The Vegas Golden Knights are set to take on the Montreal Canadiens on January 20th. Back in 2018, they made a blockbuster trade that has since changed both franchises in a major way.
Max Pacioretty was traded to the Golden Knights in exchange for forwards Tomas Tatar and Nick Suzuki. Along with the two forwards, Vegas included a second-round pick in the 2019 NHL entry draft.
In the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, these teams met each other in the conference finals. This trade played a major factor, as it involved key pieces for both teams as they fought their way to the third round of the playoffs.
The Vegas Golden Knights ended up losing the series in six games. These teams are going in opposite directions despite the Canadiens advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2021, they currently sit in last place in the NHL, while the Golden Knights sit atop their division.
In this article, I’m going to go piece by piece covering what they’ve produced for their team and if these teams would change anything if they could.
The Vegas Golden Knights immediately signed Pacioretty to a four-year contract extension following the trade. In now his fourth year with the Knights, Pacioretty has become a staple on Vegas’ top line and been one of the Golden Knights’ most reliable goal scorers.
The issue that most have with this trade isn’t from a lack of production from Pacioretty, who has 105 goals and 208 points as a member of the Golden Knights. He has proven to have chemistry with Mark Stone and whoever is playing center on his line. He’s one of the easiest players to play with because of his scoring and playmaking abilities.
With the emergence of Chandler Stephenson, along with the pending arrival of Jack Eichel, the Vegas Golden Knights are suddenly loaded at the center position. Because of the moves that the Golden Knights have made, they seem to be going all in to win a Stanley Cup shortly.
Pacioretty having only two years left on his contract is perfect for the Golden Knights contention window. After that contract expires, he will be 35 years old and may lose a step, but if the Golden Knights are still amongst the NHL’s elite, he will likely still be an extremely talented goal scorer.
Suzuki was drafted 13th overall in the 2017 NHL entry draft by the Vegas Golden Knights, but never played a game within the organization. He’s developed into a true top-line center for the Canadiens and is becoming a cornerstone of their franchise as they begin to navigate a full rebuild.
Revisiting this trade today, I believe Montreal still makes this trade, even though they currently sit at the bottom of the NHL standings. If the Canadiens are rebuilding they’d rather have the 22-year-old star center with the potential to become a superstar, rather than the 33-year-old proven veteran.
When the Canadiens made their miraculous Stanley Cup Finals run, Suzuki was the driving force of their offence scoring 16 points in 22 games, all while matching up against the opposing teams’ top line. Because of this performance, Suzuki was rewarded with an eight-year, $63 million contract before the 2021-22 season.
The two main pieces of this trade are still major factors in their teams’ success on any given night and have both been given extensions while on the team. This trade is about as win-win as it gets.
Because of the superstar play of Suzuki, Tomas Tatar has become the forgotten piece of this trade. Tatar only played 28 games for the Vegas Golden Knights and recorded eight points in that timeframe. His value was arguably the lowest it had been in his entire career when he was moved to the Canadiens, but he responded by scoring 119 points over 148 games in his first two seasons with the club.
Tatar turned out to be a pleasant surprise while the Canadiens waited for Suzuki to develop into the player he is now. Nobody, not even the Canadiens could’ve predicted this career turnaround that Tatar seemingly found in Montreal. From the Golden Knights’ point of view, being able to upgrade at left-wing from Tatar to Pacioretty was enough to make them jump at this deal, even if it meant giving up Suzuki in the process.
Before the 2021-22 season, Tatar signed a two-year $9 million contract with the New Jersey Devils where he currently has 17 points in 35 games.
It’s hard to rule this a win-win trade with how Suzuki has broken out over the past two seasons, but with how the Vegas Golden Knights are currently constructed, I’m not sure they take this trade back if it was offered today. Yes, Suzuki is going to be better for longer, but Pacioretty is a perfect fit on the Golden Knights, and he may have lots of chemistry with newcomer Jack Eichel, who is a known playmaker and may put Pacioretty in even easier goal scoring spots than he’s been in the past.
The Canadiens do not entertain the thought of trading back for Pacioretty, but the Golden Knights might trade back for Suzuki in a perfect world, which is why I think the Canadiens just slightly won this trade. Taking out the teams’ current situation, I’m taking the 22-year-old franchise center over the 33-year-old veteran.
With that being said, the Vegas Golden Knights are gearing up for a Stanley Cup push, while the Montreal Canadiens are set to be picking amongst the top three in the 2022 NHL entry draft.