The Tampa Bay Lightning are again the favorites to win the Stanley Cup after winning last season for the second time in franchise history, and their chances of repeating went up even higher Saturday after making a three-team trade.
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman David Savard was one of the top players rumored to be available before Monday's 3 p.m. ET NHL trade deadline, and he's now on his way to Tampa Bay.
It's a little more complicated than that, though.
The Lightning entered the trade deadline with very little salary cap space, and in order to absorb Savard's cap hit, they were able to get the Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings to each retain a sizable portion of the defenseman's salary.
Overall, there were three separate trades made to get Savard on the Lightning. TSN's Pierre LeBrun explained the complicated process in the following tweet:
How does this deal impact the Boston Bruins?
Well, it obviously makes the Lightning a much tougher potential playoff opponent. Tampa Bay's blue line consists of Victor Hedman (the Norris Trophy favorite), Ryan McDonagh, Erik Cernak, Mikhail Sergachev and now Savard. That's a ridiculously good group.
The Bruins lost to the Lightning in a five-game second-round playoff series last season. The B's wouldn't play the Lightning in the 2021 playoffs until at least the semifinals based on the new format, but if they did meet, Tampa Bay would be significant favorites.
Savard coming off the market also increases the competition for the remaining defensemen available. The Bruins' top roster need at the trade deadline is a veteran defenseman, preferably one who plays on the left side. Boston's blue line has been ravaged by injuries all season, and it took another hit Saturday when Matt Grzelcyk left the B's loss to the Flyers early with an upper body injury.
We've also seen two impactful trades made this week -- the other involving Kyle Palmieri and the Islanders -- and both saw the buying team give up a first-round draft pick as part of the deal. The Bruins, as we've written before, can't really afford to move another first-round pick after trading two of their last three -- which has severely weakened their prospect pool.
These three trades between the Lightning, Blue Jackets and Red Wings also show that it's possible to get creative around the salary cap to add quality players in a flat cap world. The Bruins have $6,848,203 in deadline cap space, per CapFriendly, which is actually a good amount. Acquiring a quality player at the deadline would not be as difficult salary cap-wise for the Bruins as it was for a team like the Lightning. The issue for the B's is they don't have many attractive trade assets, and that complicates matters.
We've seen reports of several trades made Saturday as activity heats up before Monday's deadline. The pressure is mounting on the Bruins to make a deal to improve a flawed roster before the playoffs.