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The Montreal Canadiens Can Learn From Vegas’ Stanley Cup



Jack Eichel (Canadiens article)

The 2022-23 Stanley Cup has been awarded to the Vegas Golden Knights, and with it comes a few lessons that teams around the league could stand to learn, including the Montreal Canadiens.

Though it may seem like the Golden Knights were gifted a much better roster than most expansion clubs, the truth remains that the actual players chosen at the expansion draft were simply not strong enough to push a team toward a Stanley Cup.

That’s not to say the NHL did not improve the odds Vegas would be able to compete earlier than most expansion clubs, however, the team that won the Stanley Cup only had six expansion players remaining in the lineup.

The trades and agreements that took place during the expansion draft were the first sign that Vegas had a significant advantage over other teams, and not just because they were the only franchise working without a long list of unforced errors over the last decade.

Players like Jonathan Marchessault and Riley Smith made their way to Vegas due to general managers such as Dave Tallon attempting to protect overrated defencemen such as Alex Petrovic and Mark Pysyk.

Such trades were a result of general managers inflating the value of their ‘glue’ players while gleefully sacrificing talented players at the altar of the expansion draft.

Draft Shmaft

Drafting and developing a talented roster has long been considered the only way to build a contending line in the NHL, and for good reason, too.

But Vegas proved that in some cases, there’s another way.

In fact, Nicolas Hague is the only player who dressed in the last game of the Stanley Cup final for the Golden Knights that was actually chosen by the team at an Entry Draft.

11 of their players, including the majority of their most talented skaters, were acquired via trades.

Players such as Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, and Chandler Stephenson.

Vegas acquired Stone from the Ottawa Senators for Erik Brannstrom, Oscar Lindberg, and a second-round pick, which is the lunchtime equivalent of trading a damp baggy containing six broken crackers for a slice of birthday cake.

The same can be said about the Stephenson trade, who was unceremoniously traded from the Washington Capitals in exchange for a fifth-round pick, the type of robbery that would have made John Dillinger jealous.

Yes, it’s important to draft talented players such as Stone and Stevenson, but when teams are giving away the players they spent years developing for pennies on the dollar, why bother taking the slow and steady approach?

Spending Money Where It Counts

The Golden Knights paid a handsome fee for Eichel, to the tune of Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, and a first-round pick.

However, you’d be hard-pressed to argue it wasn’t an excellent trade, and not only because it was a significant reason why the team won their first Stanley Cup.

While many franchises pointed to their longtime problems that were seemingly impossible to solve, the Golden Knights identified a glaring issue, their lack of a bonafide No.1 centre, and quickly addressed it.

They did not invest heavily in a goaltender, using five different netminders throughout the season.

They also ensured they had enough star players to power a run to the Stanley Cup, which is one of the most important factors for a successful team.

Copycat League

The Canadiens cannot emulate every action taken by the Golden Knights on their way to a Stanley Cup, but they can use parts of the formula to fast forward their action plan.

Vegas didn’t win the Stanley Cup by making the right decision every time.

Two of their biggest mistakes involved the Montreal Canadiens.

The first being when they traded Tomas Tatar to the Habs along with a second-round pick and a certain prospect named Nick Suzuki.

The second was when they signed Pacioretty for roughly 8 percent of their salary cap.

But they did not dwell on their mistakes, as evidenced by the poor return they received from the Carolina Hurricanes for Pacioretty in a desperate attempt to create some financial flexibility.

Much to the chagrin of many longtime hockey fans, Vegas also took advantage of the salary cap loopholes made available by the league. And while there’s certainly a debate to be had regarding the rules, any team not doing their best to capitalize on the current setup is simply not doing everything in their power to win.

In a league where most general managers look to mitigate mistakes rather than attempting bold moves to improve their clubs, an aggressive approach has served the Golden Knights well.

But it wasn’t just a matter of one team becoming the living embodiment of the saying ‘go big or go home’.

The approach taken by Vegas reminded us all that the traditional method of building a Stanley Cup-winning roster is not the only road to success, a lesson the Canadiens should keep in mind as they attempt to create a roster worthy of Lord Stanley’s Gail.

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Vegas sold their future for the Cup. That’s not how I want the Habs to do it. Stay the course and build for many years of success.


first- if they can manage their cap and still sign a goalie they may have 2 or 3 shots at this with the bigger names signed.
second- in the current NHL you are LUCKY if you get a 5-7 year window.


As I keep saying over and over again. The draft is overrated. EVERYTHING matters equally…draft, trades, UFA signings, cap management, health, etc. Vegas proved that you don’t NEED to draft perfectly or with very high picks for a couple of seasons. That you don’t NEED to “tank”. You can improve on the fly. They did not even make the playoffs last season, but they made moves to become a Cup winning team. Sure, this window will likely close within another season or two, but it worked!

It all works when you win the Cup…even just once.

The Habs “re-build” should not be primely based on the draft. There are other ways too. And next season should not be looked at as a who cares season, throw it away…tank, so we can get another top 10 pick. Habs can def make the playoffs next season with the right overall moves, good cap management, and above all else HEALTH!


Dont necessarily disagree but using this vegas model the assets we acquire in draft/development can be used in trades etc.Look at the Eichel trade-good example of what you can do with a combination of assets (and cap space which is well a discussion for another day)



Exhibit A is Engstrom. He IS expendable. We already have too many LD and not enough RD. He should be traded, as his value has increased, to obtain what we NEED…a mid to high end RD prospect.

john harmsworth

Agreed! The key is to have a vision and be willing to re-evaluate regularly to see if it’s on track or whether some elements need to be reconsidered. If they do, get on it quickly and firmly.


Marc – Love the soggy lunch bag analogy….brilliant…. now I have to clean coffee off my keyboard….


We can’t follow the same strategy as the Golden Knights for the very reason that most players don’t want to come to Montreal by choice vs Vegas being an extremely desirable place for players to want to go. The fan/media pressure, taxes, weather, constant construction, you name it, all work against us. Winning will certainly help pull the needle a little way back in our favour, but the vast majority of players will still choose tax free states where they can play in virtually anonymity over the fishbowl Montreal is. Our best option (not only, best) is to build from within through the draft. Where I think Montreal can learn from Vegas is size matters and be bold. We need to build a team that can survive the 4 round war of attrition to get to the mountain top (especially through the devil from hell, the Atlantic and the tougher Conference too). HuGo have shown they can be bold at times. Taking Slafkovsky over Wright, flipping Romanov and picks for Dach are a couple of examples. Their next test is the upcoming draft, coincidentally the site of the 2 bold moves this management team has already made. That’s why taking Michkov at #5 if he’s available is the right way to go. Swing for the fences and you just might get a home run. Sure, you can also strike out, but with our inside connection to Michkov via Bobrov’s father, I think we can eliminate a lot of the mystery surrounding Michkov. Vegas proved going all in is a viable strategy. Why can’t we? Patience is also crucial at the right times as well. Landing Dubois also adds another key piece to our puzzle, but waiting until we can get him for free next summer is the right move imo. The assets we save in not trading for him can be used to shore up other areas. I think if we can hold our cards close to our chest for this upcoming season and then nab Dubois next summer, we’ll have turned the corner in the rebuild and have pieces in place to start making some big moves and begin our March towards a 25th Cup.

Curtis Ault

Take Smith if he is still available with the 5th pick. If not, Leonard. Perhaps either Dvorsky or Oliver Moore.
Trade for PLD this summer. I doubt Winnipeg will get the return they hope for, but can make that up by moving Hellebuyck and Scheifele. Dubois won’t get 9mil, just a starting point for negotiation purposes. The Habs have, and will have, assets to move that they will not have room for in the next few years.


At #5, we’ll be getting whomever of Smith , Carlsson or Michkov is left over imo. What I don’t want us to is pass on Michkov if he’s the one left standing.

john harmsworth

Not a penny more than Suzuki for Dubois. We have stablished a pretty helpful salary structure that we do not want to mess with. And he doesn’t get a no movement clause. I think he will be a good Hab and not want to go elsewhere anyway, but he’s demonstrated some bad faith in the past. First sign of that he’s out the door.


Lol. You seriously wrote Suzuki. You must have meant Dvorak, 31st pick and Armia. 😂

john harmsworth

I would go fore Michkov, In Vegas terms, he would be our Eichel. If we have to wait, then maybe we finish a notch lower and get a slightly better draft spot before then. We would have 3 years to adjust our CAP for his arrival as well. It’s all good!




You two are not hab fans!


Cup 25 in 2025/26 would be fitting. I could be completely wrong, but maybe Hughes didn’t take any prospect to dinner so not to tip his hand that he wants mitchkov. Compliment other prospects and then shy away from complimenting mitchkov.


Less pressure on Vegas when they make deals may help.


Both Florida and Vegas gave up futures drafts picks to acquiring, the type players need to get a shot at winning a cup .


Habs went to the Cup Finals with the Big 4 D-Men. Bergevin brought them in for the express purpose of the playoffs. Turns out, they had to play TB instead of Vegas, whom they beat, for the Cup. Likely Vegas saw that and responded.

Habs have started over with a young D-corps, and imagine the core unit in 2-3-5 years. You don’t need a ton of flashy forwards with that type of group. You need puck hounds and retrievers and that line of Suzuki, Caufield and X. Add in Dach, Beck and another C, a couple of young forwards the team has (Roy, RHP) and perhaps a Michkov (who can likely be pried out of his KHL contract no matter what anyone says), who will be ready to spring on the NHL in 3 years or so (when other top draft picks are starting to gel) the Habs have the pieces to be formidable and be able to afford some strong depth players.

There will be plenty of opposition, but the Habs will be able to run in the race with them.

john harmsworth

I think we will be looking for size on the blueline again when we make our return to the playoffs.


We have D with size already and in the pipeline.