If they are actually shopping him, he would be an attractive option for any team in need of scoring.
The hurdle is going to be the $7 million salary cap hit over the next three seasons.
As of this moment there are only seven teams in the NHL that have enough salary cap space to take on such a contract this season without retained salary on Vegas’ side, or Vegas taking back another contract.
Those teams: Florida, Columbus, Detroit, Ottawa, Nashville, Los Angeles, and New Jersey.
There are a handful of teams that can probably be scratched off from that list.
Columbus has the salary cap space and the need for scoring, but it still has to re-sign Pierre-Luc Dubois, who will take up most of its remaining $9.2 million in salary cap space. I am not saying it could not work there, but it would require some creativity on both sides.
Ottawa, Detroit, and Los Angeles are in the early stages of rebuilds and not really in a position to add a 32-year-old winger on a $7 million per year contract. They are probably out.
So let’s take a look at the others.
I still think the offer sheet option is an intriguing option, but Pacioretty would also be a great fit.
The Predators love to swing for the fences in trades, and they still have more than $12 million in salary cap space with only restricted free agent Luke Kunin left to re-sign. They easily have the money to take on that contract and they are still in a position where their window for contention is open.
Their offense was already weak and saw close to 70 goals leave town this offseason with no proven impact players coming back to replace it. Pacioretty would help fix that and maybe even help improve what has been the league’s worst power play over the past two seasons.
They need another finisher, and Pacioretty is one of the league’s best.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils are a fascinating situation. They are not a contender, but they are also not a team that is setting up to be a disaster, either.
They have two recent No. 1 overall picks hopefully ready to take a significant leap in their development, and with Corey Crawford and Mackenzie Blackwood in net they have what should be an outstanding goalie duo that will keep them in a lot of games. If they can avoid all of the late game collapses they had to start last season and get some competent goaltending, they could be surprisingly competitive.
They also have more salary cap space than any other team in the NHL with a whopping $17 million in space still remaining.
Blackwood (restricted free agent) still needs re-signed, but he is only going to take up a small portion of that space.
They also still need more offense. A lot of it.
They are obviously banking heavily on Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes to be stars, but they could still use another proven scorer or two. There is also the fact that both Nikita Gusev and Kyle Palmieri are unrestricted free agents after this season and there is no guarantee they will be back. Pacioretty would give them a proven scorer that is still under contract for the next two years. It also would not prohibit them from re-signing one of the other two forwards. It would also be kind of funny to see Pacioretty be reunited with P.K. Subban in New Jersey just a couple of years after each of them was traded out of Montreal.
The Panthers’ biggest need is improving their defensive play and goaltending.
Their offseason moves are intriguing when it comes to improving the former, and they created a new department to try and squeeze excellence out of the latter. We will see how it all works.
While their offense has been very good the past two years, they did lose a lot this offseason with Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman (their top-two goal scorers from a season ago) leaving in free agency.
This is a team that is clearly determined to make the playoffs, and they still have close to $8.5 million in salary cap space to play with.