Montreal Canadiens forwards (from left) Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek and Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara.
Arguably, for the first time since Alex Kovalev played for the Montreal Canadiens, the Habs have an all-world talent up front in Thomas Vanek. Unfortunately, in the last round Vanek also played like him too…that is the Kovalev who physically showed up to games but didn’t end up playing at all.
While general manager Marc Bergevin’s trade-deadline acquisition of perhaps the most sought-after free agent come July 1 gives him first dibs at re-signing him, this slide is ranked No. 5 for two main reasons:
First, all signs point to him going to the Minnesota Wild, seeing as he went to university there, his wife is from there, he lives there during the summer and he’s friends with Jason Pominville. Secondly, even if none of those reasons will factor into his decision, the Habs simply may not want him back.
After scoring five times and adding three assists in the first 10 games of the playoffs, Vanek managed just two assists over the last seven. Admittedly, part of that had to do with him getting demoted to the fourth line.
The working theory is he was playing hurt ever since defenseman P.K. Subban hit him accidentally while lining up Boston Bruins forward Reilly Smith in Round 2. If he was, Vanek can still turn out to be a valuable top-line player for Montreal for at least the next few years.
However, the truly ironic part in all this is if Vanek’s scoring drought turns out to have been a legitimate slump, his value will have gone down so drastically this summer that Montreal would actually be able to afford him (but would not want him).
In such an instance, the team’s attention should focus on other assets, who actually proved invaluable during the unlikely playoff run. Enter goalie Dustin Tokarski.