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Numbers Game: Canadiens make splash, add Vanek

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Scott Cullen
3/5/2014 7:44:17 PM
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The biggest gun among unrestricted free agents was dealt just as the deadline approached, but the ultimate price sure appears to be a relative bargain.

Numbers Game looks into the Canadiens securing the services of Thomas Vanek in a trade with the New York Islanders.

The Canadiens Get: LW Thomas Vanek and a conditional fifth-round pick.

Vanek, 30, was considered the prize of the pending unrestricted free agent class as the deadline approached. He's scored 271 goals in 645 games since coming into the league in 2005-2006.

Since his second year in the league, Vanek ranks fourth with 246 goals and he's done it with all sorts of different linemates between his time in Buffalo and, for much of this season, with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo on the top line for the New York Islanders.

Vanek isn't a great possession player, some years better than others, but is so skilled and plays in an offensive role that his on-ice shooting percentage is among the best in the league over the past five seasons.

In Montreal, Vanek should give the Canadiens' offence a jolt, as Max Pacioretty, with 29 goals, is the only Hab with more than Vanek's 21 goals this season. Adding Vanek will give the Canadiens' offence more depth and it's conceivable that a finisher like Vanek can continue to produce while also elevating the production of his new linemates. A spot alongside Tomas Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk might be a decent fit to start.

An unrestricted free agent in the summer, Vanek brings a cap hit of more than $7.1-million. There have been several rumours this season about Vanek's desire to end up in Minnesota, and that may be where he goes as a free agent, but Vanek also acknowledged that a winning team sure helps in the decision-making process.

If Vanek can play a significant role in the Canadiens' playoff push, then perhaps Montreal will be a destination that he considers as a long-term home, but that expectation had better come with the understanding that Vanek is going to command a massive contract as an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The Islanders Get: RW Sebastian Collberg and a conditional second-round pick.

Collberg just turned 20 a couple of weeks ago and was a second-round pick in 2012. He's a skilled forward with good speed who has 18 points in 75 Swedish Elite League games over the past two seasons with Frolunda HC. He's put up a dozen points in 13 games at the past two World Junior Hockey Championships.

It's hard to project a young forward getting limited ice time in Sweden to a big role right away in the NHL, so Collberg probably needs time in the AHL, which ought to be fine for the Islanders, who have quite a few young forwards coming through the pipeline.

One of those young forwards, Anders Lee, the 23-year-old rookie pro out of Notre Dame, could see quite a bit of action in a scoring role down the stretch. Lee has four goals and six points in six NHL games (this year and last) and, with Vanek gone, there is room for Lee to show that he should be a part of the plans for next season's team.

The conditional picks are based on whether or not the Canadiens make the playoffs. If they hold their current playoff spot, then the Canadiens swap their second-rounder for the Islanders' fifth-round pick. If the Canadiens fall out and miss the playoffs, then the deal will just be Collberg for the rental of Vanek.

All told, the price doesn't seem to be nearly enough a return for the Islanders, who were out of the race early enough that everyone knew they were going to deal Vanek, but somehow appeared to overplay their hand because even if Collberg is a good prospect, that doesn't seem to match the price paid for lesser players.

As a result of that incongruous fit between the Islanders' asking price and what the market was ultimately willing to pay, it sure appears to have provided an opening for Montreal GM Marc Bergevin to take advantage and upgrade his team at a very reasonable price.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Thomas Vanek (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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Martin St. Louis is a Ranger, Matt Moulson is a member of the Minnesota Wild and the Montreal Canadiens have Thomas Vanek. Look back at all the big name deals that went down.


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