The Brandon Prust – Zack Kassian swap was the biggest surprise of ‘Free Agent Day’ for the Habs. Having had time to ponder the deal, our writers offer up their thoughts on the trade.
Alex Létourneau: Sort of a ‘meh’ feeling regarding the trade. It certainly won’t feel the same without Prust lighting up the dressing room, but with a year left on the contract and much – if not all – of his game being replaceable, I can see why the move was made. One thing I will say about Prust that seems to slip through the cracks is that he always seemed to find himself in the right scoring spots. He could read the game very well, just didn’t have the hands to finish it off.
As for Kassian, well, he’s looking more and more like a first round bust, isn’t he? At this point you’ve all read into what type of player pundits think he is and where it went wrong. Scenery changes can do wonders, and while Vancouver enjoyed a good season last year, it hasn’t exactly been the most positive club during his time there. I’m curious to see where he lines up, and that depends on what else Bergevin has up his sleeve.
With a year of term left and scoring upside, at a cheaper price than Prust, I can see why he made the move. If Kassian does live up to that soft hands and big player expectation, then I’ll be saying more than ‘meh’ this time next year. For now, it strikes me as a cap move with potentially more scoring upside at the cost of a beloved presence on and off the ice.
Brian La Rose: It’s hard not to think of this in a positive light for the Habs. Yes, Prust provided some toughness and by all accounts was great in the room, but he was greatly overused by Michel Therrien in a top six role for reasons only known to the coaching staff. He also slowed down considerably as his style of play was beginning to take a toll on him.
Kassian shouldn’t be expected to come in and be a top six player but the potential is there for him to contribute, certainly more than Prust would have. He has had issues in the past with consistency and poor on-ice decisions but the Habs weren’t getting him, a young potential power forward, in exchange for just Prust if Kassian was a perfect player.
There’s very little risk here for the Canadiens. If Kassian puts it together, they have a potential long-term piece for the future. If he doesn’t, they can cut bait after the season, just as they could have (probably would have) with Prust. This won’t solve Montreal’s goal scoring woes but this is a marginal upgrade with the potential to be a notable one if Kassian finally takes that long-awaited step forward.
Paul MacLeod: I’m glad to see Bergevin make a move after the Parenteau buyout. I like Kassian’s potential and given Prust’s inevitable decline – and inflated cap hit, I like this deal. However, it will be interesting to see how Kassian fits in the Montreal room while replacing the well-loved Prust. The deal also raises the question: who fights for Montreal next season?
Norm Szcyrek: I believe Prust sealed his fate with the Canadiens after his shenanigans during the 2nd game of the Tampa Bay playoff series, and also for what he said after that game to the press. He had been taking unnecessary hits against Ben Bishop behind the net whenever possible in the first two games, probably the result of bad blood between the two players during the regular season and the previous one. To recap his impact on that game, he was assessed a roughing penalty, then after saying something to the referee received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. After taking those penalties the Habs did not rebound, imploding instead by allowing four power play goals leading to a loss. Later in that game after Prust fought Braydon Coburn and threw his elbow pad at Steven Stamkos who was sitting on the bench at the time. In a post-game interview, Prust openly complained to reporters about the referee, explaining that he was blameless. These actions led to a $5,000 fine by the NHL.
This isn’t the only time Prust has had meltdowns but the previous ones were not as severe or as damaging as this one. I remember when Marc Bergevin signed Prust to his contract three years ago, and how he gushed about his character. I believe Prust has showed he has no class, which to me contradicts the definition of a “character player”. He was a disappointment because when he concentrates solely on hockey without the goon tactics, he can be a serviceable 3rd or 4th line player.
With Kassian, the Habs get a bigger player who doesn’t play as tough a game or fight as much as Prust but has much better hands around the net. He’s wildly inconsistent, think Rene Bourque 2.0. Considering this will be his third pro team after four years as a pro/minor pro player, I have to wonder if this trade was simply an exchange of each teams’ problem children. I don’t expect much from Kassian, but he should be highly motivated since he’ll be entering the last season of his contract.