Craig Rivet last played for the Montreal Canadiens during the 2006-07 season. That being said, Rivet may be one of the most important pieces for the Canadiens in the past decade. Now I know that statement doesn’t make much sense without context, especially given that Rivet played parts of his last 5 seasons for other teams before retiring. In this article, I will cover how Craig Rivet helped land numerous players, some of whom are still on the current iteration of the Canadiens.
Craig Rivet traded to the San Jose Sharks
For many fans of the Montreal Canadiens, myself included, memories of Craig Rivet were fond, as he spent parts of 12 seasons with the team after being drafted 68th overall. That leads to an important question: Why would the Canadiens would trade a player seen as a key part of the team? The first reason is simple really. The Canadiens missed the playoffs in the 2006-07 season, and it made sense to move a veteran player to give him a chance to win the Stanley Cup by trading Rivet to the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks ultimately won a round against the Nashville Predators, before being eliminated in 6 games to the Detroit Red Wings in the second round. They were hoping the acquisition of Craig Rivet would be that extra piece to put them over the top but that was simply not the case. The other reason the Habs may have seen Craig Rivet as expendable was his expiring contract. Following the 2001-02 season, Rivet signed a four-year, $12 million contract; due to the lockout in 2004-05, his contract was set to expire following the 2006-07 season. Given that Rivet would be turning 33 at the start of the 2007-08 season, Canadiens’ management likely viewed Rivet as a piece that didn’t need to be brought back. This gives a better perspective of both clubs at the time which help in gauging the trade in retrospect.
This all leads to what makes Craig Rivet such an interesting case study. You see, the Sharks traded a young, undrafted defenceman for a player that would make a more immediate impact to help them become better, sooner. Since the Canadiens wouldn’t simply trade a veteran for a young player with such little experience straight up, the Sharks had to sweeten the pot a bit. The Sharks thus added a 1st round pick in exchange for a 5th on top of the swap of defenceman. Sounds fair right? On the surface, this trade seems to have some merit, and I do see why the Sharks made the move. The impact (or lack thereof) Rivet had with the Sharks certainly makes the trade look worse, but the players that went the other way in the trade are what make it so lopsided. The previously mentioned young defenceman the Sharks traded was Josh Gorges. He had played in 96 games for the Sharks up to that point, scoring 1 goal and adding 9 assists. Gorges obviously went on to have a terrific run with the Canadiens over 8 seasons, racking up 13 goals, and 75 assists in 464 games. Stats don’t show all of what Gorges was to the Canadiens, as he was also an assistant captain, penalty killer, and spent many of his years in the top 4 matching up with opposition’s top lines. The 1st round pick is what makes the trade far more interesting. The Habs ended up drafting Max Pacioretty with the 22nd pick in the 2007 draft. Pacioretty was a tremendous player for the Habs to end up with, as he played 10 seasons with the Canadiens, served as captain for 3 of those years, and scored 226 goals, 222 assists in 626 games. Like Gorges, Pacioretty was also quite responsible in his own end, and spent most years as a penalty killer for the team. Rivet only spent one season following the trade in 2006-07 with the Sharks, playing 115 games total (playoffs included), scoring 54 points in those games. While he wasn’t horrible for the Sharks, the large package that went back to the Canadiens makes the trade a regrettable one for the Sharks. The 5th round pick ended up being Julien Demers, who, from what I could find, played some university hockey at University of Ottawa following a 4-year OHL career. I could not find any professional stats, so his impact on the trade is miniscule.
Craig Rivet traded to the Buffalo Sabres
Prior to the 2008 season, the San Jose Sharks traded Rivet to the Buffalo Sabres along with a 7th round pick, for 2nd round picks in both the 2009 and 2010 draft. In the 2009 draft, the Sharks drafted William Wrenn with the 43rd pick acquired from Buffalo. Wrenn played only 3 games for the Worcester Sharks, which represents his entire impact with the Sharks organization. He has however carved out a respectable professional career playing in the AHL, ECHL, KHL, Liiga, DEL and is scheduled to play for Dornbirner EC of the EBEL next season. With all due respect to Wrenn, his impact in this trade is incredibly minor.
The 7th round pick traded to the Sabres alongside Rivet ended up being Riley Boychuk. Boychuk’s impact for the Sabres was minimal, however an interesting note I found was he was traded to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Henrik Tallinder. This allowed Tallinder to finish his career with the Sabres, as he played 64 games for the Sabres in 2013-14. Other than helping acquire Tallinder, Boychuk only played 26 games for Buffalo’s AHL affiliate, only registering 2 assists.
The Sharks used the 2010 2nd round pick in a trade in February of 2010 to receive Niclas Wallin and a 5th round pick for the Carolina Hurricanes. Niclas Wallin went on to play 97 regular season games and 24 playoff games for the Sharks. The 5th round pick the Sharks received turned into Cody Ferriero, who never played a game in either the NHL or AHL. The Hurricanes drafted Mark Alt at 53 overall in 2010, and while he has played 18 NHL games, and even played 2 this past season, to make it easier I won’t venture too far into his career. He was traded again as part of a bigger trade, but the impact was minimal in regard to the original trade, so we will end with him being drafted by the Hurricanes in 2010.
Josh Gorges traded to the Buffalo Sabres
This ultimately ends the impact Rivet had as far as transactions go, as he finished out his career with the Columbus Blue Jackets after being claimed on waivers in 2011. All the previous trades lead to what has affected the current Montreal Canadiens. That’s because, as any Habs fan already knows, Gorges and Pacioretty have both since been traded. Josh Gorges was traded on Canada Day in 2014 for a 2nd round pick in 2016. That pick was ultimately used to draft Chad Krys. Most Canadien fans don’t know much about Chad Krys, and for obvious reasons. The draft pick that was used on him was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks alongside another 2nd round pick in 2016 for Andrew Shaw. The Blackhawks famously turned the other pick into Alex DeBrincat and have a promising prospect in Krys, as he looks to turn professional fulltime this upcoming season. This means without the Habs trading Craig Rivet, they never would have acquired Josh Gorges. Without Josh Gorges they never would have acquired the 45th pick in the draft. Without the 45th pick in the draft, the Canadiens may never acquire Andrew Shaw, and the Blackhawks may never draft DeBrincat. That is what makes the trade so fascinating, as it has turned into a long stream of players that will play important roles moving forward.
Max Pacioretty traded to the Vegas Golden Knights
Craig Rivet was drafted in 1992, however he played a major role in the formation of a team that came around 25 years after his draft year. Vegas acquired Pacioretty on September 10th, 2018 in exchange for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki, and a 2019 2nd round pick. In the only season since the trade, Tatar scored 3 more goals, and put up 18 more points than Pacioretty. There was a difference of 14 games, and Pacioretty did start slow, but the early prognosis shows Tatar being a great fit on the Canadiens, especially alongside Brendan Gallagher and Philip Danault. Nick Suzuki had an equally more impressive season, tallying 136 points in only 83 games in both the regular season and playoffs, with the Owen Sound Attack and Guelph Storm. He Helped the Storm win the OHL championship and was named playoff MVP along the way. He also added 7 points in 4 Memorial Cup games, and 3 points in 5 World Junior games. All said, Suzuki tallied an incredible 146 points this season, and looks to be one of the Canadiens’ top prospects. The 2nd round pick was traded to the LA Kings in exchange for a 3rd and 5th round pick in the same draft. The Kings drafted Samuel Fagemo, and the Canadiens drafted Mattias Norlinder and Jacob Leguerrier with those picks. Since it hasn’t even been a month since the draft at the time of publishing this article, it is too early to say if this will have any effect on the trade tree. This means that Craig Rivet helped the Canadiens acquire Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki, Norlinder, and Leguerrier. If nothing else this helps show the ramifications a trade can have in the future. If the Sharks would have opted for a second instead of a first in 2006-07, the Canadiens never draft Pacioretty and ultimately acquire Suzuki and Tatar.
Andrew Shaw traded to the Chicago Blackhawks
Andrew Shaw being traded back to the Chicago Blackhawks adds even more intrigue to this trade tree moving forward due to the assets coming back. The Canadiens received a 2020 2nd and 7th round pick, as well as a 2021 3rd round pick. Obviously, the original Craig Rivet didn’t lead directly to Andrew Shaw, however, since one of the 2nd round picks used to acquire Shaw came from the original trade, I felt it important to note.
Looking into past trades like this can be fun but also a good case study of what not to do. The Sharks probably rated Rivet a little too heavily, which resulted in them giving up a 1st round pick. That is the decision that really hurt them in the end. Josh Gorges turning into the player he did was less of a shock to the Sharks. While he did outplay his original showing, it was not surprising that he ended up being a steady NHL player. It also shows why most teams value 1st round picks so heavily. The reluctance to trade them away can be frustrating as fans, but it can be justified with trade trees like this. The ultimate lesson though, can be that the culmination of pro scouting and amateur scouting is the most important thing to a hockey team. For a trade of draft picks to be worth it, a team has to nail the pick(s). For every DeBrincat and Krys, there is an Alt, and a Wrenn. If either of those picks had worked out for the Sharks, the outlook wouldn’t be as bleak, however they failed to capitalize and turn their assets into something worthwhile. This trade tree is still not complete as any number of the players still active could get dealt again, changing it once more. Below I summed up what each team received, to try and make it clearer. I included the years certain players were on their respective team if they eventually got traded again or only played for a few years to try and make it easier to read (especially regarding Andrew Shaw). This also helps see what kind of impact the teams were able to get out of the players acquired.
TO SAN JOSE: Craig Rivet (2007 playoffs, 2007-08 season), Julien Demers, Niclas Wallin (2010 playoffs, 2010-11 season), Cody Ferriero, William Wrenn
TO MONTREAL: Josh Gorges (2007-2014), Max Pacioretty (2008-2018), Andrew Shaw (2016-2019), Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki, Mattias Norlinder, Jacob LeGuerrier, 2020 2nd and 7th round pick, 2021 3rd round pick
TO BUFFALO: Josh Gorges (2014-2018), Craig Rivet (2008-2011), Henrik Tallinder (2013-14 season)
TO CHICAGO: Chad Krys, Alex DeBrincat (kind of), Andrew Shaw (2019-20 season onwards)
TO VEGAS: Max Pacioretty (2018-19 season onwards)
TO LA KINGS: Samuel Fagemo
TO NEW JERSEY: Riley Boychuk
TO CAROLINA: Mark Alt
The Canadiens turned a 32-year-old Craig Rivet into 8 years of Josh Gorges, 10 years of Max Pacioretty, 3 seasons of Andrew Shaw, Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki, and a handful of prospects to go along with it. Not too shabby.