At this point, a Max Pacioretty trade out of Montreal seems imminent.
For a variety of reasons, it sounds like the Canadiens are no longer interested in keeping their captain around. Pacioretty is in the final year of his contract, so playing the waiting game isn’t necessarily in the team’s best interest, either.
It’s a difficult situation for general manager Marc Bergevin to be in. Everyone in the hockey world is aware that a divorce between the two sides is coming. Somehow, Bergevin will have to get the best possible return for a talented scorer whose stock is at its lowest.
But here at PHT, we like to help general managers find solutions to their problems, so here are five potential landing spots that make perfect sense for Pacioretty and for the Canadiens.
• Chicago Blackhawks
The ‘Hawks have reportedly been in the mix for Pacioretty this offseason, but Bergevin’s former team still hasn’t found a way to acquire the winger from the Canadiens. Chicago has over $5.4 million in cap space, so fitting him under the cap wouldn’t be an issue.
Outside of signing Chris Kunitz, Brandon Manning and Cam Ward, it’s been a quiet offseason for Chicago. Getting Pacioretty would be the biggest move of the summer for this team. After failing to make the playoffs last year, they could sure use a shot in the arm and an upgrade to their roster.
The biggest issue is figuring out what the Blackhawks could give up in a trade for Pacioretty and what the Canadiens are looking for in return for their captain. Yes, we know about Montreal’s need down the middle, but the ‘Hawks wouldn’t part ways with Jonathan Toews or Nick Schmaltz for a player on an expiring contract. On the flip side, the Habs probably wouldn’t be interested in acquiring another aging player like Artem Anismov.
Adam Boqvist, who the Blackhawks took eighth overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, is probably a no-go either. So coming up with a package might be difficult. Maybe a deal could center around picks, a prospect like Henri Jokiharju (Chicago’s first-rounder in 2017) and a roster player.
• Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers have been looking for a winger to play with Connor McDavid. Instead of using a center like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in that role, why not go after a speedy player with scoring ability like Pacioretty?
Edmonton has $4.97 million in cap space, but they still have to re-sign restricted free agent Darnell Nurse, so they’ll likely have to shed salary if they’re going to make an impact trade. If Pacioretty scored 30-plus while playing with a guy like David Desharnais (no offense, David), imagine what he could do playing next to the best player in the game.
If the Oilers want to get back to where they were two seasons ago, getting McDavid a legit scoring winger would only help them in that regard. Can they find enough quality pieces to make a trade work? That’s a different story. Would Pacioretty be willing to sign a lucrative extension to stay in Edmonton long-term? That’s another potential road block, but you’d have to think that playing with McDavid would help convince him to stick around.
• Los Angeles Kings
The Kings were the team that reportedly came the closest to landing Pacioretty on draft day. As the two teams were negotiating a potential deal, Los Angeles made Pacioretty a contract offer, which he didn’t like so the deal fell through.
Even though they failed to negotiate an extension with Pacioretty in June, they shouldn’t just throw in the towel on acquiring the five-time 30-goal scorer. The Kings obviously had a package that was serious enough in Montreal’s eyes that they would allow them to negotiate with Pacioretty directly.
Los Angeles also has a huge need up front. Getting Anze Kopitar some help still has to be a priority for them. Sure, Ilya Kovalchuk helps in that regard, but you can never have too many scorers. The Kings only have $2.51 million in cap space, so they’d have to find a way to fit Pacioretty’s $4.5 million salary.
• New Jersey Devils
The Devils haven’t really been linked to Pacioretty at all, but they are an up-and-coming team that shocked the hockey world by making the playoffs last year, and they have more cap space than any other team in the league as of right now.
GM Ray Shero might be apprehensive about making a short-term move to acquire a player like Pacioretty, but they might be able to get the New Canaan, Connecticut native (less than 70 miles away from the Prudential Center) to agree to stick around for the long haul.
Adding Pacioretty to a forward group that includes Taylor Hall, Travis Zajac, Kyle Palmieri, Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt would be a huge for the Devils. It all depends on whether or not Shero wants to take the patient approach or if he’s willing to be a little more aggressive with his team.
• San Jose Sharks
GM Doug Wilson has showed off his creative side over the last few months. He went out and acquired/re-signed Evander Kane, he was able to shed salary by landing Mike Hoffman from Ottawa before quickly shipping him off to Florida, and he was one of the finalists in the running for John Tavares (the pitch must have been creative in some way, shape or form).
The Sharks would need to clear a little cap space to fit Pacioretty (assuming Montreal doesn’t retain any salary), but that shouldn’t really be a problem.
Adding the 29-year-old would give the Sharks some added offensive bite in a tough Pacific Division. If they can make it happen at the right price, they should definitely pursue a player with Pacioretty’s ability.
Fun fact: The Sharks were the team that traded the Canadiens the first-round pick they used to select Pacioretty in the 2007 NHL Entry draft.