The highly anticipated NHL trade deadline has finally come to pass, and our Montreal Canadiens didn’t go by unnoticed. Aside from acquiring defenceman Mike Weaver from the Florida Panthers, and goaltender Devan Dubnyk from the Nashville Predators, the Habs pulled off one of the biggest steals of the day by acquiring unrestricted free agent forward Thomas Vanek and a conditional 2nd round draft pick, in return for prospect Sebastian Collberg and a conditional 5th round draft pick.
The Austrian left-winger could be one of the missing pieces to the puzzle that is the Montreal Canadiens. For one, he has size (hallelujah) at 6ft and 217 pounds who could complement Tomas Plekanec’s play-making skills to perfection. In 60 games, Vanek has posted a total of 53 points, including 21 goals and 32 assists, with a plus/minus differential of -1. Vanek has reached the 30-goal plateau four times in his career, scoring 43 in 2006-2007, his best season in the NHL as he finished the regular season with 84 points. He can be an offensive powerhouse, a player feared by the opposition. However, Vanek has had his critics. He isn’t the sharpest defensively, which is something he will have to improve coming into a team that “allegedly” likes to play defense. Moreover, the Austrian was criticized for his performance at the Olympics, in which his hockey team was criticized for their disappointing on-ice performances and off-ice partying. Despite these issues, this trade is one of the biggest steals of the season.
I’m sure many Habs fans have had nightmares after watching the Austrian skate around our zone as a Sabre or an Islander. I assume that the Montreal Canadiens will be looking to sign the forward at the end of the season. However, when asked about his future in Montreal, Vanek’s response was very lukewarm and vague: “Right now my mind is just racing a little bit... This is pretty fresh to me, but never say never” (http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=708081). He didn’t seem to enthusiastic about it, but then again, hockey players are known for having a lack of expressivity. Another important question to ask is whether or not the Canadiens will be able to afford him, after reportedly refusing a seven-year pact worth $50 million with the New York Islanders. For now, let’s just enjoy the fact that the Habs landed a big power forward. Who knows, this trade might be a hit or miss. On paper, the Habs are a better team with Vanek today than they were 24 hours ago. The 30-year-old forward will make his first appearance in the blue, white, and red jersey against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night.