Thomas Vanek to Montreal, as Canadiens shock NHL deadline day

UNIONDALE, NY - FEBRUARY 08: Thomas Vanek #26 of the New York Islanders skates in an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on February 8, 2014 in Uniondale, New York. Colorado won 5-2. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Thomas Vanek

Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin had come under scrutiny in his second season in the gig. “Are you a buyer or a seller? Is this the year or is the year in the future?” asked CTV.

On Wednesday, after the trade deadline’s final bell sounded, we had our answer: The Montreal Canadiens are buyers. And they believe this could be the year.

New York Islanders forward Thomas Vanek, arguably the most sought after player in the 2014 trade feeding frenzy, was acquired by the Habs with a conditional fifth-round pick for prospect Sebastian Collberg and a conditional second-round pick in 2014. According to Pierre LeBrun, the Habs have to make the playoffs for picks to exchange hands.

“I really didn’t know what to think, honestly,” Vanek told Sportsnet. “It’ll be fun and I’m excited to join them.”

Michel Therrien tells Sportsnet that Bergevin “sent a message” with the move.

Vanek has 53 points in 60 games this season between the Islanders and the Buffalo Sabres. He’s a significant upgrade offensively to a team with only one forward (Max Pacioretty) with more than 20 goals and 40 points on the season (29 and 42). It thrusts Montreal, already in a playoff seed, into the race for the conference title – especially since Vanek has tortured division-leading Boston for years.

The cost for Montreal was a conditional second and Sebastian Collberg, a right wing currently playing pro hockey in Sweden with Frolunda. He was taken No. 33 overall in the 2012 draft and won gold with the Swedes at the 2012 world juniors. He’s got blazing speed and projects to be a top six forward, but may have some strength concerns.

But the return for the Islanders begs the question: What was the market for Vanek, honestly?

The price tag from the Islanders was too rich for some. The Anaheim Ducks were never seriously in. According to Chris Botta, the Ryan Kesler availability kept some teams away from Vanek. Montreal came in late with a winning bid but the whole thing smacked of the Islanders over-playing their hand.

The return is still strong for a player that isn’t likely to sign in Montreal. But it’s not Matt Moulson and Islanders’ first-round pick in 2014 and second-round pick in 2015, as it was to acquire Vanek. If this was a house flip, it’d be a money pit.

So, on the Milbury Scale:

It’s a huge win for the Habs in getting Vanek’s offense into their lineup, but if they fail to advance in the playoffs, he leaves and Collberg becomes something for the Islanders, we may see this one differently.