The Montreal Canadiens traded their captain Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights during the wee hours of the morning, five minutes after even I went to bed. The return? Prospect centerman Nick Suzuki, winger Tomas Tatar and a second-round draft pick in 2019 (via Columbus).
Interesting sidebar – Vegas used another Columbus draft pick to take Suzuki. So in a way they are trading Tatar and the payment they got for taking David Clarkson in expansion, for Pacioretty.
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The Golden Knights get: An upgrade on James Neal in terms of offense, and probably an upgrade in the dressing room as well. They just turned David Perron and James Neal into Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty. So after making the Stanley Cup Final in their first season, they somehow…improved?
The Habs get: A prospect centerman, plus a talented winger with upside and a higher draft pick. GM Marc Bergevin has seen firsthand just how difficult it is to acquire a top-line center. So in the last three months he has focused on adding them via the prospect pool. Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki are interchangeable as 1A/1B centers. I consider both of them second-line center potential on most teams, but on this one five years from now each of them could flourish. Meanwhile Tatar replaces, albeit in a lesser capacity, Pacioretty on the wing.
Fantasy Players Impacted: Suzuki just went from a near-zero chance of making the NHL this year, to having it actually become likely. Montreal is in desperate need of true centers and Suzuki is a hard worker with wheels and you won’t see him standing still on the ice. The work ethic could be enough to make up for any lack of experience. Read our scouting profile on Suzuki here.
Suzuki just turned 19 a couple of weeks ago and he is lauded for his speed, agility and work ethic. Jesperi Kotkaniemi is 18 years old and considered a little raw. I liken him to a lesser Anze Kopitar, complete with the mystery surrounding his upside early on. He was likely earmarked for Finland in the fall and now the Habs almost certainly won’t rush him. If Suzuki turns in a good season, Kotkaniemi may actually get two more years of development overseas before coming over.
The big question in Montreal now is how this will impact Jonathan Drouin. I had his linemates as Pacioretty