• AUDIO: Thomas Vanek teleconference
As Wednesday’s 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline seemed to have passed, the Canadiens had made only one move, acquiring goalie Devan Dubnyk from the Nashville Predators in exchange for future considerations.
But shortly after the clock struck 3, news broke that the Habs had acquired left-winger Thomas Vanek from the New York Islanders in a last-minute deal just before the deadline. The Canadiens also get a conditional fifth-round draft pick from the Islanders this year in exchange for prospect Sebastian Collberg and a conditional second-round draft pick this year. Collberg was selected by the Canadiens in the second round (33rd overall) at the 2012 NHL entry draft.
In 60 games this season with Buffalo and the Islanders, the 6-foot, 217-pound Vanek has 21-32-53 totals and is minus-1. The 30-year-old is in the final season of a seven-year, $50-million contract that pays him $6.4 million this season with a $7.14-million cap hit.
“Wow, what great news for our team,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien told reporters in Anaheim after the Vanek trade was made. “I look at that move as a sign of confidence from (general manager) Marc Bergevin to the players for the work they’ve put in since the start of the season. It’s a really exciting addition. It’s important for us to continue doing what we’ve been doing all year now. Thomas Vanek is a prolific scorer who can play on the right side or the left. We all know what he can bring to a power play, too.”
Vanek, who will wear No. 20 with Montreal, won’t be in the lineup Wednesday night when the Canadiens play the Ducks (10 p.m., TSN-HABS, RDS, TSN Radio 690), but is expected to play Thursday when the Habs visit the Phoenix Coyotes (9 p.m., TSN-HABS, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
“Right now, I’m just excited to be playing for Montreal,” Vanek told reporters on a conference call, adding it has been a tough year for him and his family as he heads toward free agency.
“I came to Montreal so many times with the Sabres,” he added. “I always loved playing at the Bell Centre, the atmosphere is so electric there.”
The Dubnyk deal was reported just before 1 p.m. and the goaltender was assigned to the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs.
The Canadiens announced following their morning skate in Anaheim (which started at 2:30 p.m. ET) that Dustin Tokarski will make his first start in goal for Montreal against the Ducks.
Lars Eller will be a healthy scratch, with George Parros – who spent much of his career in Anaheim – taking Eller’s spot in the roster. Parros will be on the fourth line with Travis Moen and Ryan White. Defenceman Mike Weaver, acquired from the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, won’t be in the lineup against the Ducks. Brandon Prust (upper body) and Michael Bournival (concussion) wore no-contact jerseys for the morning skate and won’t be in the lineup against the Ducks.
Habs GM Marc Bergevin wasn’t expected to speak with the media following the trade deadline. Bergevin was in Chicago Wednesday for the funeral for his mother-in-law, who died on the weekend. The GM is planning to hook up with the team Thursday in Phoenix and speak with the media then.
Carey Price took part in the Canadiens’ morning skate in Anaheim but won’t dress for the fifth consecutive game because of a lower-body injury. Peter Budaj, who started the last four games, will be the backup to Tokarski.
Here’s how the lines and defence pairings looked at the morning skate:
Dubnyk, a 6-foot-6, 210-pounder, started the season with the Edmonton Oilers. The 27-year-old was Edmonton’s first-round pick (14th overall) at the 2004 NHL entry draft. The Predators acquired Dubnyk from Edmonton on Jan. 15 in exchange for forward Matt Hendricks.
In 34 games this season, Dubnyk has an 11-18-3 record with two shutouts, a 3.43 goals-against average and a .891 save percentage. In 173 career games, he has a record of 61-77-22 with eight shutouts, a 2.90 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.
The first major trade of NHL Trade Deadline Day was reported after 11 a.m. with the Tampa Bay Lightning sending Martin St. Louis to the New York Rangers in exchange for Ryan Callahan along with a second round draft pick this year and a first round pick next year.
Earlier in the day, TVA’s Renaud Lavoie reported on Twitter that the Canadiens were trying to deal Rene Bourque with the New York Islanders, Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche interested. Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos also reported on Twitter that the Canadiens were shopping Lars Eller around.
This week’s HI/O Show will be taped Thursday with former Canadien Chris Nilan joining Gazette columnist Dave Stubbs and sports editor/host Stu Cowan to discuss the moves made at the trade deadline. The show will be available on HI/O around 5 p.m. Thursday.
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)