Moving a major piece of a team’s core is not a task that is easily handled. Trying to find the best possible scenario and come out ahead in said trade is a monumental task.
The Montreal Canadiens now find themselves in that situation once again. Just two years after trading franchise defenceman P.K. Subban, the team may be moving on from their captain, Max Pacioretty.
Whether or not this is the right course of action remains to be seen, and will likely be judged entirely on the return if a trade does happen during this off-season. There are plenty of positives and negatives to shipping out the star winger. The biggest concern is the fact the team would be trading him at his lowest overall value after a down year.
Any team looking to add him will reap the benefit of what might be the contract with the best value in the NHL, at just $4.5 million for one more season. That’s a pittance to pay to add a player capable of hitting the 35-goal plateau and playing heavy penalty-kill minutes as well.
This also explains Marc Bergevin’s high asking price for his captain, as the Canadiens’ general manager is looking to land a prospect, some draft picks and an NHL-level centre in any deal. After not receiving any satisfactory offers at the trade deadline, Bergevin may be forced to budge on his demands if he truly wants to move Pacioretty. Now that draft picks are locked in and free agency looms, a team may be more willing to meet the asking price he had outlined.
There should be no lack of suitors for Pacioretty’s services as the end of the post-season draws closer, and there’s a number of teams that could feasibly piece together a package meeting Bergevin’s demands. There is also the possibility that Montreal could opt for taking more draft picks on and load up on prospects to kickstart a rebuilding of the prospect pool that has been long overdue.
The first team Montreal should be calling if they’re dead set on trading Pacioretty should be the Edmonton Oilers, who not only have a dire cap situation, they also possess a top-10 pick thanks to bumbling their way through Connor McDavid’s entry-level contract. With limited cap space, a number of restricted free agents up for new deals, and McDavid’s new contract kicking next year, while also factoring in the albatross that is Milan Lucic’s massive deal, the Oilers are up against in this off-season, and are reportedly shopping their first-round selection already.
Enter Bergevin, who could target a roster player or two and the Oilers’ tenth overall pick in exchange for Pacioretty before the NHL Draft. Montreal has two major needs as it stands heading into this off-season: to find another NHL-level centre, and to find a top-pairing left handed partner for Shea Weber. Luckily for Bergevin, the Oilers possess one of each of those type of players in the forms of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Darnell Nurse, and they’re in dire straits cap wise.
The Edmonton media bemoaned the need for a scoring winger to play with McDavid after they traded two of them away for pennies on the dollar, so a large haul for one of the league’s premier scorers is not out of the question. There could be the need to add on Montreal’s side of the deal, and with four second-round picks, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to trade one to secure an NHL-level asset that fills a need immediately.
The Oilers likely would not be the only Pacific Division team that would be interested in Pacioretty’s services, as the San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames, or Los Angeles Kings could be ideal destinations for the American winger to land.
In the case of the Flames, they have a pair of young defenders in the AHL in Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington who could become the focal point of a trade, or if Bergevin wanted a more experienced option he could ask about the availability of a player like T.J. Brodie. Also hurting Calgary’s chances are the fact they have no picks in the first three rounds of the draft this year, and that their only real centre prospects who could be available for trade are Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski.
For the Sharks, they’ll have the cap space to easily fit in Pacioretty’s contract, assuming that they opt to let Evander Kane walk. They have their first-round pick this year and some decent prospects, but nothing that fits the NHL centre item that Bergevin asked for.
On the Kings, Jake Muzzin is an option for trade as the team looks to solve perennial goal-scoring issues, and that could be a hockey trade that works out for both parties.
There is also the New York Islanders who possess a pair of picks in the top 12 at the draft, and are in one of the more unique situations in the league right now. With their top star likely departing in the off-season, the Isles are going to be in need of finding offence quickly, and taking on Pacioretty might be in the cards for them.
There are likely many more options for a trade, but these are the ones that come to the fore either due to their prospect pool, number of draft picks, or in the case of Edmonton, because their GM is ripe for being taken to the proverbial cleaners.
The Canadiens can also react rationally to his poor season, and keep him around for the upcoming season. All the advanced numbers indicate that this was just an outlier of a season, and one that likely won’t be repeated next year. Montreal could potentially trade Pacioretty at his lowest value, only to see him rebound to 35-goal form for another team. The option would still exist to trade him at next year’s deadline.
It’s not impossible to say that Max Pacioretty could stay in Montreal long term past this year. He said he will always consider the city his home, and it’s abundantly clear he doesn’t want to move. Unfortunately, that decision doesn’t rest with the players, and if Bergevin can get that package of players and prospects he’s after, he would be remiss to not take it for the good of his team.
Either way, there’s a very deep trade market out there for the Canadiens’ captain and a load of positives that come with that, but the same could also be said for keeping him around to start the next season, and going from there.