Career may be over at 34
Bruins don’t expect Savard to play again
On Sept. 16, Bruins veterans will report to TD Garden for physicals and fitness testing for the 2011-12 season, in which they will try to defend the Stanley Cup.
Marc Savard will not be there.
Savard has not recently been examined by team doctors. But his condition has changed so little - he is still suffering from postconcussion syndrome, more than seven months after his season-ending injury on Jan. 22 - that he is not expected back in 2011-12. Savard’s symptoms include headaches and memory loss.
“Marc Savard won’t play this year,’’ said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli yesterday. “Nothing has changed in our monitoring. He’ll be examined and he’ll be declared unfit to play.’’
Savard is signed through 2016-17, and his symptoms could wane at some point and he might wish to resume playing. However, the Bruins are assuming the 34-year-old center’s career essentially is over.
“Based on what I see, what I hear, what I read, and what I’m told, it’s very unlikely Marc will play again,’’ Chiarelli said. “Now, knowing the uncertainty of this injury, there’s always a chance. But based on what I’m told, it’s very unlikely he’ll play. As an employer, I support him and hope he gets back to living a healthy life.’’
Savard had suffered concussions earlier in his career. But his most significant head trauma took place on March 7, 2010. That day, at Pittsburgh’s Mellon Arena, Savard absorbed a blind-side wallop from the Penguins’ Matt Cooke and suffered a severe concussion. Cooke was neither penalized nor suspended for the hit.
In the wake of Savard’s injury, the NHL instituted Rule 48, under which players are subject to penalty and discipline for blind-side hits where the head is the principal target. That rule has since been tweaked to make all hits targeting the head, regardless of direction, subject to penalty and discipline.
Savard returned for the second round of the playoffs in 2010 and had one goal and two assists against Philadelphia. Last summer, he began to suffer postconcussion symptoms, including depression.
Last fall, Savard’s symptoms went away, and he made his season debut Dec. 2 against Tampa Bay. But in his 25th game of the 2010-11 season, Savard was hit by former teammate Matt Hunwick, who had been traded to Colorado to clear cap space for Savard.
He did not play again, even as the Bruins advanced through the playoffs last spring all the way to the Stanley Cup, their first championship since 1972.
The Bruins signed Savard on July 1, 2006, to a four-year, $20 million contract. On Dec. 1, 2009, he signed a seven-year, $28.05 million extension.
If Savard’s career is over, he will have compiled 207 goals and 499 assists in 807 games for four clubs: Boston, Atlanta, Calgary, and the Rangers.
His best season was 2005-06, when he recorded a 28-69-97 line for the Thrashers.
Savard will open 2011-12 on long-term injured reserve, which will allow the Bruins to exceed the cap by his $4.007 million annual hit.
Savard is not eligible to collect his remaining salary if he retires. The likelihood is Savard will be declared unfit to play prior to each season, much like ex-Bruin Alexei Zhamnov after he suffered a career-ending ankle injury in the 2005-06 season.
According to Chiarelli, Savard’s name will be engraved on the Cup. The Bruins had to file an exemption because Savard played in only 25 games last year and didn’t appear in the playoffs.
Considering Savard’s uncertain future, it is of little consolation.