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Savvy negotiating

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

• Boston Bruins center Marc Savard is reportedly close to returning to action after being sidelined since mid-October by a fractured left foot.

That’s good news for the Bruins, whose offense has been sputtering in Savard’s absence the past four weeks. Of course, this provides the 32-year-old with additional leverage in his contract negotiations with the team.

The Boston Globerecently reported Savard, who’s in the final year of a four-year contract worth $5 million per season, is expected to re-sign with the Bruins, perhaps in the range of $6-$6.5 million per season.

An Internet report earlier this week claimed Savard was poised to sign a seven-year, $39-million extension with the Bruins, but a source close to the negotiations denied it.

Bruins management will likely have little choice but to meet the demands of the veteran center. Savard’s absence the past four weeks demonstrated how important his playmaking skills are to the team’s offensive attack.

Critics might suggest he’s not worth $6.5 million per season, but if he hits next summer’s free agent market there’ll be no shortage of suitors willing to pay him that much, even if – as some believe – the salary cap flat-lines or drops by $2-$3 million.

One of those teams would be the Toronto Maple Leafs. GM Brian Burke has roughly $37 million committed to 12 players next season and it’s believed he would love to snap up Savard and reunite him with former linemate Phil Kessel.

That would certainly go a long way to silencing those critical of Burke’s decision to part with two first round picks for Kessel.

• A recent report in the Edmonton Journal suggested Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jaroslav Halak will move on as a free agent next summer if the Habs don’t move him at the trade deadline first.

It’s possible Halak could find a new home by next summer, but it won’t be as a free agent unless a rival team tenders an offer sheet. He’s a restricted free agent and the Habs would certainly qualify his rights prior to July 1.

A deadline trade, however, is a possibility if the Canadiens are either out of the playoff chase by March 3 or have enough confidence in Carey Price as their starter to use Halak as a bargaining chip to fill another need on the roster.

• The Columbus Blue Jackets’ decision to allow young winger Nikita Filatov to return to Russia for the remainder of this season has sparked speculation he’ll become trade fodder.

Filatov, 19, was frustrated with his lack of playing time and inability to adjust to the two-way system of Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock, which reportedly was a point of contention between Hitchcock and GM Scott Howson, who selected the young Russian sixth overall in the 2008 draft.

Howson believes Filatov will benefit from playing back home in Russia and expects him to return a more mature and adaptable player. However, Chris Botta of AOL Fanhouse believes Filatov, a pure offensive forward, isn’t a good fit under Hitchcock’s system. Botta suggests Howson might be willing to listen to offers for the young winger and move him if he gets an offer that would push the Blue Jackets over the top.

Botta raises a good point, particularly the possibility the Jackets have another Nik Zherdev situation on their hands if they wait too long to move Filatov. But unless Howson gets a sweetheart offer between now and next fall, or Filatov demands a trade, the GM will likely hang onto the promising Russian and evaluate his performance next season.

Rumor Roundup appears Mondays and Thursdays only on Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website,, and is a contributing writer for and Eishockey Magazine.



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