While most of the hockey world was asleep and dreaming about their team hoisting the Stanley Cup come June 2019, the Montreal Canadiens and Vegas Golden Knights made one of the biggest deals of the offseason at 1:00 a.m. ET. Fans from both sides awoke Monday morning to their teams and upcoming seasons looking very different.
The Canadiens have acquired forwards Tomas Tatar and Nick Suzuki, and a 2nd round pick in 2019 from the Vegas Golden Knights (Columbus’ pick previously acquired by Vegas), in return for Max Pacioretty. pic.twitter.com/HEt3uEXOo5
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) September 10, 2018
The timing may be strange, but this isn’t shocking. The fact that things between Max Pacioretty and Montreal have been rocky as of late isn’t news. Coming off one of his worst seasons in the NHL, it was reported back in early July that the Canadiens didn’t want to re-sign the 29-year-old after his current deal expired following the 2018-19 campaign.
With that decided, the problem for Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin was ensuring that he’d get a solid return for a leader that has scored 30 or more goals in four of the last five seasons and will have a sexy cap hit of only $4.5 million this season.
Montreal wasn’t offered anything they liked and news on the Pacioretty front went pretty quiet for a while. Then, reports that he requested trades several times last season began surfacing over the last two weeks. His agent, Allan Walsh, quickly jumped to his defence and extinguished that fire. After that, we heard nothing until the Canadiens confirmed the trade with Vegas (very) early Monday morning.
There’s no doubt the Golden Knights have secured themselves a star. Despite the fact he’s coming off a disappointing 17-goal, 37-point regular season plagued by injuries, Pacioretty’s ability to score with the best in the world cannot be denied.
Most Even Strength Goals Since 2011-12
Alex Ovehckin: 175
John Tavares: 153
Max Pacioretty: 152
Patrick Kane: 152
Brad Marchand: 152
Tyler Seguin: 152
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) September 10, 2018
He’s in the prime of his career and one can only expect him to bounce back once the puck drops in early October. Being removed from the intense spotlight that comes with being the captain of a storied franchise such as Montreal should also help him get back on track.
Pacioretty wore the ‘C’ for the Canadiens each of the last three seasons. During that time, the team failed to qualify for the postseason twice and lost in the first round to the New York Rangers in 2017.
With the way things were going, any change of scenery would have been good for him. But when that change of scenery happens to be the most recent Stanley Cup finalists, it’s even better. The idea of Pacioretty playing alongside the likes of William Karlsson, Paul Stastny, Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault on a regular basis is one that should have you tuning into many Golden Knights games this season.
Pacioretty made it clear well before the trade that he didn’t want to be distracted by contract negotiations during the season. Vegas took that to heart and quickly signed him to a contract extension less than 24 hours after the swap was confirmed – four years at $7 million annually.
It’s a deal that isn’t too expensive and isn’t too long. I’m a fan, especially if he’s able to step it up the next few years.
Sizing up what Montreal gets in return
Don’t tell the casinos because this trade has sent a true game-breaker to Sin City. However, did Bergevin truly get a strong return?
Tomas Tatar, 27, has always been a fun player to watch. He has speed to burn and impressive offensive skills. However, it seems like he’s never been able to reach his full potential.
The Golden Knights picked him up from Detroit at last season’s trade deadline for three draft picks, including a 2019 first-rounder, thinking that the Slovakian may be the missing piece needed to make a run at Lord Stanley’s mug. Vegas (obviously) made that run, but Tatar can hardly take any credit for it.
In 20 regular season contests with the Golden Knights he only tallied four goals and six points. Worse than that, he regularly found himself scratched during the playoffs.
Maybe Vegas just wasn’t the right fit for him and he was never able to settle in. If that was the case, he better make himself comfortable north of the border. As the second-highest paid forward on the Canadiens with his cap hit of $5.3 million for the next three seasons, he’ll be expected to contribute.
Tatar could do Montreal some good, but the true reason for Canadiens fans to be giddy is the acquisition of prospect Nick Suzuki. The 19-year-old from London, Ont., was selected 13th overall in the 2017 draft by Vegas and has been an offensive dynamo in the OHL.
Playing for the Owen Sound Attack, he’s racked up 87 goals and 196 points in 129 regular season contests over the last two years. Those are numbers that can’t be ignored. He also appeared in one playoff game for Vegas’ AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, earlier in 2018.
Before he was even drafted in 2017, Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News said, “Suzuki could end up being the steal of the entire draft.”
Standing just under six feet tall and weighing 183 lbs, he still has some growing to do. However, his development will be fun to watch, especially if he can continue to produce offensively at the next level, where it’s expected he’ll play on the wing.
How Suzuki turns out, as well as the player selected with that 2019 second-round draft pick, will definitely have a big influence on discussions about which team won this trade five and 10 years from now.
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