COLUMBUS, Ohio -- David Savard has watched the Blue Jackets build organizational depth on defense at both the NHL and AHL levels, and it wasn't lost on him that "competition" would be the buzzword during training camp.
But there was one small problem: he was a restricted free agent - until this afternoon. Dialogue on a contract extension continued throughout the summer and was completed in recent days, with Savard putting pen to paper on a one-year extension that gives him another opportunity to become a regular NHL player.
Now, the road ahead has been paved; Savard is well aware that ice time at the NHL level isn't going to be handed out. And there's admittedly a touch of relief knowing he will be back in Columbus and with the team that drafted him in fourth round of the 2009 NHL Draft.
"It's a good feeling to know I'll be coming back," Savard told BlueJackets.com. "It's never fun to go into the summer not knowing what's going to happen (with the contract). I was talking to my agent and in talking to the team, he was very confident that they wanted me back. To be able to come back here is great; talking to Chris MacFarland, they're really happy to have me back, too.
"This is a boost of confidence going into next year trying to get the job done and be part of this team full-time."
Savard, 22, was a point-producing defenseman with the QMJHL's Moncton Wildcats who caught the Blue Jackets' eye with his ability to make a deft first pass and quarterback the power play. He's established himself as a top-pairing defenseman with the Springfield Falcons and has seen spot duty in the NHL, but that's not satisfactory by any means.
Though he did score his first NHL goal during a recall stint with Columbus two years ago, he wants to add a few more pucks to the mantle.
"You're always working toward the NHL, and going from junior to pro hockey was an adjustment for me and all players go through the same thing," Savard said. "Now I'm trying to get ready to play in the NHL full-time. Having played in a few games here over the last couple of years always helps, and hopefully, I can come into this year's training camp with full confidence and be ready to stay here right away."
With a solid stable of young defensemen in the organization, Savard said he and his fellow prospects have benefited from the veterans in the Blue Jackets dressing room. Last season, Adrian Aucoin was a great sounding board for the kids and often paired with them early in the season.
But Aucoin is one of several players who have made themselves available for any and all questions, Savard said, and it has made what could be a daunting transition into a comfortable challenge.
"There are guys like Jack (Johnson) and (James Wisniewski) who have been in the NHL for a long time, and they can teach you to do the little things that make a big difference," Savard said. "I remember my second season when Brett Lebda was down in Springfield; to be able to play with a guy who had played a lot of games in the NHL was very helpful for us and it was great for the younger guys.
"Every year, I'm trying to learn whatever I can from the guys here and use whatever they can teach me to get better. Even in Springfield, there are good defensemen going through and I'm trying to learn from them. I try to use that and make myself better."