When all the numbers are crunched, the salary cap figures massaged and the statistics examined, the Bruins' seven-year deal to keep center Marc Savard in Boston certainly has the hallmarks of a sound economic move.
The reported $28.05 million deal, with an annual cap hit of about $4 million, left the Bruins and fans with plenty to smile about Wednesday.
The bottom-line-conscious Bruins did not overpay, and Savard got a well deserved long-term deal.
“Over the course of time since Marc has been here, he’s obviously shown his offensive ability," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “I think we have seen a huge amount of growth on the other side of the puck. He’ll be the first to tell you that we have bugged him out about it, but he has responded very well. His stats speak for themselves, but it’s the intangibles that really impress me."
With skilled second-year center David Krejci inking a three-year deal this summer, Boston fans are now assured that both Savard and Krejci will be wearing Bruins sweaters for the foreseeable future.
But, if we assume Savard is among the top 10 centers in the NHL, is he really among the top five?
And if not, are the Bruins really anywhere closer to winning the Stanley Cup?
Sure, Savard has led the Bruins in scoring for three seasons and has been among the NHL’s top 10 scoring leaders. There is little doubt he is a skilled playmaker and a valuable asset.
But the Bruins are not looking to be just a very good team with a skilled center, in theory they are looking to be an elite team with a dominating center.
From the standpoint of pure physical makeup, Savard (5-10, 191) gives ground to the Stanley Cup-winning centers in Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby (5-11, 200), Evgeni Malkin (6-3, 192) and Jordan Staal (6-4,220).
The same would be true with Tampa’s Vinny Lecavalier (6-4, 223) and Carolina’s Eric Staal (6-4, 205).
While it could be argued as to just where Savard’s skill set would match up against these top centers — some arguably have more, some have less — all have Stanley Cup rings with a smattering of MVP trophies thrown in the mix.
When push comes to shove in a playoff series, can Savard skate head to head against these guys and prevail?
And that’s just the Eastern Conference.
How would the Bruins' top two centers fare skating against Henrik Zetterberg? Pavel Datsyuk? Ryan Getzlaf? Joe Thornton? Brad Richards? Anze Kopitar?
Again, all these players have a size and perhaps even a skill advantage over Savard.
Can Savard outwrestle Zetterberg for the puck the way Crosby did in head-to-head line matchups to win the Cup last season?
The bottom line is that at best, there is some uncertainty as to whether Boston's center core would prevail against the current NHL elite. Not the conference bottom-dwellers or the teams that fade in and out of the playoffs, but the teams that actually play deep into the playoffs for the Stanley Cup.
It is also worth noting that with the final two years of Savard’s deal — when he reportedly will earn just $525,000 per season — are removed, the B's ultimate payment to Savard in the first five years would be very similar to the $27 million five-year contract Phil Kessel signed with Toronto.
A 22-year-old goal-scorer? Or a 32-year-old center?
Still, that does not make the Savard deal a mistake. Far from it.
It may be that over the course of the next five years, while going from age 32 to 37, Savard becomes more of a second-line center, with a cap hit that equates with top second-line forwards.
The real value of the Savard deal may be in what it allows the Bruins to do in order to provide elite talent to complement or supplement that provided by Savard.
And that may bring the Bruins closer to the Cup.