While a peaceful resolution is all that many Montreal Canadiens fans, and Max Pacioretty, wanted this off-season, it would appear the team captain and the front office are hitting a nigh immovable impasse. Pacioretty has reiterated his desires to stay in Montreal, while the Canadiens’ general manager hasn’t said much of anything to this point. There are valid points to keeping the captain around, especially given that he has made it clear he loves the city, the club, and its fans, but it’s beginning to look like the end of Pacioretty’s tenure in Montreal.
So if they’re going to move him, where exactly can he end up? Los Angeles is out afteran initial agreement with Marc Bergevin was vetoed by the star winger, and the Kings then opted to go with the older Ilya Kovalchuk in free agency instead. San Jose was another option, and after missing out on John Tavares they could still be on the periphery as well.
Then there are the Dallas Stars, making headlines due to star forward Tyler Seguin expressing his discontent at the lack of a new extension, and for being a leading contender in a potential Erik Karlsson trade.
It would seem that the Stars don’t truly need Pacioretty, yet facilitating a trade with the Canadiens may get them to their end goal sooner rather than later, and help both clubs involved. While somehow pulling a swap for Seguin would be an incredible coup for Bergevin, he will have to re-adjust his sights with the current state of his franchise.
Enter Jason Spezza. The former Ottawa Senators captain is in the last year of his contract, and passing off his cap hit could do wonders for Dallas as they attempt to lock down their star forward, and try to land one of the best defenders in the NHL. Dallas would run away laughing with a one-for-one deal that solved several of their issues if that was the deal made, while the Canadiens wouldn’t get the pieces they need to land in return for their top trade piece.
A deal could be reached if the Stars provided a more valuable return to the Canadiens. Additional picks (something Bergevin has done very well at collecting) and prospects or a young NHL player in need of a fresh start could be enough to make this deal happen.
When talking to our friends at Defending Big D, the only true untouchable in the Stars organization is Miro Heiskanen, who is reportedly the sticking point in the rumoured Karlsson trade. Some of the names mentioned that could be easily moved include Mattias Janmark and Denis Gurianov. In addition to Spezza, both players could be a great add for Montreal. Janmark, in particular, should be of interest to Habs fans, as he has a history with budding winger Artturi Lehkonen from their time in the SHL.
The duo played together for Frölunda in the Swedish league. Janmark was the aggressive forward on their line, pushing in deep while Lehkonen covered the defensive side of things. Janmark has shown flashes of being a great talent down the middle, but some injuries have sidetracked a promising start to his career. Restarting in a new city, with a former linemate he has chemistry with, could do wonders for the Swede.
Gurianov is a 21-year-old first-round pick, who despite high-end abilities is still working on putting together his entire game in the Stars organization. He possesses outstanding speed and hands on the ice, and is always willing to get himself in a position to shoot the puck from high-danger areas. He tallied 19 goals in the AHL last year, but struggled to get regular ice time in the Texas Stars’ run to the Calder Cup Final.
He still has some growing to do in his defensive game, but he’s a tantalizing prospect no matter which way you slice it, and adding another highly skilled prospect under 22 years old is a great step forward for a retooling franchise.
But what about Jason Spezza, who could be regarded as a negative-value player for the Stars? He’s coming off his least productive season since his rookie year in 2002-03, when he played only 33 games. For one thing, acquiring Spezza would give the Canadiens an established NHL centre besides Phillip Danault, and one who has amhigher offensive pedigree.
Having Spezza take over for one year to split time with Jonathan Drouin down the middle isn’t the worst idea. In fact, comparatively speaking, Spezza was better by most possession metrics last year.
Spezza’s offence took a hit last year in a major way, but it also coincided with a brutal shooting percentage overall. Looking at his Corsi-for percentage and his shots for and against, he still drove the play in the right direction. Drouin, being anointed as a top-six centre last year, didn’t have the same results, and struggled on the defensive side of things.
In terms of their passing and shot contributions, both players have their talents, but Spezza’s shot contributions end up leading to more goals, and he tends to shoot much more often than Drouin. It’s not a bad thing for Drouin, but having someone who can split time and act as a mentor at the position might be a wise move for the Canadiens.
As for Spezza himself, he’s a good player to have if you want to continue to drive offence, even if he had a poor showing last year.
The two heatmaps above show that with Spezza on the ice last year, shots were coming from high-danger areas, in particular right in front of the net — something the Canadiens struggled with last year.
It would be a one-season deal for both sides, as both Spezza and Pacioretty are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season (an extension agreement between the Stars and Pacioretty would be the ideal outcome for a maximum return).
While Spezza has a 10-team no-trade clause which could complicate things, it’s worth noting that Montreal could always flip Spezza at the trade deadline to a contending team if need be as well, which might grease the wheels on getting Montreal off that list.
This deal makes sense for the Canadiens. They can close the book on a situation which has spiraled into a nasty fight, and in return garner more prospects and a legitimate centre, at least for a year while their prospects continue to develop.
For the Stars, they clear cap room for bigger moves in the near future, while landing a perennial 30-goal-scorer on the last year of his highly affordable deal. It’s a case of both teams being able to solve their problems in one move, and there isn’t an outright winner or loser in the deal.
The ongoing back and forth over his status in Montreal has likely hurt Pacioretty’s overall trade value, but that doesn’t mean the Canadiens have to accept a low-ball deal. At least with Dallas, they can recoup some useful pieces.
Many fans wish to see Montreal and Pacioretty make amends and see a deal struck between the two, but a potential trade like this might be best for all parties involved.