abilities and overall inconsistencies this season have provided more problems than solutions. Their flaws have been masked by Andrei Vasilevskiy’s unbelievable season, but as of late, even he can’t handle it much longer. In fact, only 10 Lightning players have provided positive EVD-GAR this season, with only three defensemen amongst them. Those defensemen are Cernak, Schenn and McDonagh. 

Tampa Bay Lightning Trade Grade

The Lightning needed defensive help, especially after witnessing how poorly they played without Cernak and McDonagh for a time. Even with those two, their defensive coverage, both with the eye-test and with analytics, their team defence has been average league-wide. Having an average defence will not win you a Stanley Cup in the NHL. Savard will help provide that defensive stability, and finally, give Hedman a partner that has the experience and can be relied upon to cover Hedman’s tracks when he commits to playing more offence than defence. Savard’s biggest weakness, his offence, will not hold the Lightning back in the slightest. They’re already constructed to out-score opponents more than they are to shut them down. That said, the Lightning’s trade for David Savard will receive a “B”. If it brings them home a Cup, it deserves an “A+.”

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