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The Boston Bruins Marc Savard celebrates scoring in the first overtime period of Game 3 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff hockey game against the Montreal Canadiens in Boston, Massachusetts April 13, 2008. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (BRIAN SNYDER)
The Boston Bruins Marc Savard celebrates scoring in the first overtime period of Game 3 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff hockey game against the Montreal Canadiens in Boston, Massachusetts April 13, 2008. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (BRIAN SNYDER)

Eric Duhatschek

Savard fits Flames' need Add to ...

A couple of years back, Marc Savard told me he came close to signing with the Calgary Flames as an unrestricted free agent; that his former team, for whom he played parts of four seasons, was actually the first runners-up when he ultimately opted to go to Boston to play on the contract that the Bruins are now trying to trade.



That summer - also according to Savard - he and Jarome Iginla talked a number of times about the possibility of his return to the Stampede City. Then, as now, Calgary was looking for a playmaker; Savard fit the bill better than anyone else out there. The thinking was that Savard had grown up quite a bit in his time away from Calgary. When he was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers in the first place, he had so little value in the marketplace that the Flames took back a Russian prospect (Ruslan Zainullin) who never saw the light of day.



Presumably, Iginla is again working the phones on behalf of the Flames right now, trying to get Savard to waive his no-trade clause so that he can return to Calgary, reuniting two players that had some chemistry when they played together during the Greg Gilbert era (yes, it was that long ago).



The Flames have spent the past three months, or since they failed to make the playoffs, trying to figure out how to stem Iginla's slide in goal-scoring (32 goals last year, 35 the year before - and came to the conclusion that they needed to, once and for all, get him the play-making centre that he needed. Better late than never, as they say.



Getting Alex Tanguay on a one-year, $1.75-million contract is part of that shift as well. Tanguay is a left winger, but in his final year with Calgary - 2007-08 - Iginla scored 50 goals; and the two played together on the same line five-on-five, but not all that frequently on the power play. Under the circumstances, they had good success together.



If the Flames can land Savard and Tanguay it'll be a back-to-future scenario, trying to undo two moves that didn't end well for Calgary. A softish forward, with good hands and good on-ice vision, Tanguay wasn't a Mike Keenan-type of player - the primary reason they shuffled him off to Montreal. That was a poor fit; and Tampa turned out to be even worse. So Tanguay has a lot to prove - and the small dollars on the contract are further evidence of that. The last time he passed through town, he was a $5-million per year player. Calgary gave up a starting defenceman, Jordan Leopold, and a pair of second-round picks to get his rights from Colorado, largely as part of an Avalanche salary dump.



As for Savard, he is on a Bruins' team that suddenly has a glut of centres, after they drafted Tyler Seguin in the first round on the weekend. With Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Seguin, the Bruins can afford to deal a starting centre - and no one can predict how Savard will come back and play over the course of an 82-game regular season in the context of that head shot that Matt Cooke laid on last year that limited him to 40 games and 33 regular-season points. Savard did return for the playoffs, but the results were inconclusive - a strong first game back (the overtime winner), and then he showed the usual expected residual effects of all that rust that had accumulated during his convalescence.



Last weekend, the Flames made a pitch for the Ottawa Senators' Jason Spezza - someone with a similar skill set to Savard's - and were prepared to give up defenceman Robyn Regehr in the package. That talk didn't turn into a concrete deal - which so often happens at this time of year, for a lot of different reasons, including trying to make the contracts work.



Savard's deal is back-loaded so it is far more cap friendly - and Regehr, at $4-million, would almost be a wash provided the deal goes through.



Signing Tanguay and flirting with Savard both represent risks for general manager Darryl Sutter, who is madly scrambling to distance himself from last year's 10th-place finish in the Western Conference - an aberration, they feel, one that can be corrected with a few timely tweaks.



About the only greater risk for Sutter would be to sit on his hands and do nothing. Rome is burning; at least Nero took a little time away from the violin to see if he can put out the flames.

 

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