Wednesday, March 5, 2014
How about those Canadiens getting Vanek?
By Scott Burnside
It took until after the trade-deadline bell officially rang, but in what stands as at least a modest surprise the Montreal Canadiens ended up the winners of the Thomas Vanek sweepstakes.
Maybe it was the patience shown by Montreal GM Marc Bergevin, coupled with what must have been intense pressure on New York Islanders GM Garth Snow to move the impending unrestricted free agent, but credit the Habs for acquiring the most talented rental player on the market without breaking the bank.
The Habs sent a second-round pick and a prospect to the Islanders for Vanek, a package that was far less than what Snow was originally believed to be seeking. In fact, if the Canadiens make the playoffs, the Islanders get the second-round pick from the Habs but send back a fifth-round pick. The Isles also received a prospect who is playing in Sweden. If the Habs miss the playoffs, only the prospect goes to the Islanders.
In the end, you have to wonder whether other teams looking to add offense, such as the Pittsburgh Penguins, would have found a way to come up with a better package, given the final deal with Montreal. But that's not how it went down.
The presence of Vanek in the Canadiens' lineup has the potential to change the balance of power in the Atlantic Division. Vanek, who instantly becomes the Canadiens' leading scorer with 44 points in 47 games, brings much-needed size to an undersized Habs forward contingent. He should help the team's 13th-ranked power play. Looking down the road, if the Habs manage to get through a first-round series against Toronto, Tampa or Detroit, and they end up facing archrival Boston, Vanek is an absolute Bruin killer. In 53 career games against the B's, Vanek has 30 goals and 31 assists.
Vanek has maintained he expects to go to market July 1 as a free agent, but one never knows, especially if Carey Price returns to health and the Canadiens have the wherewithal to make noise this spring with Vanek aboard.
As for the Islanders, the deal represents a disappointing end to a trade deadline period that began with thoughts of recouping top assets dealt earlier in the season to Buffalo for Vanek.
The idea that Vanek would yield a first-round pick and a package of picks or prospects went by the boards as teams went soft on Vanek's value. After the Islanders traded a first- and second-round draft pick and Matt Moulson to Buffalo for Vanek earlier this season, the second-round pick and prospect Sebastian Collberg -- the 33rd pick in 2012 who has exactly three goals in 40 games for Frolunda in Sweden -- acquired from the Habs just don't add up to good value for a top asset.
In the end, just another kick in the shins for a franchise whose shins have been well-bruised this season.