After months of speculation and offseason trade rumors, the Montreal Canadiens have dealt captain Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for winger Tomas Tatar, prospect Nick Suzuki and a second-round pick.
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
Montreal bookends their relationship with Pacioretty after a confusing summer, when reports surfaced the 29-year-old wanted out despite his own agent suggesting contract extension talks went nowhere and he wanted to stick around longterm.
Bergevin says it’s a fact that Pacioretty requested a trade last season
— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) September 10, 2018
In Pacioretty, Vegas acquires one of the most consistent goal scorers in the NHL. The 6’2″ center has scored at least 30 goals in four straight seasons before injuries cut his 2017-18 season short. In 64 games, Pacioretty scored 17 goals, 20 assists, and 37 points. He’ll slot in Vegas’ extremely talented second line with free agent signee Paul Stastny and Alex Tuch. Expect the winger’s production to jump as his surrounding talent is tremendous.
After making an unlikely, historic Stanley Cup run in their inaugural season, Vegas lost two top scorers in David Perron and James Neal this offseason. General Manager George McPhee did a masterful job rebuilding depth with the acquisition of Statsny and now Pacioretty. He could afford to make moves thanks to a top-heavy farm system. Losing Suzuki for a potential one-year rental might be tough long-term, but Vegas has Stanley Cup aspirations. It’s the cost of doing business. Plus, with money to spend, signing Pacioretty long-term is a real possibility.
The Canadiens also did surprisingly well in this deal, despite GM Marc Bergevin’s history of screwing up bigger deals involving top NHL talent.
Nick Suzuki is the obvious focal point in making the deal for the Habs. Drafted 13th overall in 2017 by the Golden Knights, Suzuki demolished competition in his third season with the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL, scoring 42 goals, 58 assists and 100 points in 64 games as a 19-year-old. Despite being relatively undersized at center at 5’11”, Suzuki possesses a ton of skill, is a great skater and a hard worker.
Most importantly, he helps stock a previous barren Canadiens prospect pool.
Suzuki joins 2018 first-rounder Jesperi Kotkaniemi and 2017 first-rounder Ryan Poehling as legit forward prospects for a team desperately in need of them. Getting Suzuki is a big deal for the rebuilding Canadiens. Unlike previous deals involving P.K. Subban and Alex Galchenyuk, trading Pacioretty was made with a look ahead at the future. It was the right move.
Tomas Tatar is a perfectly fine winger. The 27-year-old has scored at least 20 goals in four straight seasons, although he was a healthy scratch for most of Vegas’ Stanley Cup run. Tatar comes with a high cap hit of $5.3 million per season (less than what a Pacioretty extension would cost) until 2020-21, but if he can continue his steady production Bergevin can use him as trade bait for more future assets. He’s a solid buy-low candidate who should help mask Pacioretty’s absence.
At the end of the day, both the Golden Knights and Canadiens are on different trajectories and the deal reflects that. Vegas added one of the game’s best goal scorers to an already stocked team, while the Canadiens moved out a longtime cog in exchange for some promising future returns as they rebuild. It’s the rare trade where both teams’ returns are understandable. There’s no loser here. Both teams have to be thrilled with how the move worked out.