The Max Pacioretty situation has become a real circus for the Montreal Canadiens. It was rumoured in the Fall of 2017 that Pacioretty had requested a trade after much of the controversy mired in his leadership abilities as captain of the storied franchise. His play had notably dipped and he seemed totally disinterested on most nights leading into 2018. However, his production rose back up to his regular numbers, as the Habs captain scored 9 goals and 17 points in January and February. He was red hot right as the NHL Trade Deadline had loomed upon us, and his name was everywhere in trade rumours. As we all know, no deal materialized and Pacioretty sustained an injury that kept him out for the rest of the season the very next day.
As spring blew in, nobody heard a word about Pacioretty’s situation and his willingness to re-sign with the Canadiens. His agent at the time, Pat Brisson, had not spoken to the media about his client’s intent. GM Marc Bergevin refused to answer questions on Pacioretty’s status with the team. In short, we knew nothing. However, come the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Dany Dubé of 98.5 FM Montreal dropped a bomb.
The Trade at the Draft
The Canadiens were said to have a deal in place that saw Pacioretty head to the LA Kings. The only hold up was the verbal agreement of a contract extension between Pacioretty and Kings GM Rob Blake. Unfortunately for Max, the contract offer, a modest $36 million, 6-year deal, did not satisfy the sniper and the deal was nixed. The very next day, during the 2nd day of the NHL Draft, the were rumours that spread like wildfire that Max had been traded to the San Jose Sharks. Those rumours were immediately quashed, but something important did happen that day.
On June 23rd, Max Pacioretty dropped his then agent Pat Brisson, in favour of Octagon Hockey’s own Allan Walsh. This is the same agent that began a twitter storm for Jaroslav Halak to be traded out of St-Louis and, of course, the Jonathan Drouin incident in Tampa Bay. He is an agent that gets results and will do anything to see his players properly compensated. He has however been a thorn in many team’s side and presented a change in tone in terms of the discussions with the Canadiens. It is important to note that Pat Brisson and Marc Bergevin have been very good friends for a while.
No Contract for Max?
After the draft, Marc-Antoine Godin of the Atheltic released an article confirming everyone’s worst fear. His source had told him the Canadiens had informed Pacioretty that they would not tender him a contract offer. Of course fans absolutely lost it on Bergevin and the Canadiens. Memories of P.K. Subban’s situation still haunt many fan’s dreams, but not all.
Pacioretty, who turns 30 in November, is seeking to cash out one last time before he starts to slow down. His last contract, a 6-year $27 million contract ($4.5 million AAV), was a steal of a contract. It was such a steal for the Canadiens that Pacioretty fired his agent for it in 2012 and switched to Pat Brisson. Seeing a trend here? Pacioretty requires a new long-term contract, but just had his worst statistical season in years.
Having played for the Canadiens for so long without a true supporting cast offensively, save for the one year with Alexander Radulov, Paccioretty needs to maximize his value in order to warrant a contract higher than the one the Kings had offered him in June. Max believes himself in the $7 + million range on a long term contract, and will not receive it if he is playing on a rebuilding/retooling/transitioning team like the Canadiens.
Furthermore, Marc-Antoine Godin was very informed on the Jonathan Drouin fiasco a few years back. He produced many articles at the time where Yzerman was made to look like the bad guy for not giving into Drouin’s demands. He also published many of Allan Wlash’s memos ( as seen here) in order to help the agent safe face. It is no surprise then, that Godin suddenly acquired a reliable source close to the situation in relation to another Walsh client.
Allan Walsh has been playing the media, and fans, to the benefit of his client for years, and continued the trend right away with Pacioretty.
The Pacioretty Circus Resumes
After the summer storm died down, news came out that the Canadiens owner Geoff Molson and GM Marc Bergevin would not attend Max Pacioretty’s annual charity golf tournament. First off, funny non-story right? Wrong! The Montreal media, led by 919.FM (the radio station that leaked then coach Michel Therrien’s blurb of how Max Pacioretty was the worst captain in Canadiens history),recharged the circus and the Canadiens were forced to respond.
Ultimately the Canadiens brass did make a full appeareance at 67’s charity golf tournament. However, the length of the handshake (Yes, I know) was not long enough between Bergevin and Pacioretty to subdue the rumours of a rift between the two. However, Geoff Molson indicated that Max would indeed be expected at camp (two weeks away by this point), like any other player. Allan Walsh had even said that the Canadiens and he had been in discussions all summer, but that no tangible contract offer was made.
Pacioretty Asked for a Trade?
However, three days later, Martin Leclerc of 98.5, the same station that broke the Pacioretty trade to LA, came out and said that it was actually Pacioretty who wanted out from Montreal. Luc Robitaille, the President of the LA Kings, came out and said they had strong interest in Pacioretty at the Draft in June. He pointed out that it was Bergevin who was reluctant to trade his captain, and that is why the deal broke down.
This sent Hab fans into a whirl, as it totally destroyed the narrative of the media so far. Allan Walsh quickly did damage control on Twitter, claiming his client only wants to play in MTL and would sign a deal today if he was presented a fair one. Walsh quickly scheduled an interview with local MTL radio station TSN 690 to further cement his client’s will of wanting to stay in MTL for the long-term.
Why Is This Being Released Now?
With that said, let’s look at this critically. Who stands to benefit from this chaos and the rushing of a trade? Well that would be Max Pacioretty. Why, you may ask? Max had his worst season in year last year. He needs to bounce back big-time in order to earn that big contract he is seeking. The way the news has been released on Pacioretty, he has been painted as wanting to stay with the Habs.
Since Allan Walsh took over, he has orchestrated a situation where Bergevin looks to be actively shopping his captain and has no intent in keeping him long-term. From a rebuilding perspective, it does make sense to trade Pacioretty for a solid haul of prospects and picks. However, why would the Canadiens release this information if they wanted to maximize their return on their captain? Maybe this isn’t coming from the Habs themselves?
Who Benefits from This Chaos?
Max Pacioretty does. We love the captain and believe he has done right by Montreal. However, it is in his best interest to have a trade happen prior to Training Camp, in order to be acquired by a contending team. Imagine Max Pacioretty with a Top-10 centre in the NHL? Would you not agree that he would easily return to form? Exactly! That is precisely why all of this mess has Allan Walsh written all over it.
Although he does make a huge effort to directly interact with fans on the subject of his clients, there is always more to his words than face value. His direct involvement with fans during the Drouin saga with Tampa Bay was indicative of his ability to create a narrative for his clients. He was active in the counseling of Drouin to go home and wait out the Tampa Bay Lightning (see tweet below) and has done this sort of thing before.
Walsh is no stranger to using the media to get his client the sympathy of the fans. This in turn puts pressure on the GM to make a move before the player’s value plummets. Luckily for Yzerman, he stood his ground in this situation and only traded Drouin when the time was right (and what a return it was). Bergevin must resist this storm and do the same if he is ever to receive proper value for Pacioretty.
It serves Walsh and Pacioretty far more to secure a trade right away. By pushing GM Marc Bergevin into a corner and seemingly giving him no choice to trade Max, they ultimately get what they want. Walsh did the same thing during the contract year of Jaroslav Halak in 2015, which ultimately saw the goaltender traded to Washington, play well and receive a 4-year deal from the Islanders a few months later.
Even prior to Halak being in St-Louis, the Halak vs. Price controversy of 2010 was spun directly from Walsh himself. Remember his active bid to see the Canadiens finally allow Halak to usurp Carey Price as the #1 goalie? Walsh would often tweet to start up a storm, and then delete the tweet shortly after and attack the media for keeping tabs on him.
Walsh is doing everything he can to spin this to the advantage of his client, so before jumping on Bergevin for his actions, and he is certainly not without blame, let us consider the source. He has done this multiple times, even once to the Habs themselves with the Jaro Halak situation, and fans should be critical of what he and his cohorts are releasing in terms of information. Many GMs have stood up to his pressure tactics and won out over patience, and that is the only way Marc Bergevin will be able to save face.