Byron Froese

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What should potential Pacioretty trade look like for Canadiens?

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There have been plenty of rumblings about the Canadiens being willing to trade captain Max Pacioretty. That’s all fine and dandy, but GM Marc Bergevin has to make sure he gets the proper return if he decides to trade his scoring winger.

There should be no shortage of suitors for the 29-year-old sniper, who has one more year on his contract after this season. The fact that he has an incredibly reasonable cap hit of $4.5 million will only enhance his value. Pacioretty has scored 39, 37, 30 and 35 goals over the last four seasons, and he’s done so without a true number one center.

Let’s take a look at what a potential return should look like:

Help Down the Middle

It’s no secret that the Canadiens are lacking a true number one center. Fun fact: they are probably lacking a true number two center right now, too. A group made up of Tomas Plekanec, Phillip Danault, Jonathan Drouin and Byron Froese doesn’t exactly scream Stanley Cup.

Acquiring Danault from Chicago a couple of years ago was a brilliant move by Bergevin, but he’s more of a very good third-line center than a top-six guy. Drouin, who was acquired this summer, has had a hard time adjusting to center in his first season with the Canadiens. There’s no doubt that he has an elite skill-level, but even Bergevin admitted that Drouin probably isn’t a center.

Getting an established top two center for Pacioretty isn’t going to be easy (it’s probably impossible), so the team has to land a young center with enormous potential. For example, prospects like Martin Necas (Carolina), Robert Thomas (St. Louis), Gabe Vilardi (Los Angeles) are the types of players that they should be targeting. They can’t help the Habs right away, but they’re talented enough to become difference makers in the near future.

The Canadiens have been looking for that top-line center for ages, and they have to score one on a trade involving Pacioretty. He’s the biggest bargaining chip they have right now.

A Partner for Weber

Right-handed defensemen are probably harder to find than lefties, but the Canadiens have Shea Weber and Jeff Petry as their top two righties right now, so they’re fine in that regard. But they still haven’t found a left-handed blue liner that can play on a top pairing with Weber.

Of course, getting an impact prospect and a top pairing defenseman that can play big minutes probably won’t happen. Pacioretty’s a good player, but expecting two pieces of that caliber isn’t realistic, either. So, if nobody’s willing to give up a center, they need to fill their second-biggest hole, which is on defense.

Bergevin expected veterans like Jordie Benn or David Schlemko to line up next to Weber in 2017-18, and that simply didn’t work out (shocker). That’s why getting an established puck-mover should also be a priority as well.

Timing is Everything

Although the Canadiens shouldn’t be in a rush to trade their captain, timing will be everything when it comes to this move. Shipping him out of town before this year’s trade deadline could make the difference between a good return and a great return.

If a team acquiring Pacioretty had him for the 2018 playoffs and 2019 season plus playoffs, they could be willing to pay a much bigger price for him. So although they don’t have to make this trade before Feb. 26, it’s probably in their best interest to do so.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry – Canadiens at Bruins

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

Montreal Canadiens

Max PaciorettyPaul ByronCharles Hudon

Artturi LehkonenTomas PlekanecBrendan Gallagher

Alex GalchenyukJacob De La RoseJonathan Drouin

Nicolas DeslauriersByron FroeseDaniel Carr

Karl AlznerJeff Petry

Jordie BennJakub Jerabek

Victor Mete — David Schlemko

Starting goalie: Carey Price

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Boston Bruins

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronDavid Pastrnak

Jake DeBruskDavid KrejciRyan Spooner

Danton HeinenRiley NashDavid Backes

Tim SchallerSean KuralyNoel Acciari

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy

Torey KrugBrandon Carlo

Matt GrzelcykAdam McQuaid

Starting goalie: Tuukka Rask

WATCH LIVE: New York Islanders at Montreal Canadiens

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Anders LeeJohn Tavares – Alain Quine
Anthony BeauvillierMathew BarzalJordan Eberle
Michael Dal Colle – Brock NelsonShane Prince
Jason Chimera – Tanner Fritz – Cal Clutterbuck

Nick LeddyScott Mayfield
Adam PelechSebastian Aho
Thomas HickeyRyan Pulock

Starting goalie: Thomas Greiss

PREVIEW FOR ISLANDERS-CANADIENS

MONTREAL CANADIENS
Alex GalchenyukJonathan DrouinDaniel Carr
Max PaciorettyPaul ByronCharles Hudon
Artturi LehkonenTomas PlekanecBrendan Gallagher
Nicolas DeslauriersByron Froese – Jacob De La Rose

Karl AlznerJeff Petry
Jordie BennJakub Jerabek
Victor Mete – David Schlemko

Starting goalie: Cary Price

The Buzzer: Night of upsets

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Player of the Night: Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes

You know how the Flyers sunk to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division – at least for a limited time – thanks to their loss? Well, the Capitals “backed into” first in that same division – probably for a limited time, considering games played versus games in hand – after squandering a lead against the Coyotes.

Coyotes super-rookie Keller was in the middle of some of the most crucial activity. Keller generated a primary assist on the goal that sent the game to overtime and then ended it in OT with about 37 seconds remaining in extra time.

Keller now has 13 goals and 15 assists for 28 points as he continues to strive for the Calder Trophy.

He also cemented the theme of the night: upsets. The Flyers fell short against the Sabres, the Capitals squandered that lead to the lowly Coyotes, and on smaller scales, lower-ranked Canadiens beat the Flames and Panthers topped the Wild, respectively.

Highlights of the Night

Near-player-of-the-night Jonathan Huberdeau settles for the highlight of the night. While one of his goals was an empty-netter, the other was a thing of beauty in Florida’s victory:

Honorable mention goes to this Capitals goal. Washington took it pretty easy tonight against Arizona, but they also made it look easy on this one:

And another honorable mention goes to Nicolas Deslauriers of the Canadiens for this nice finish on a great effort from Byron Froese:

(Bonus factoid, too: the Canadiens have disproportionately strong luck with “Byrons.”)

Factoids:

That’s a lot of Matt Cullen.

Maybe the Capitals losing wasn’t an upset?

Scores

Sabres 4, Flyers 2
Panthers 4, Wild 2
Coyotes 3, Capitals 2 (OT)
Canadiens 3, Flames 2

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Oh look, another Maple Leaf is making his NHL debut

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Byron Froese, William Nylander, Brendan Leipsic, Kasperi Kapanen, Zach Hyman, Viktor Loov, Garret Sparks, Rinat Valiev, Nikita Soshnikov, Connor Brown and now, Tobias Lindberg.

That is the unique group of players Toronto has unified this season, in that all have made their NHL debuts during the ’15-16 campaign.

The latest, Lindberg, will draw in tonight when the Leafs take on the Sabres in Buffalo.

Lindberg, 20, was part of the package acquired in the Dion Phaneuf-to-Ottawa trade, and was recalled from the AHL earlier this morning. The Sens’ fourth-round pick in 2013, Lindberg racked up 12 points in 19 games with the Marlies before getting his break in the bigs.

It’ll be interesting to see if the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Swede can keep the good times (or, depending on how you look at them, bad times) rolling in Toronto. The club is on a bit of a streak, having gone 7-4-0 in its last 11 — and while that’s probably a good thing for the development of some of these young players, it’s not great for the club’s draft lottery odds.