Lightning make push for Central title, bolstering defence with David Savard

The defending Stanley Cup champions found a way to get better, the NHL's top team solved a problem that has hurt it in the past, and another filled a major void created by an injury.

Columbus receives 2021 1st-round pick, 2022 3rd-rounder from Tampa in 3-team deal

On Saturday, the Lightning acquired defenceman David Savard, right, from the Blue Jackets in a three-team trade that also involved the Red Wings. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The defending Stanley Cup champions found a way to get better, the NHL's top team solved a problem that has hurt it in the past, and another filled a major void created by an injury.

Some of hockey's best teams got a head start on the trade deadline Saturday by making important moves and scooping up some of the hottest players on the market. The cap-strapped, reigning champion Tampa Bay Lightning surrendered three draft picks to get defenceman David Savard, the Colorado Avalanche landed veteran goaltender Devan Dubnyk, and the Florida Panthers did something to compensate for Aaron Ekblad's absence by acquiring defenceman Brandon Montour.

"They have a team to go for another run and go for the Stanley Cup," Savard said of the Lightning. "They've had a great team for numbers of years, so I'm really excited to go on a team that has a chance to win the Stanley Cup. I couldn't be more pumped to go meet the guys and be part of the team and go on a run again."

The trade deadline is Monday at 3 p.m. ET.

Given the Lightning's salary-cap situation, general manager Julien BriseBois said a month ago, "Realistically, I think it's unlikely that we're going to be adding a player between now and the trade deadline." It was only possible because the Columbus Blue Jackets retained half of Savard's salary — for a 2021 first-rounder and a 2022 third-round pick — and the Detroit Red Wings took 25 per cent for a fourth-rounder and Tampa Bay taking minor leaguer Brian Lashoff.

Savard gives Tampa Bay a physical presence on the right side of the blue-line, a role Zach Bogosian, now with Toronto, filled during the 2020 Cup run. The Lightning also expect to get 2019 MVP Nikita Kucherov back from hip surgery when the playoffs begin in mid-May.

Kucherov, the Lighting's leading scorer on the way to the Cup, has been on long-term injured reserve all season.

Making Cup run 'no secret'

Colorado didn't go on as long a run in the playoff bubble as it would have liked after top two goalies Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz went down with injuries. After acquiring goalie Jonas Johansson last month, GM Joe Sakic added more depth in goal with Dubnyk by sending defenceman Greg Pateryn and a fifth-round pick to San Jose.

He also gave the dressing room a boost with the Avalanche atop the league standings.

WATCH | 9 memorable deadline deals ... in 90 seconds:

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"I think it sends a pretty strong message that obviously he believes in this group and that we are trying to make a run at this thing," Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "That's been no secret from Day 1 of training camp."

Florida is a new addition to the class of Cup contenders and was in that stratosphere in large part because of Ekblad's play before his season-ending injury in late March. The Panthers can't replace Ekblad, but they took a step past his injury by sending a third-round pick to Buffalo for Montour.

With less than 48 hours remaining until the deadline, there are many prominent players still waiting to find out where they're going. Buffalo is also expected to trade winger Taylor Hall; Detroit centre Luke Glendening and goalie Jonathan Bernier are available; and Columbus could listen on captain Nick Foligno, who is a pending free agent.

Montour 'will have immediate impact' on Panthers

The Sabres' sell-off continued Saturday with rookie GM Kevyn Adams moving Montour to Florida for a 2021 third-round draft pick.

"Brandon is a capable and talented right-shot defenceman who will have an immediate impact on our club," Panthers general manager Bill Zito said in a statement. "His two-way acumen and ability to play important minutes make him an exciting addition to the Panthers."

Defenceman Brandon Montour, left, scored five goals and 14 points in 38 games this season for the lowly Sabres. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

It's the latest and not likely last move by the rebuilding Sabres as they sit last in the overall standings and are all but mathematically guaranteed to match the NHL playoff drought record of 10 seasons.

Montour, who has five goals — including four in his last seven games — and 14 points in 38 outings this season, is a pending unrestricted free agent completing a one-year contract worth $3.85 million US.

The Panthers opened up salary cap space on Thursday in a trade that sent forward Brett Connolly and defenceman Riley Stillman to Chicago for forward Lucas Wallmark and defenceman Lucas Carlsson.

Montour, who turns 27 on Sunday, is in his fifth NHL season and has been with Buffalo since the Sabres acquired him from Anaheim on Feb. 24, 2019.

Dubnyk a playoff standout

Dubnyk, 34, had a 3-9-2 record, 3.18 goals-against average and .898 save percentage with the Sharks this season. He has appeared in 537 regular-season games over a 12-year career with Edmonton, Nashville, Arizona, Minnesota and San Jose.

He also boasts a 2.72 GAA and .904 save percentage in the playoffs with Minnesota, and is the Wild's all-time leader in playoff games played (26), wins (8) and shutouts (2).

"Devan brought the element of consummate professionalism and class to our dressing room, in what has been an extremely unique and challenging season," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement.

"He fit seamlessly within our group and helped mentor many of our younger players."

Pateryn, a fifth-round selection by Toronto in 2008, has 41 points in 278 NHL games with Montreal, Dallas, Minnesota and Colorado.

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CBC Sports' Rob Pizzo calls on Justin Bourne, Greg Wyshynski and David Amber to set up this season's NHL trade deadline. 9:19

With files from CBC Sports

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