With the trade deadline firmly in the rear-view mirror and the dust settling after a flurry of activity, we are left with a handful of NHL rosters looking significantly different than the day just days earlier. One of the rosters to go through a shake-up is that of the Montreal Canadiens, who made one of the larger splashes of the day in their acquisition of Thomas Vanek. This blog will break down the deal that brought the New York Islanders sniper to la belle province.
At a glance, it’s fairly clear who won this trade. Going one way is an established scoring forward who has amassed 541 in 646 career games. Going the other way is an unproven prospect who, despite flashes of greatness on the international stage, has yet to put it together in the Swedish Elite League. There was also an exchange of conditional picks provided that Montreal makes the playoffs, but Vanek and Sebastian Collberg were the main pieces of this deal. The initial reaction is to declare the scaled tipped in Montreal’s favour.
As the hockey world is keenly aware, the Montreal faithful is quick to turn on team personnel should they be seen as incompetent. With the building tension of unease that accompanies standing pat at the trade deadline, the Habs’ GM was able to temporarily silence the naysayers and fulfill the annual wish of acquiring a piece of the puzzle that immediately makes the team better. This is another reason to like Bergevin’s decision to risk a small part of the future on a proven scorer who, though considered to be a rental, might be enough to push them over the top. From one day to the next, the Habs got a lot better.
At the risk making a bold statement and sounding biased, Montreal has a legitimate shot at a playoff run this year. The Habs now have a balanced offensive group that can roll three scoring lines and a checking line with reasonable efficiency. The defensive group, while spotty after Subban and Markov, has shown signs of establishing the system necessary to have success in playoff hockey. Playing behind the defence will be one of the best goalies in the world, and it’s impossible to overstate the importance of goaltending in the playoffs. When you also consider the fact that the Eastern conference is wide open and that Montreal has recently played very well against Boston, a major obstacle to playoff success, it’s not unreasonable to think that this team can do some damage. I’m not predicting a parade on Sainte Catherine Street come June, but winning a series of two is certainly attainable. From then on, anything can happen. The playoffs are a completely different animal. We are only two years removed from an 8th seed hoisting the Cup, after all.
As a whole, I think one can only consider this trade a success for Marc Bergevin and company. For a very low price, Bergevin was able to add a top-6 scorer who gives Montreal another net-front presence and a weapon on the power-play. While questions abound as to how well this team can perform in the playoffs, and to Vanek’s contract status, the potential reward of this transaction far outweighs the risk of it. When you get a chance to make this type of deal, you do it. It’s as simple and logical as that.