The Canadiens and Canucks completed a cross-conference trade Wednesday, swapping gritty forwards Brandon Prust and Zack Kassian.
The Montreal Canadiens knew they need to get bigger and stronger at forward, so it’s no surprise to see them trade for a massive winger on Wednesday. The fact it was Zack Kassian, however, may raise an eyebrow or two.
Kassian, 24, was a first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres and was dealt for Cody Hodgson at the 2012 deadline. The Canucks hoped they’d found their very own Milan Lucic, a mammoth power forward at 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds who could put the puck in the net.
It just didn’t quite materialize for Kassian, though. He showed it in bursts, like when he sniped 14 goals in 2013-14, and he even saw some stretches with Daniel and Henrik Sedin. But Kassian had a penchant for taking bad penalties and didn’t click with any of his coaches, from Alain Vigneault to Willie Desjardins. Kassian was an occasional healthy scratch.
So he gets a fresh start in Montreal with coach Michel Therrien, who worked wonders with Dale Weise after getting him from Vancouver. Kassian is still young enough for the light to switch on, and he does bring that big body Montreal craves while it waits for behemoth Michael McCarron to be ready.
The Canucks arguably win the deal short-term, as they get the more effective player in Brandon Prust. He’s not just one of the league’s best fighters, pound-for-pound. Prust is a strong dressing room voice. He also can chip in a bit of offense and flourishes in a checking role, especially as a penalty killer, albeit he has the same disciplinary problems Kassian has. It’ll be interesting to see if Desjardins plays Prust on an energy line with Derek Dorsett. Quite the pair of cruiserweights.
So the Habs deal the higher-floor player for the higher-ceiling one in this case.