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The Thomas Vanek acquisition caught pretty much everyone off guard. 
After seeing Marc Bergevin make mostly safe moves throughout his tenure as GM,
picking up arguably the most coveted rental player at the trade deadline is a
big change of pace.  Was the timing right to make such a move?  How
will Vanek fit in the lineup?  Does this make Montreal a contender? Our writers offer up their thoughts on the

Simon Aronson: This big splash on deadline day in my opinion
leaves Montreal more improved than any other team in the NHL. In Vanek the
Canadiens have addressed several needs. He is a legitimate elite scorer who can
score 5-on-5, with size as well as a right side shot, all things the Canadiens
were in need of. Vanek, a two time 40-goal scorer, will immediately make
whichever line he plays on better. This will give the Habs two lines that should
be able to score consistently, making life easier for Pacioretty and Desharnais.
No matter what the line combinations, this move leaves coach Michel Therrien
with a multitude of options and added depth. I think the line that everyone
wants to see, myself included is Galchenyuk-Plekanec-Vanek.

Another positive in the deal is that Marc Bergevin did not have to pay the
kings ransom everyone thought Vanek would cost, giving up prospect Sebastian
Collberg and a 2nd round pick. This trade moves Montreal a big step closer to
Boston and Pittsburgh who are considered the class of the Eastern Conference,
and as wide open as this conference is, it gives Montreal a legitimate shot of
making some noise in the playoffs this year.

Matt Dilworth: After a day of middling depth acquisitions, Marc
Bergevin blew my mind when he acquired Thomas Vanek to bolster Montreal’s
line-up. To be perfectly honest, I was shocked twice by the pickup: firstly,
when the trade was announced, and secondly when I found out how little the
Canadiens had to give up for a top-line player. Even if Vanek is purely a rental
(and most seem to think that he is), the price wasn’t exorbitant for a player
that addresses the vast majority of Montreal’s needs. Vanek can score
(especially at even strength), has size, and can play either wing. His arrival
knocks all of the wingers, save Pacioretty, down the depth chart, and all of a
sudden, Montreal’s forward line-up at least remotely resembles that of a
contender. It also gives Montreal two very dangerous lines, as Tomas Plekanec
finally gets the talented winger he has been lacking since the golden days of
Alexei Kovalev. Either Vanek will thrive against the easier competition, or
Pacioretty will enjoy some time away from the opposition’s top defenders. For a
team that struggles to score, Vanek should make a significant difference.

Brian La Rose: Count me among the many that were stunned when
this deal was made.  This is the type of move that typically gets made when
a team is one player away and despite the fact the Habs have been consistently
in a playoff spot for most of the year, I don’t think many would argue that
Vanek is the final piece to the puzzle.  That said, it’s certainly a
worthwhile gamble.  Collberg is a quality prospect while a 2nd rounder is a
2nd rounder but Vanek’s presence in the lineup not only strengthens the top six
but also makes the third line a lot more dangerous.  When Montreal is at
their best, it’s with three lines capable of producing.  They now have

Of course, there are factors beyond this season as the trade all but
guarantees that the team finishes the season over the cap due to bonuses which
means they’ll have a reduced salary cap for next season…so will quite a few
other teams as well.  In terms of re-signing Vanek, it’s far too early to
predict but remember that Montreal is now the only team that can give him an
eight year contract and that if he insists on getting that term, he must sign
prior to the opening of free agency.  If term matters most to him, he may
very well stick around.  That advantage could prove to be huge.

Kevin Meldrum: Bergevin made me eat my words on the Vanek deal,
as usually the Habs just make really insignificant deals at the deadline and he
fooled me. This is a great deal for the Canadiens and if they re-sign him it’s
an awesome one. Collberg is a very good prospect who could have a very good NHL
career and the 2nd round pick in a not so deep draft is also okay to part with
which makes it a good gamble to take on a sniper that has long been needed in
Montreal. I love this deal; Vanek can score 5-on-5, is wicked on the PP, and is
a responsible player in all three zones. This is a huge addition for the Habs
and a great job by the Montreal management staff. If they can sign him to a
long-term deal it would be an even bigger win and would get them this most
needed asset that has been missing from their lineup for such a long time.

Norm Szcyrek: Wow! I was blown away by this trade when I heard
the details! Vanek is a highly offensive winger with great sniping ability.
Considering he was on two sub-par teams in Buffalo and the New York Islanders
this season, he comes to Montreal with 53 points in 60 games, which is 11 points
ahead of the Habs points leader at the time of the trade, Max Pacioretty. Vanek
usually plays left wing, but can play on the right side which will be very
versatile. Of course, the downside to the trade is Vanek is an upcoming UFA that
has been long rumoured to want to sign in Minnesota, where he played college
hockey and also has a summer home in that state. It may be interesting to see if
coach Therrien will put Vanek and Briere on a line together, since the two were
teammates and linemates in Buffalo between 2005 and 2007. There may be some
chemistry still there between the two former Sabres, and since Therrien loves to
juggle lines a lot there’s a good chance the two will be re-united on a line at
some point. Vanek also scores the majority of his goals even strength, which is
an area that the Habs struggle, ranking among the worst teams in the league in
that category.

What the Habs gave up is a project forward in Sebastian Collberg, the 33rd
overall pick in 2012 who has so far underperformed in the SHL and World Junior
Championships the last two years. From what I noticed about Collberg in the two
exhibition games I watched last fall, he was not close to NHL ready. He appeared
a little undersized at 5’11" and with little about his game that stood out from
shift to shift. They also gave up a conditional 2014 2nd round pick which is a
relatively high cost for Vanek since he’s likely to only play for about 20 games
or so plus the playoffs. A conditional 5th round pick will come back to the Habs
in 2014. When TSN interviewed Vanek after the trade and asked about the
possibility of re-signing with Montreal, he said it was too soon to tell because
of the excitement of the timing of the trade but he added that "you never know".