The odds that Max Pacioretty bounces back to his expected range of 30 goals and 65 points just got a whole lot better. With a week to go before the Montreal Canadiens start the 2018-19 preseason, they dealt their captain to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a second-round pick.
For Pacioretty, it means he doesn't have to try to have a bounce-back campaign on the same team that spun out of control last season, leaving him with easily the worst showing of his career (17 goals, 37 points). Pacioretty becomes, on paper, the best winger on the Knights. But as we learned a season ago, this isn't a team that translates from paper well. There is a better than good chance that, at least to start, Pacioretty is on the Knights' second line with Paul Stastny. That said, it wouldn't take much for him to supplant Reilly Smith on the top line if that No. 1 unit with William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault falters (relative to last season).
It's also easy to envision Pacioretty joining the Karlsson-Marchessault-Smith trio on a top power play anchored by Shea Theodore. Pacioretty was probably going to be a value in drafts and a a sneaky pick for 30-30 with 300 shots before this trade, but the move will raise his prominence and cut the chances of getting him with value in the seventh or eighth round. Now, his ADP could push up to the fourth or fifth.
Tatar will be better positioned for success with the Canadiens, but he won't be more than a lottery pick at the end of a draft. He would have been a depth winger for Vegas, but should play on the Habs' second line and will be featured prominently on the power play, where he has excelled in the past. However, the expectations of success for both that second line and No. 1 power play are very much debatable.
Suzuki is a great prospect, coming off a 100-point OHL campaign and ready to at least get a look at the NHL level. This deal, however, definitely signifies a rebuilding of the Montreal roster. The 19-year-old Suzuki would be better served by another year of development, which is almost surely what he'll get. It'll be another year or two before we should expect an impact. On the off chance the Canadiens opt for the trial-by-fire route for Suzuki, I think he's worth a bench spot in leagues with 14 teams or more, and dynasty leaguers will want to take a look.
As for indirect implications for fantasy, I think this gives a decent boost to Stastny's projections, a boost to Tatar's dark-horse candidacy for power-play points and should lift all boats for the Knights' man advantage. On the other hand, this removes Erik Haula's minimal relevance and sinks expectations for all Habs on what is now a team looking at the future more than the present.