Since being drafted in the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Max Pacioretty has grown to become the best goal scoring threat developed by the Canadiens in the last 25 years. He is 2nd only to Ovechkin in game-winning goals and has been a top 5 goal scorer in the NHL over the last 5 years. On top of his ice performances, Pacioretty is on a steal of a contract, where he earns $4.5 million a year, when similar players of his scoring stature make close to double this amount. Why would the Canadiens be better served trading such an elite player with a sweetheart contract? The short answer is: because they can.
He was elected as captain of the Montreal Canadiens prior to the 2015-2016 season and it seems that things have gone downhill for him ever since. Max has simply not lived up to the expectations of a Montreal Canadiens captain; paling in comparison to captains past like Saku Koivu or Guy Carbonneau. Furthermore, Patches has not scored many clutch goals in regulation in the last 18 months, and has padded his regular season statistics with many points in high-scoring, one-side games. Fans have also called out his lack of physical implication and horrid playoff performances. His 19 points in 38 playoff games is well below his regular season point totals (generally 60 points per season).
With 2 years remaining on his current deal, Max looks like a prime candidate to trade if the Canadiens, who have struggled mightily this season, seek to rebuild. Let’s take a look at teams that would be interested in the goal scoring left-wing and what potential packages could look like:
The Flames are on fire (pun intended) with their top duo of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan taking the next step in their development this year. Calgary has been looking to fill out their top 6 after having addressed their blueline depth this summer with the acquisition of Travis Hamonic. It has been said that former 4th overall pick in 2013 Sam Bennet could be dangled, along with a first round pick, for the services of a key forward like Pacioretty. Having both Gaudreau and Pacioretty on the left side (along with Monahan, Backlund and, eventually, Mark Jankowski at center) Calgary would instantly become a threat in the Western Conference if their goaltending can hold up.
Package: Bennet + 1st in 2019
This is a team that is slowly entering their contention window, as homegrown talents like Zack Werenski, Alex Wennberg, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Cam Atkinson, and Josh Anderson begin to reach their potential. With a defensive corps that consists of Seth Jones, Werenski, Ryan Murray and David Savard, Columbus could attempt to dangle Ryan Murray in order to attract a top offensive piece like Pacioretty. As goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky continues to put up Vezina worthy numbers, Columbus looks like they’re one offensive piece away from truly competing with the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins for supremacy within the Metropolitan division.
Package: Murray + 1st
Let’s be honest here, Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli has essentially taken a young team with many top picks and floundered their potential. Connor McDavid has kept this franchise afloat, but the rest of the team has lagged in providing any secondary scoring since the departures of Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. The signings of Kris Russell and Andrej Sekera have already proved to be major flops and the Oilers are now desperately look for an affordable fix to their scoring woes. Enter Max Pacioretty. Chiarelli has had a lot of exposure to the Canadiens winger while serving as GM of the Boston Bruins and could instantly place a player of Pacioretty’s caliber alongside McDavid on the top line, bumping Leon Draisaitl to the second line with Milan Lucic and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. They have the young pieces to dangle in a trade, like Jesse Puljujarvi and Darnell Nurse, while also owning all their picks in the upcoming 2018 draft. The Oilers would easily grab the attention of the Canadiens with a package of Puljujarvi and a 1st round pick, as Puljujarvi could fit right into the Canadiens’ lineup right now and produce. This would be seen as a win-win on both sides of a trade and seems ever more likely as both teams continue to struggle.
Package: Puljujarvi + 2018 first
New York Islanders:
Much has been said in regards to franchise center John Tavares’ impending unrestricted free agent situation, but what a better way to show your star player that the team is being built to compete right now than by acquiring another scoring threat to pair with your best player. Max is from the New York area, constantly has his friends and family come out to games against the Islanders, and would easily slot into the first line with John Tavares and Jordan Eberle. On the flip side, the Islanders have the young pieces that the Canadiens need for an eventual rebuild in Josh Ho-Sang and Anthony Beauvillier. Furthermore, a young blueliner like Ryan Pulock could also interest the Canadiens, as they sorely lack sound, puck-moving defensemen. A package around Pulock or Beauvillier and one of the Islanders`two first round picks ( they also have Calgary’s 2018 first pick from the Hamonic trade) could certainly allow the Canadiens to pull the trigger. Montreal would be able to slot in either Beauvillier or Pulock in the top 6 or top 4 respectively, while having another first round pick to utilize in a deep draft.
Package: Beauvillier + first in 2018
The Penguins often find themselves on the other side of deals for disgruntled players needing a change of scenery. Phil Kessel, Justin Schultz and Ian Cole have all benefitted from trades to the Penguins and were key factors in their back-to-back championship runs. We now know that they were heavily interested in former Colorado Avalanche pivot Matt Duchene and are still actively looking for scoring help. Pittsburgh, looking to seize the moment for a three-peat, will certainly entertain an offer for Max with AHL standout Daniel Sprong as the main piece of a trade, alongside a first round pick for a cost-controlled scoring punch to round out an already formidable top-6. The Canadiens could use the scoring from a young player with two years left on his rookie contract, and, as discussed above, the first round pick would be an excellent asset to use or package (along with Montreal’s three second round picks) to potentially move up in the draft. For Pittsburgh, they once again become clear favourites to represent the eastern conference in the Stanley Cup finals.
Package: Sprong + 1st in 2018
This seems like another obvious trade partner for Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin, as he has a known Chicago Blackhawks connection to Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. The Jets finally seem to be coming of age, with Mark Scheifele, Patrick Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers all establishing themselves as elite scoring threats over the last two seasons. In as such, the major position of weakness for this club remains the top line left-wing position, which is currently being occupied by rookie Kyle Connor. If the Jets believed that they had a shot at the cup within the next two years, a trade for Max would be more then likely. They currently have their 2015 1st round pick Jack Roslovic, who is currently a point-per-game center for their minor league affiliate the Manitoba Moose, that would be the center piece of the deal. Whether the Canadiens want to try and pry a 1st round pick from the Jets on top of Roslovic remains to be seen, but he would be able to slot into Montreal`s top 6 right away and give them a much needed boost.
Package: Roslovic + 2nd in 2018
Needless to say, Max would garner significant interest, and word is that Bergevin has received a few calls already. If ever the Canadiens do decide to go for a full rebuild, I strongly believe one of the above teams will be the one to pounce on Captain Max for a king’s ransom.