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Montreal Canadiens defenseman Douglas Murray and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Tyler Bozak
There’s little disputing how well Montreal’s general manager fared last Wednesday when he acquired Vanek. It’s that much more of a coup when one considers how Montreal’s competition in the East got left in the dust.
The standings have slightly changed since last Wednesday, but heading into the deadline, the Habs had the third-best record in the conference, meaning they were already in good shape. By getting Vanek, they undeniably got better. Meanwhile, the Toronto Maple Leafs, their closest competition, did nothing, meaning they didn’t.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, who had been directly above Montreal in the Atlantic Division for most of the season, traded away an offensive dynamo in Martin St. Louis. They got back former New York Ranger Ryan Callahan, who, while a great player, is a significant statistical downgrade.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Red Wings did upgrade their center situation significantly by getting David Legwand from the Nashville Predators. However, one can definitely make a good argument that they didn’t improve as much on paper as the Habs.
Perhaps more significantly, the Wings are also currently six points behind the Habs and out of the playoffs currently. At least at this point, Montreal doesn’t need to worry about them.
By that logic, the Habs needn’t worry about the Ottawa Senators either, despite them perhaps being the only team in the East to have improved to a greater degree than the Habs.
Ales Hemsky has not only scored six points in three games as a Senator, providing an immediate positive impact, but he’s also helped to spark Jason Spezza as well, who also has six points since the trade. However, as Ottawa is even further back than Detroit, they just don’t pose a realistic threat.
Looking higher up in the standings, both the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins did relatively little.
The Bruins did admittedly solidify their defense by acquiring Andrej Meszaros to replace Dennis Seidenberg. However, to put it in perspective, Meszaros was discarded by the Philadelphia Flyers, a team whose defense is still headlined by an injured Chris Pronger. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement in regard to Meszaros’ defensive abilities.
Finally, all the Penguins did was bolster their bottom six with the acquisitions of Marcel Goc from the Florida Panthers and Lee Stempniak from the Calgary Flames. While those moves shouldn’t be underestimated, the Pens were still big losers on the day, having reportedly been interested in Vanek themselves, according to the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman.
While it would admittedly be a major upset, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the Habs make two-time losers out of the Pens should they eventually meet in the playoffs. Well, it’s at least much more of a probability now that the Habs have Vanek (and the Pens don’t).