February 25 2007: Montreal Canadiens trade Craig Rivet to the San Jose Sharks for Josh Gorges and a first round draft pick
The Montreal Canadiens found themselves in hockey’s version of purgatory in the 2006-07 season. They were battling for a playoff berth, but starting goaltender Cristobal Huet who had been playing spectacular hockey all season was injured on February 14th, and likely out for the rest of the season. They were still not bad enough to fall to the bottom of the standings and secure a solid draft choice, and remained in the playoff hunt.
Complicating matters was that three of their top six defenceman, Andrei Markov, Sheldon Souray and Craig Rivet were due to be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Trading any of the three, especially Markov or Souray who were quarterbacking an incredible power play that was keeping the team afloat, would have crushed the team’s shot at a postseason berth.
Also, in the 2006-07 season, the salary cap was only 43 million dollars, and both Souray and Markov were sure to command over 5 million each per season, while Rivet would be looking for a raise on his 2.565 million dollar cap hit. Re-signing two would be difficult, keeping all three was impossible, but dealing any of them would likely mean no playoffs. However, keeping all three and losing them for nothing, and still missing the postseason was realistic, and the worst case scenario.
So the Canadiens would decide to trade the least valuable of the trio, Rivet, but ended up getting quite a haul for him anyway.
If you recall, the San Jose Sharks were desperate to win a Stanley Cup back in 2007. Not as desperate as they are today, but after acquiring Joe Thornton a year prior, they thought they were nearing their first championship.
To get the veteran Rivet, San Jose parted with a young depth defender named Josh Gorges, and their first round pick in the upcoming draft. The Sharks had great goaltending from Evgeni Nabokov, a deep offensive threat led by Thornton’s 94 assist and 112 point season, but were very young on the blue line.
Rivet was the type of second or third pairing defender who is often dealt at the trade deadline, but the inclusion of a first round pick in the deal showed just how desperate the Sharks were to put themselves over the top.
To make matters worse for the Sharks, they lost in the second round of the postseason and the pick turned out to be Max Pacioretty.
The Sharks would resign Rivet to a four year contract at 3.5 million per season, and he had a surprisingly productive 2007-08 season scoring 35 points, but San Jose would once again fall in the second round of the playoffs, this time to the Dallas Stars.
San Jose would then deal Rivet to the Buffalo Sabres for a pair of second round picks. The original trade did not work out well for the Sharks, and did not pay off immediately for the Habs either. However, as time passes, the trade looks better and better for the Canadiens each year.
Gorges turned out to be much better than expected, playing the next seven seasons with the Habs, and becoming an excellent defensive defender and great penalty killer.
The Canadiens made the Conference Final in 2008 with Gorges pairing up with Hal Gill as the go to shut down couple for the Habs. Once again the team won two playoff rounds in 2014, with Gorges playing a leading role on a duo with P.K. Subban,and still fulfilling his shorthanded duties.
The real gem of the trade for the Montreal Canadiens has turned out ot be Pacioretty. The 6’2” 220 pound left winger as selected with the 22nd overall pick in the 2007 draft, and has turned into the team’s best offensive threat.
Max was a bit slow to get his career off the ground, struggling to score points in his first few auditions with the Habs, but exploded onto the NHL scene in 2011-12 with a 33 goal and 65 point performance.
Pacioretty followed that up with 39 points in just 44 games during the lockout shortened 2013 season, and then scored 39 goals and 60 points in 73 games this past season.
Gorges was dealt to the Buffalo Sabres in July for a future second round pick, but Pacioretty is just 25 and has already scored over 100 goals and 200 points for the Habs. His production has already made this a great trade for Montreal, but his future potential makes this the third best trade the Montreal Canadiens have made since Wayne Gretzky was traded to Los Angeles.