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The Montreal Canadiens need Max Pacioretty, rebuild or not

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The team’s captain has the most value right where he is

Vancouver Canucks v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

There have been several rumours surrounding the Montreal Canadiens and their captain Max Pacioretty since the NHL Draft.

The player was linked to the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, and New York Islanders, and changed agents in the process.

But the Canadiens should get those rumours out of the way and sign their captain to an extension.

Marc Antoine Godin of The Athletic has reported an NHL source told him that the team is not willing to negotiate with their captain and intend to trade him.

The Canadiens may not like what Pacioretty is asking for as a demand, reported to be eight years and $8 million per year. But the team’s captain does hold all of the cards in this scenario. Either the Canadiens pay him what he wants, or he will leave at the end of the season. The team may trade him before the season or before the trade deadline.

We do not know what has happened behind closed doors. We do not know what has actually been said. But the Canadiens and Marc Bergevin have a choice, albeit one without a great result.

They can trade him now, when teams will surely sense his desperation, and offer nothing of significance. They can then wait until the deadline to trade him, hope he has a good year to raise his value, and that he doesn’t get injured.

Or they simply wait. And risk having his contract run out and losing him for nothing.

None of those options are particularly enticing. So it leaves the only option left: pay Pacioretty what he wants.

If the $8 million cap hit isn’t an issue now, it very well could be when he turns 37 by the end of it. But if you are intent on avoiding a full rebuild and winning with Carey Price and Shea Weber, you put all your chips on the table and get Pacioretty his contract. His value for the next two to three years — at least — will be worth it if you are set on this being a quick turnaround, which Bergevin has indicated.

There’s also the scenario that the cap will likely continue to go up, so $8 million today will not necessarily be the same as at the end of the contract.

If you do want to fold, and trade Pacioretty for 75 cents on the dollar right now, you can do that. But Bergevin will have no leeway with a public and a fan base that rightfully demands more of him right now.

You could also hold onto Pacioretty, not negotiate an extension, and risk his value getting even lower at the trade deadline when teams know you’re even more desperate to get something for him.

But when you consider the options, the Canadiens are better with their captain signed to an extension, even if it isn’t on the terms of their general manager, than trading him for less than full value.