Talk about waiting until the 11th hour.
Max Pacioretty is now a member of the Vegas Golden Knights after a deal was struck between themselves and the Montreal Canadiens late Sunday.
In return, the Habs get forwards Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft (previously owned by the Columbus Blue Jackets). Montreal also retained 10 percent of Pacioretty’s salary in the deal.
The deal ends months of speculation involving the now-former Habs captain in what turned into the summer’s hottest soap opera in the NHL.
Earlier this week, Pacioretty made it known he wouldn’t be negotiating a new contract with the team (or any other team for that matter, in case he was traded during the season), essentially setting his own ultimatum. The Canadiens, who reportedly hadn’t entered talks with Pacioretty all summer, had to react.
The Canadiens couldn’t conceivably enter the regular season with Pacioretty unsigned after Pacioretty’s announcement regarding negotiations last week.
That move forced general manager Marc Bergevin’s hand and likely went from getting the most to getting what he could in pretty short order.
[The Canadiens wasted Max Pacioretty]
Depending on who you believe (in this case, Pacioretty’s agent Allan Walsh), the 29-year-old wanted to stay in Montreal. If you’re to believe Canadiens owner Geoff Molson, a trade was asked for.
But it was evident all along that the Canadiens — particularly Bergevin — wanted to trade his captain, for reasons only known to the man himself.
Pacioretty had been a godsend to the Canadiens, like P.K. Subban before him, but instead of embracing that gift from the heavens, they decided to waste it (like Subban).
What’s done is done, however.
In the short-term, it’s Vegas who wins the trade.
They get a top goal-scorer added to a lineup that went to the Stanley Cup in their inaugural season this past year. Pacioretty. who has 448 points in 626 NHL games, instantly makes the Golden Knights a better team and positions them for another run next spring. Vegas also has to be thinking they can lock up Pacioretty long-term as well. They still have over $9 million in cap space for this coming season and Pacioretty has one year left on his current deal.
In the long-run, Montreal may just even it out.
Suzuki was taken 13th overall in the 2017 draft and will, if things go to plan, be a part of a new spine down the middle at center for the Canadiens in the future along with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Ryan Poehling.
The Canadiens are rebuilding and stocking up on a top-tier prospect like Suzuki is exactly what is needed to do it right.
Still, one wonders what all this time between now and back at the trade deadline in February did to harm Pacioretty’s value on the trade market.
Tatar could bounce back. Suzuki could turn into the center worthy of a first-round selection. That second-round pick could turn into a valuable asset.
Pacioretty is a star. There’s no ‘could’ there.
Montreal’s loss is Vegas’ gain. Pacioretty is a great player joining a great team. A tried, tested and true goal-scorer — scoring 30 or more five times over his decade-long career — and point producer, even on less-than-stellar Montreal squads.
And now Vegas looks primed to once again be a force in the Pacific Division and a return to the Stanley Cup Final doesn’t seem like a silly thought.
Pacioretty is now in a place where he doesn’t need to shoulder all that comes with being a captain in Montreal. That bodes well for the 10-year vet.
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck