Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli acknowledged in a conference call with the media Sunday that center Marc Savard may be out longer than expected due to post-concussion syndrome and very well could start the season on long-term injury reserve.
Long-term injury reserve requires a player miss 10 games and 24 days prior to returning.
"He'll have to go through normal protocol and pass all the tests, and once he's through that, we'll bring him along slowly," Chiarelli told ESPN's Pierre LeBrun. "He may be a month, a month and a half from officially getting on the ice. It could be two months, I don't know. It's tough to tell."
Earlier in the week, after a source told ESPNBoston.com it was "possible" that Savard could be out for the season, Chiarelli had issued a statement refuting the report and later said he thought the crafty pivot could be back in "short order."
"It could happen," Chiarelli said Sunday of Savard being placed on long-term injury reserve. "It is a little early to tell. Based on what he's been going through with the post-concussion symptoms, the time he's been experiencing it, and the time he hasn't been doing anything, it's tracking that way."
On Saturday Savard said that the toughest symptom he has been dealing with is depression. On Sunday, Chiarelli acknowledged that the team is working diligently to help Savard work through the depression issues. Savard is currently with the Bruins on a "team building" trip in Brattleboro, Vt.
"We've tried to help him along the way," Chiarelli said, while being careful to respect Savard's privacy. "I've talked to a number of people who have had it or experienced it in their life and experienced it in the workplace with other individuals in the workplace. I myself have never experienced it in the workplace. But I think all of us in all walks of life have experienced it with either relatives or family members or close friends. I have and I have had those types of experiences. It's a real delicate situation and he's been making progress."
Chiarelli said that he and his staff will continue to work with Savard and are already seeing positive signs.
"I talked to him today, he's getting better," Chiarelli told ESPN.com on Saturday. "I'm not a doctor, but in talking to him and having seen him the week before and a week and half before that, he's getting better."
He added, "We're going to do everything as an organization to help him, and what I can tell you also is that he was in the room there [Saturday] doctoring up his sticks like he normally does and that was a good thing to see."
But until Savard seems completely back to normal and can pass the proper medical tests, Chiarelli said that the team will need to fill his spot in the lineup. The Bruins will be allowed to go $4 million over the $59.4 million cap if Savard goes on LTIR, thus allowing them to add to the roster and giving them some cushion with their cap space to make a move. But when asked if he may look externally for help via a trade or free agency, Chiarelli said the spot would be filled internally. The Bruins like their depth of talent at center and Chiarelli mentioned four possible candidates who could end up as the third-line center to start the season: Blake Wheeler, who normally plays wing; Zach Hamill; Tyler Seguin, who has been playing wing on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi and is probably the biggest and most pleasant surprise of training camp; and Ryan Spooner.
"[Filling] Savvy's absence has been our biggest point of discussion amongst our group here," Chiarelli said. "That spot is open and we're going to have a look at 'Wheels' in that spot; we're going to have a look at Zach in that spot; there's some other different combinations and we may see Tyler go back to that spot. There's a hole there right now and even Spooner, he's young, in his first pro camp, and each day and each game he's getting better and he's a smart player so he might be able to fill in."
While the aforementioned players are no Marc Savard, Chiarelli believes they can bring similar talents and skills.
"We've improved our wings so you want to have someone who can distribute the puck and make plays," Chiarelli said of the skill set he's trying to fill in the void left by Savard's absence. "Those guys that I mentioned can all do that and we'll have to see some different combinations on that third line."
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com