Savard and Kovalchuk: The Agony and the Ecstasy

Probably time to address the whole Marc Savard rumors. This all started about one June 23rd when I saw CSNNE reporter Joe Haggarty talking about Savard being on the trading block. At the time I replied to him:

Savard signed a huge hometown discount to stay in Boston. He has an NTC. Why would he accept a trade? - @felixpotvin

And I still think that's the case. People in the comments have correctly pointed out that if Boston wants to clear cap space they can't take back salary from a roster player. (if Boston re-signs Kulemin to a $3M deal they might as well keep Savard, for example.)

Furthermore despite his limited NTC where he can pick five teams I don't think Boston wants to sell Savard to Toronto for pennies on the dollar; they'd be making their own first rounder in 2011 worse. Savard can name 5 teams in his NTC in varying combinations of "can't afford his salary", "too tight against the cap", "Boston won't deal with them" etc. and maybe he puts the Bruins in a terrible spot and does something like: TOR (ruin Boston's 1st), CHI (cap trouble), SJ (Already have Thornton), PIT (Crosby, Malkin, Staal), NSH (internal budget).

One wonders if Boston is in a hurry to move Savard because his concussion is worse than we think. That said if we don't give up roster players or Kadri none of our prospects are A+ talent so we aren't going to miss out on a lot. If Savard only performs at an elite level for two years as a bridge to Nazem Kadri that might not be terrible.

It all comes back to the fact that Savard signed a well below market deal with an NTC because he wants to stay in Boston. We'd be delighted to have Savard for a collection of spare parts a la Phaneuf but I just don't see it happening.

With reality out of the way though, what happens if we add Savard to the lineup? His contract is heavily front loaded with a very low cap hit relative to his production. The Leafs would still be in the running for Kovalchuk which gets interesting because the blue and white would have two elite shooters and a center comfortable with both.

Can the Leafs land Kovalchuk as a UFA? Rumor has it LA is getting ready to make a big offer but if Kovalchuk just wanted money he'd have stayed in Atlanta. He wants to play in a hockey mad market and I'm not sure LA is what he had in mind.

If you remember our post "The Leafs Team Save Percentage vs. Pythagorean Winning Expectation" we outlined that you can correlate a team's winning percentage from their goals for vs. goals against. In that post we stated:

If we got .915 goaltending for 60 games from our starter and .905 goaltending for 22 games from our backup we'd be in the .913 range at the end of the year. That probably would have won us the eighth spot in a weak East.

To back up our claim you can look at the Leafs record from the Giguere trade onwards and see that the Leafs team save percentage was .913 which our pythagorean analysis said was good for a 0.5732 points percentage. The Leafs actual record from February on was 13-10-3, meaning the Leafs earned 29 of a possible 52 points for a 0.5576 points percentage. Pretty close.

In that post we played with save percentage to see how increasing that would play with the standings. This time let's look at adding goals to our goals for. If we add Savard and Kovalchuk we'll be taking ice time away from someone so their goals added to the differential won't be the same as the number of goals they'll score.

I think a safe and reasonable assumption is that Savard could add ten goals to our goal differential while Kovalchuk adds 25. If Giguere and the Monster give us a team .910 save percentage and our defense gives up the same number of shots it did last year our GF should be around 244 which would have been tied for sixth in the NHL with Colorado. Our GA would be around 219 (tied for 10th best with Los Angeles).

Based on 244GF and 219GA the Leafs expected points percentage would be .6202, meaning they'd be on pace for a 102 point season. That would have won the Northeast division this year. That also ignores that Phil Kessel will outperform his last season with a full training camp and the fact that he won't see every team's top shut down line. Adding Savard and Kovalchuk could make this a season worth watching in Toronto finally.

I don't know if Savard is available to come here but I doubt it. I don't know if Burke can convince Kovalchuk to come here but I doubt that too. I do know however that adding Ilya Kovalchuk looks like an absolute necessity for this club and having a slick playmaking center with him couldn't hurt.

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