When Shea Weber went down, adding a right-shot defenceman jumped much higher on Montreal’s shopping list and they found one early in David Savard. Is he the right fit for the Habs? Our writers off up their thoughts.
Terry Costaris: David Savard’s, like Mike Hoffman’s signing, is a “duct tape” measure. Savard is both a good defensive defenceman and locker room presence. However, reports from both Tampa and Columbus, suggest that he appears to be slowing down. Perhaps, he can correct this matter over the summer. Let’s hope that he is not Karl Alzner 2.0 in this regard.
David Savard needs to be paired with a faster defence partner. I’m hoping it’s Alexander Romanov.
Does Savard replace Shea Weber, though? No.
Yes, he will be useful eating up defensive minutes but to use the TV show, the Office as an analogy, he is a Robert California replacement of Michael Scott in terms of taking things forward. At best, David Savard just slows down the bleeding.
Everyone, including Marc Bergevin, knows that the Canadiens desperately need a puck-moving RD. The question is, can he find one without robbing Peter to pay Paul by tinkering with the club’s salary cap?
Allan Katz: The Savard acquisition, on the surface, seems to cover some of the positives that Weber brought to the team. They’re basically replacing a solid, but slowing down, #2 defenceman with a solid, but slowing down #5/6 defenceman. Savard has two attributes Weber does not. Savard is younger and has an awesome beard that is world-class.
On the whole, the hockey world’s reaction to Savard is that he’s competent but not close to a replacement. Then again, they’re only slightly overpaying Savard, saving about $4 million in the process. With Bergevin at work trying to rebuild the team, that money will be valuable if utilized in a constructive manner with an upgrade to either the centre position or on defence. If Romanov can make it to the next level (possible) or Jesperi Kotkaniemi can surprise us (possible but don’t bet the house) and Mr. B can make one more key trade or acquisition this might all work out. Other than the beard and maybe some penalty killing talent no one expects Savard to be Weber .2, but he could be part and parcel of something really great, just not on his own talent alone.
Brian La Rose: Replacing Weber is going to be a by-committee task as let’s face it, there wasn’t anyone like Weber available in free agency or on the trade market. In Savard, the Habs will be able to cover for some of Weber’s physicality and penalty killing ability. At a time where a lot of blueliners got badly overpaid, $3.5 million isn’t bad although, like many, that fourth year scares me somewhat.
However, Savard will do nothing to replace Weber’s offensive production; he has all of one goal over the past two years and makes Joel Edmundson look like a scoring threat. And that’s fine as long the second piece of the by-committee replacement is an offensive puck-mover. That hasn’t been addressed yet; with all due respect to Chris Wideman, he’s a depth guy, not someone who should be relied on to eat up some of Weber’s minutes. In a vacuum, the price tag for Savard is reasonable but unless it’s followed up with someone to try to fill the rest of what Weber brings, it’ll be too much of a substantial drop-off in talent. Savard is a good start but he can’t be the only impact defenceman added.
Norm Szcyrek: I like the signing of Savard. He’s a safe defender who is a seasoned veteran but at 30 years old, he still has enough wear on the tires to be a solid defender. He has good size and strength to manage the front of the net and take on forwards in the corners. I remember Savard as a consistent blueliner in the Cup final against the Habs this summer who would consistently break up the opposition’s play, much to my dismay. His role on that team was a bottom pairing defender but in Montreal, he will likely be in a top four role. He should be capable enough to handle that and it does not hurt that he is from Quebec and is bilingual. If fans do not expect much offence but solid enough defence from his game, then this signing will be a win for the Canadiens.
Naqeeb Shaikh: It is good to have him signed at a reasonable price; coming to the team right after winning the Stanley Cup with the Lightning says a lot about what Savard thinks of the Habs’ team structure and how close they are towards becoming a Stanley Cup winner. The fact that he is a Quebecer, who wanted to sign with the Habs, also shows other Quebecers that it is now considered to be a desired destination for francophones despite not being a star or even a superstar, Savard was not hesitant to make the Habs his first/only choice.
This is sounding like a broken record, but when is Petry going to be supported with an equally talented Puck-Moving Defenceman (PMD)? It was clear as day during the playoff run how important Petry’s presence on the blueline is, he was not there to simply minute-munch or block shots. He led the transition game, but in the end, was playing injured and gassed just like the other “Big 3 D”.
So why go on that path again? The only other capable defender that can do that now is Romanov, but we saw how they used him so sparingly and that must change for Petry to be fresh, healthy, and ready for a potential long playoff run. Not sure whether Brett Kulak is back or not but he and Savard would be a decent 3rd pairing while moving Romanov up to partner with Chiarot.
It seems Bergevin has an overwhelming infatuation with big, physical, minute-munching, not-so-mobile type defencemen and it is puzzling to see the same type fill up most of the defensive core. There is no doubt that these types of defencemen are important come playoff time, especially in protecting the front of the net so that Carey Price can have a chance to be at his best. But it was clearly on display in the Stanley Cup Final versus the Tampa Bay Lightning how much mobility matters and the difference it makes to a team’s transition game from defense to offense. The lack of PMD has been a glaring need that has never been appropriately addressed since the Subban, Markov, and Sergachev departures.
Dave Woodward: The signing of Savard adds another big body to the Canadiens’ back end and, with the absence of Weber, will maintain at least four experienced NHL defencemen with size and physicality. This will hopefully make the Canadiens a tough team to play against in their own end.
The AAV of $3.5 million is reasonable for a UFA signing. However, Savard has already played over 600 NHL games. With a term of four years, he will be approaching 900 plus NHL games and 34 years of age by the end of the contract. Savard is a solid but unspectacular NHL player. Most NHL players do not play even close to 1,000 games. It will be interesting to see if Savard can remain effective throughout the term of this contract. Karl Alzner had played around 600 NHL games when he signed with the Canadiens and he simply had nothing left. Montreal fans will certainly be hoping Savard has more left in him.
Like many UFA signings, the term is a little longer than one would like but unlike other UFA signings, the cap hit is fine.
As a Quebecer, Savard is a nice fit in Montreal and his physicality, shot-blocking, penalty killing, and defensive abilities will help fill the void left by Weber’s absence. But there is no way Savard can replace Weber and he cannot be expected to, on or off the ice. Even with the signing of Savard, the Canadiens’ defence will be much weaker unless other moves are made or Romanov, Kulak or someone else can play a greater role next season.