With surprise contenders Nashville Predators having loaded up for a Stanley Cup run with the addition of Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli, the starting pistol for the March 2 trade deadline frenzy may have been fired early.
Fans of the Canadiens are wondering if Marc Bergevin will pull the trigger on a similar deal to shore up his blue line and scoring in the forwards, especially at right wing. These areas are seen as glaring weaknesses despite the excellent results the team has garnered so far, flirting with the top spot in the Eastern Conference all season long.
Last year, Marc Bergevin pulled a rabbit out of a hat and obtained Thomas Vanek at a surprisingly reasonable cost. I didn’t think the price was inconsiderable, had qualms about the trade immediately, and thought those who were flip-flopping and now dismissing Sebastian Collberg as a valid prospect were thinking with their cheerfanius maximus muscle. Sure, support the team, but don’t twist facts.
One fact we can add in to our equation now, and which tilts the decision in favour of making that trade again, is that Sebastian Collberg hasn’t been setting the world on fire the last couple of seasons.
Maybe the brain trust had this situation sussed out, they were fairly sure that his worth as a prospect, his likelihood of panning out as a slick scoring forward, was dropping fast. So we may have sold high on him.
We still need to worry about that second-round pick we gave up, how Trevor Timmins might have invested that pick, but right now, it looks like the price we paid for that rental Vanek wasn’t very high at all.
Having considered the cost we paid, we can say that the return was worth it, and Marc Bergevin’s roll of the dice paid off. Thomas Vanek took a while to get going, but once he did playing right wing with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty, after Michel Therrien had first acceded to his wishes and put him on left wing with Tomas Plekanec but it didn’t click, he took off. Watching him and Max and David pass the puck around was pure joy. As a fan, he was well worth the cost of admission, for the spectacle and the hope he gave us and the team.
When he disappeared against the Bruins I posted as much, that he wasn’t giving enough effort, wasn’t producing, I was glad that at the end of the season Marc Bergevin was categorical: he wouldn’t be back. If he can’t get inspired by that playoff run, if he’s going to sulk and mope, and fear to tread territory where David and Brendan Gallagher and Brian Gionta courageously battle Bruins, then we can’t have him on our team.
But the trade was a calculated gamble that paid off. It’s like the slot machine that spits out $100. It’s not the Superrific Boombastic Jackpot of $7.7M, but it was a nice little prize for a quarter.
The common wisdom is that this season, Marc Bergevin is trying to make a 'hockey trade' rather than a rental deal, meaning he wants a player or players who are signed for longer than the rest of the season, and can contribute and fit in to the team long term.
I understand this desire from any GM. If you're going to give up picks and prospects for rentals, eventually it's going to drain your organization of depth and talent. You don't want to do so every season, especially for short-term band-aid solutions.
One thing about the rental trade market this year is that there isn’t as much ‘supply’, so it will probably be a seller’s market. Whatever help can be had through trade will come very dearly.
Just working off memory, last season there were Marian Gaborik, Thomas Vanek, Mike Cammalleri and Matt Moulson among others available for teams looking for a scoring winger, for contenders looking to round out their roster. That played in Marc Bergevin’s favour in getting Mr. Vanek relatively cheaply, too many teams holding, waiting and trying to get a first-rounder plus for their perishable UFA-to-be.
The previous year, fewer such were players available and many teams thinking they needed help led to the situation where Jarome Iginla and Jaromir Jagr were swapped for first-rounders plus, and plugs like Douglas Murray were fetching two second-rounders.
So I hope, I expect that Marc Bergevin will take the pulse of the market, will window shop, but if it’s a market like two seasons ago, if the price is high for measly help, that he’ll stand pat. I don’t want us frittering away picks and prospects on the likes of Antoine Vermette or Chris Stewart.