Yesterday was devoted to football. The first Sunday of the NFL season dominated headlines on Sunday and for good reason. Shortly after the Packers completed their comeback at home and everyone went to bed, the Vegas golden Knights and Montreal Canadiens hooked up for a rare September NHL blockbuster.
The Habs have finally moved captain Max Pacioretty, dealing the scoring winger to Vegas in exchange for forward Tomas Tatar, prospect Nick Suzuki and a 2019 second-round draft choice. The fact the Habs dealt Max isn’t much of a surprise. The fact they dealt him to Vegas, however, and for such a strong return is.
Why Montreal Looks Good:
It seems like the Habs are fully embracing what they are, which is a rebuilding team that likely isn’t going to be any good unless Carey Price goes supernova again. Dealing Pacioretty isn’t an easy thing to do, but it was the right thing at this time. This relationship was over, and it was time to cut bait with the player.
One could argue that this was a self-inflicted wound, just like how this rebuild is self-inflicted by GM Marc Bergevin. I’d tend to agree with someone making that argument. That said, it’s hard to come out looking good from a trade like this, and the Habs found a way to do just that.
Although Tatar struggled a season ago, scoring just 34 points, he still managed to find the back of the net 20 times, 16 with Detroit and four with Vegas. He’s scored 20 or more goals in four of the last five seasons, with his career high coming in 2014-15 when he scored 29.
Although he isn’t an impact player like Pacioretty can be, Tatar is still a top-six forward in the NHL and will fill that role with the Habs. He’s also a prime candidate for a rebound season, and I don’t think 45 points and 25 goals is out of the question as Tatar is likely to get a featured role.
I’m stunned the Habs were able to pull Suzuki from this deal. The 2017 first-round pick (13th overall) gives Montreal another strong prospect to add to what is becoming a very good system. He’s not overly big (5-foot-11 and 183 pounds) but he has tons of skill and is likely to make the NHL as a top-six player down the line. Although he plays center now, a huge area of concern for the Habs, he’s likely to make his mark as a winger during his professional career.
For a rental player, Montreal was able to acquire a top-six winger, a high-level prospect and a second-round pick. Say what you will about Bergevin, but that’s an impressive haul.
Why Vegas Looks Good:
The Golden Knights lost James Neal and David Perron this off-season. Those are two huge losses, and they contributed to my feeling that Vegas would take a massive step back in 2018-19. One could argue that Vegas has gotten better up front, even with the departure of both those players.
With all due respect to Neal, a great player in his own right, I firmly believe that Pacioretty is a better player. He’s more impactful in more areas of the game, and is a similar if not better goal scorer. With him replacing Neal, the Golden Knights got better in my opinion.
Even though they don’t play the same position, one could also argue that Paul Stastny is an upgrade on Perron, which would be another spot the Knights improved.
Look, Vegas paid a big price here, but they also upgraded their hockey team. Considering they won the West a season ago, that’s the right course of action. GM George McPhee isn’t resting on his laurels and is actively trying to make this team stronger. He’s done a great job of doing that in my opinion.
This is the kind of move a contender makes. Vegas is a contender, and should be applauded for going out and filling a massive hole on their roster while upgrading on those who departed. The Knights are trying to win, and you have to respect that.
Vegas gave up some nice pieces, but boy do I love the look of their team right now.