After my very first blog post on the Top 10 Worst Canadiens Trade since 1993, I always intended to come up with a post on the other side of the spectrum, looking at the top 10 best trades since 93. Obviously life got in the way and I never had the time to come up with this list. Well here it is, just to show that not all Habs fans are doom and gloom, that we don’t just look at the negative of the Habs and whine about it. Here is what I believe are the best 10 trades that the Canadiens were able to pull off since the last Stanley Cup. (and hopefully more to come… maybe years from now, I can add the Subban for Weber trade to a new list?)
10. January 29, 2003 – Eric Chouinard traded to Philadelphia Flyers for a 2nd round pick #61 (Maxim Lapierre) in 2003. – Trade made by Andre Savard
On paper, this might have been a forgotten trade, but the fact that the Canadiens were able to salvage a 2nd round pick for a former first round bust speaks volume. Let alone that this 2nd round pick turned out to be Maxim Lapierre, a decent player during his time in Montreal. At his peak, under the coaching of Guy Carbonneau and Bob Gainey, there were beginnings of resemblance to a young Guy Carbonneau developing in Lapierre’s game, as a potential shut down 3rd line center with size. During the epic collapse of the centennial year, Lapierre (and to an extent Guillaume Latendresse) were the two lone bright spot in a lineup depleted with injuries. That was until Jacques Martin took over in 2009-10 and started playing Lapierre in a 2nd line winger role to compensate the lack of depth and size the Habs had on the wings (this after Gainey had brought in a team of midgets with Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri). Chouinard would only play 1 NHL game with the Philadelphia Flyers before taking off to Europe.
9. November 16, 1998 – Jocelyn Thibault, Dave Manson and Brad Brown traded to Chicago Blackhawks for Jeff Hackett, Eric Weinrich, Alain Nasreddine and a 4th round pick #97 (Chris Dyment) in 1999. – Trade made by Rejean Houle
One of the rare trades that Rejean Houle managed to pull off and actually won. Going through years of inconsistent goaltending after the Patrick Roy trade, Jeff Hackett was able to provide the Habs with stability between the pipes in his 5 years with the Canadiens. It was evident that Thibault, the French Canadian netminder that was traded for Roy, was unable to live up to the pressure of playing in his home province and having to replace the future Hall of Famer. Before totally losing out on the hype that was Jocelyn Thibault, Houle managed to trade “T-Bo” and veteran Dave Manson (it was evident that Mason was on the last legs of his career) to Chicago for Hackett and Eric Weinrich. Both Hackett and Weinrich gave the Canadiens solid seasons while wearing the CH, with Weinrich potentially being the Habs best defensemen during a time when Patrice Brisebois was being paid as the Habs #1 defenseman (yes, I understand that’s not saying much).
8. December 28, 2010 – 2nd round pick #50 (Johan Sundstrom) in 2011 and a conditional 5th round pick #124 (Ryan Culkin – Calgary) in 2012 traded to New York Islanders for James Wisniewski. – Trade made by Pierre Gauthier
With defensemen Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges going down with injuries and sidelined for the remainder of the season, the Habs were in desperate need of a minute clogging 2nd pair defensemen. What Pierre Gauthier managed to pull off was thievery in terms of impact on the team and the season. With a defensive core of PK Subban, Roman Hamrlik, Hal Gill, Brent Sopel and Paul Mara, acquiring Wisniewski salvaged a season where the Habs had no business finishing in the playoffs. Wisniewski was able to come in and become that #2/#3 defenseman that the Habs needed, while managing to put up 30 points in just 42 games with the Habs. The Canadiens finished 6th and were able to push the Stanley Cup Champions Boston Bruins (how crazy does that sound?) to 7 games. Unfortunately, Wisniewski’s stay in Montreal was short lived, as a pending UFA along with Andrei Markov, the Habs had to make a decision in resigning only one of their prized defensemen. The price for Wisniewski was just two picks (which Gauthier managed to receive one back from Columbus for Wisniewski’s rights) that never became anything in the NHL.
7. February 03, 2014 – Raphael Diaz traded to Vancouver Canucks for Dale Weise. – Trade made by Marc Bergevin
One of the first impactful trades in the Marc Bergevin era, saw the Habs totally ripped off the Vancouver Canucks. Whether it was by luck or actual good pro scouting, the Habs acquired a solid 3rd line winger in Dale Weise, who was disgruntled with his ice-time in Vancouver being rotated in and out of the lineup. Weise came up big during the playoffs with some clutch playoff goals, most notably the game winner in overtime in Game 1 vs Tampa Bay in 2014, the opening goal in Game 7 in Boston, and the OT game winner in game 3 vs Ottawa in 2015. And who can forget the series he had vs Boston in 2014, which included him mocking, to the delight of Habs fans all over the world, Milan Lucic by flexing his arms after scoring a crucial goal in Game 5. Many fans will remember (and dislike) Weise for getting top line minutes with Pacioretty and Desharnais, but I would fault that on Therrien’s coaching and the lack of depth and size on the wings that Bergevin provided. Diaz on the other hand, was never the same after leaving Montreal, bouncing around with brief stints in Vancouver, New York and Calgary before heading back to Switzerland in 2016.
6. April 05, 1995 – Kirk Muller, Mathieu Schneider and Craig Darby traded to New York Islanders for Pierre Turgeon and Vladimir Malakhov. – Trade made by Serge Savard
It might be surprising to some that I rate this trade so highly, especially after what both Kirk Muller and Mathieu Schneider were able to do, 2 years prior during the 93 Stanley Cup run. One of the last trades made by Serge Savard, trading Captain Kirk was hard and broke a lot of fans’ hearts back then. But to obtain a bonafide #1 centerman in his prime (at just 25 years old!) in Pierre Turgeon was a steal. Just imagine guys like Nicklas Bäckström and Claude Giroux being traded in today’s NHL. Like Marc Bergevin has been famously quoted in his post-season press conference, “number 1 centers just don’t get traded.” In Turgeon only full season with the Habs, he put up 94 points, yes 94 points!, in 80 games, while wearing the captaincy. Albeit injury prone, Malakhov had so much potential to be one of the top defensemen of his generation. He had the shot, the puck moving ability, the skating and the size, but what he lacks is the heart to take his game to the next level. Nonetheless, Malakhov was able to put up 4 productive seasons in Montreal, averaging around 30 points in just roughly 60 games per season. Muller’s career was on the downward after the 93 Stanley Cup, and Schneider continued on his solid NHL career with 10 other teams.
5. June 26, 2004 – Mathieu Garon and a 3rd round pick #95 (Paul Baier) in 2004 traded to Los Angeles Kings for Radek Bonk and Cristobal Huet. – Trade made by Bob Gainey
We must give credit where credit is due. What many fans forget, is that before the Scott Gomez for Ryan McDonagh debacle, Bob Gainey actually made some decent trades to turn the Canadiens around (spoiler alert… this is the first of many trades to come on this list). Made on Draft Day 2004, initially many fans were against this trade, seeing the Habs trading what many said was a sure shot number 1 goalie of the future. But with Jose Theodore already minding the nets, Garon really had no future with the Habs and what the Habs got in return turned out better than what everyone expected. One for one, it could be said that Cristobal Huet actually had the better career than Mathieu Garon, as Garon never amounted to anything more than a backup netminder in the NHL. Huet, on the other hand, was able to lead the Canadiens to the playoffs in 2005-06 and to the top of the conference in 2007-08 before Gainey handed the reigns over to Carey Price and shipped Huet to Washington. Bonk was a solid 3rd line center in his 2 seasons with the Habs, adding size down the middle that was lacking after a 1-2 punch of Saku Koivu and Mike Ribeiro.
4. March 01, 2000 – Vladimir Malakhov traded to New Jersey Devils for Sheldon Souray, Josh DeWolf and a 2nd round pick #61 (Andreas Holmqvist – Tampa Bay) in 2001. – Trade made by Rejean Houle
Coming to Montreal along with Pierre Turgeon, the Canadiens had hoped for Malakhov to be the number 1 defensemen that was missing after Eric Desjardins’ departure. To be honest, Malakhov wasn’t a bust during his time in Montreal, it’s just he was always injured and whether it was fair to him or not, the fans expected more. Pending to become an unrestricted free agent at seasons end, and with the Habs out of the playoff picture, Houle had no choice but to trade away Malakhov. What he got in return exceeded expectations from many. Souray was considered a 3rd pairing defenseman with size. What Souray developed in his 6 seasons in Montreal was astronomical, initially averaging 3 goals per season to 26 goals in his final season with the Habs. Souray left Montreal through free agency after the 2006-07 season, with the Canadiens deciding to resign Andrei Markov instead. What many fans till this day still don’t understand, myself included, was why did Gainey not trade Souray at his peak at the trading deadline. To think that teams were able to get first round picks for Bill Guerin or Dainius Zubrus, it’s a foregone conclusion that Souray would’ve fetch at least 1, possibly 2, first round picks.
3. March 05, 2014 – Sebastian Collberg and a 2nd round pick #57 (Johnathan MacLeod – Tampa Bay) in 2014 traded to New York Islanders for Thomas Vanek and a 5th round pick #125 (Nikolas Koberstein) in 2014. – Trade made by Marc Bergevin
Did Marc Bergevin ever surprise the entire league and fan base when he pulled this off within the dying minutes of the 2014 NHL trading deadline. There were initial talks of Garth Snow (Islanders’ GM) wanting a top prospect, a first round pick, and a second round pick for the former 40 goal scorer, Thomas Vanek. What Bergevin actually gave up was an undersize prospect in Collberg and a second round draft pick, where both have yet to play a single game in the NHL to this day. What eventually was considered a rental, Vanek’s tenure in Montreal was short but memorable. In the 18 regular season games with the Canadiens, Vanek produced 15 points, as well adding 10 points in 17 playoffs games during the Habs’ 2014 playoff run. Many fans will forget and remember Vanek stuck on the 4th line with Danny Briere in the Conference final series against the Rangers, but Vanek played an important role with clutch goals in earlier series vs the Lightning and Bruins. It might be an excuse but there could be some truth in that Vanek was never the same in the playoffs after taking a PK Subban body check in game 3 vs Boston.
2. March 02, 2004 – Jozef Balej and a 2nd round pick #51 (Bruce Graham) in 2004 traded to New York Rangers for Alex Kovalev. –Trade made by Bob Gainey
Wow, to think that Bob Gainey was able to pull of this trade was astonishing to say the least. This was a pure robbery committed by Gainey on then New York Rangers’ GM Glen Sather. Kovalev had just turned 31 years old, in the prime of his career and at the time of the trade still managed to put up 13 goals and 29 assists in 66 games. Initially, it was a rough start to Kovalev’s time in Montreal, only scoring 3 points in the final 12 regular season games and scoreless in the first 4 playoff games against Boston (including the famous slash giveaway incident with teammate Sheldon Souray). It’s as if with a flick of a switch, Kovalev woke up after taking heat in the media for the giveaway that led to Glen Murray OT goal in Game 4 and started to turn his game around. The Canadiens were able to upset the Bruins in 7 with Kovalev playing a crucial role on a top line with Koivu and Richard Zednik. Kovalev’ career in Montreal continue to flourish, including an 84 point campaign in 2007-08, leading the Habs to first in the conference. Balej never suited up for the blue shirts and neither did the 2nd round pick, Bruce Graham (I actually have never heard of him before this).
1. February 25, 2007 – Craig Rivet and a 5th round pick #146 (Julien Demers) in 2008 traded to San Jose Sharks for Josh Gorges and a 1st round pick #22 (Max Pacioretty) in 2007. – Trade made by Bob Gainey
Didn’t I say earlier that Gainey wasn’t as bad as everyone made him out to be? This trade was grand larceny if you want to call it. The Habs traded away a pending UFA in Rivet, who was on the decline of his career, and as much as fans love the way Rivet played, he was no more than a bottom pair defenseman in the NHL. What the Habs acquired was a middle pair defenseman in Josh Gorges, who would become a leader in the dressing room for the next 8 seasons with the Habs. Gorges was a key cog in the Canadiens unexpected playoff run in 2010, helping neutralized Alex Oveckhin and Sidney Crosby, while paired with Hal Gill. He was also a key component in the Habs’ 2014 playoff run, this time pairing with PK Subban and going up against the likes of Steven Stamkos and Milan Lucic. That was just Gorges alone. The Sharks also added a first round pick in 2007, which the Habs selected current Captain, Max Pacioretty, a 4 time 30+ goal scorer, and who is on one of the most cap friendly salary in the NHL. As much as fans blame Pacioretty for last season’s collapse, and potentially having an impact on the trading of fan favourite PK Subban, Pacioretty is still considered one of the top wingers in the league, with many more prime years to come.