How a Sign and Trade Works in the Modern NHL

Elliot Friedman announced this past Saturday that Max Pacioretty is still quite the hot commodity. Friedman confirmed that Pacioretty could be subject to a “Sign and Trade” now that Evander Kane signed with the Sharks. The Canadiens captain has one year left on his 6-year contract and a friendly $4.5 million cap hit. The tricky part is that Max is not able to sign a contract extension until he is in the last year of his contract. In other words, the earliest Pacioretty could ever be re-signed would be on July 1st. So why does Elliot Friedman think a Sign and Trade is possible with the aforementioned circumstances? Well, that might be more of a wording issue than a logistical one. Let’s outline the different possibilities on how the Canadiens could proceed with a Sign and Trade:

Draft Day Trade

This would be a tricky and complicated ordeal. The Canadiens would first need to find a team that is willing to meet their high demands in exchange for Pacioretty. Once the trade terms have been reached, this prospective team (let’s call this team Team B) would then talk to Max. They would have to come to a verbal agreement on a long-term extension prior to signing off to a trade. How is that legal though? Well, it’s something that’s done all the time.

Last year, the Montreal Canadiens acquired Jonathan Drouin right before the draft. The ensuing press conference announced both the trade to Montreal and a contract extension at the same time. Habs GM Marc Bergevin was given permission by the Tampa Bay Lightning to discuss a contract prior to pulling the trigger on the trade. Had Drouin not wanted to sign long-term in Montreal and elected to go to salary arbitration, the trade would not have gone through. Similarly, the Kyle Turris trade to Nashville from Ottawa was also contingent on Turris’ long-term commitment to the Predators. Had he chosen to test free-agency instead of signing with Nashville, the entire Duchene trade would never have worked.

Once contract details are verbally agreed upon between the Pacioretty camp and Team B, the trade would look like so: Pacioretty for a 2018 1st + roster player + a conditional 1st round pick in 2019. The Habs would only receive the 2019 first round pick if Pacioretty signs with Team B on July 1st. Although everyone would know that Max would re-sign with Team B, adding a conditional pick would allow the Canadiens to stay within the confines of the CBA.

July 1st Trade

If the Canadiens do decide to wait until July 1st, they can re-sign their captain themselves. The Canadiens would be able to sign Pacioretty to a max 8-year deal and then proceed to trade him. This might be more attractive for some teams that are looking to get a long-term scoring threat. Pacioretty would most probably not demand the insane contract terms that some unrestricted free agents might. Teams would likely offer significant assets on July 1st after striking out on over-priced free agents. This is where Marc Bergevin would be able to extract maximum value.

Teams like the Ducks, the Oilers, the Panthers and the Kings would love to add a player like Pacioretty on a long-term contract. They would skip the outrageous prices of free agency and secure a cost-controlled 30+ goal scorer. In turn, the Canadiens will be able to ask for the moon. Teams who know the Canadiens needs at Center would have no choice to offer a young C to entice Montreal. This is why Pacioretty would be made available in the first place, to help fill an almost 20-year organizational need. If the Canadiens were to wait until the later parts of the afternoon on July 1st, most of the big ticket free-agents will be gone. At that time, the NHL GMs that struck out on free agency will circle back on Pacioretty. This is when they will begin meeting Bergevin’s supposedly outrageous trade demands.

Max Pacioretty to Be Traded No Matter What

In the end, whether or not Max Pacioretty does indeed to a Trade and Sign or a Sign and Trade, the Canadiens are indeed in the driver’s seat. The addition of long-term from an asset as valuable as Pacioretty only reinforces Montreal’s position of strength. With a long-term deal in tow, it will be difficult for teams to not unload an NHL-ready center prospect that Montreal so desperately desires. With that said, expect something to go down with Pacioretty within the next month. The Canadiens have the chance to prompt a solid re-tool and a Pacioretty trade is key, especially if signed.