Is Marchessault a better Golden Knights trade target than Pacioretty?

Is Marchessault a better Golden Knights trade target than Pacioretty?
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If you believe Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley, the team is not looking to trade Max Pacioretty. Yet, in that interview with a Las Vegas CBS affiliate, even Foley admitted that the Golden Knights need to clear some salary cap space. So, if you’re a team looking to poach a Golden Knights player, here’s a thought: try to trade for Jonathan Marchessault instead of Pacioretty.

Golden Knights respond to Pacioretty trade rumors, but there’s buzz

In speaking with 8 News Now, Foley insisted “we are not shopping Patches.”

TSN’s Frank Seravalli first reported that the Golden Knights might be looking to trade Pacioretty. The Athletic’s Jesse Granger followed up on that report (sub required), noting that Pacioretty’s name has been coming up alongside Jonathan Marchessault and Marc-Andre Fleury.

One source told Granger that the Golden Knights were “aggressively shopping” Pacioretty and Marchessault, which makes sense since … frankly, trading for Fleury is a tough sell.

(Let’s get this out of the way. The Golden Knights would probably need to bribe a team to take Fleury, 36, whose contract carries a $7 million cap hit for two more seasons [through 2021-22].)

While Foley denied the Golden Knights’ interest in trading Pacioretty, it’s possible he meant that Vegas also isn’t trying to move a prominent player like Fleury or Marchessault, either. That’s because, technically, the Golden Knights don’t need to move that much money.

Via Cap Friendly, the Golden Knights currently have $82.47M in cap obligations (roster size of 21 players). So, they’re only above the $81.5M salary cap by about $1M.

If you’re a rebuilding team, would you mind taking a depth draft pick to absorb, say, Tomas Nosek ($1.25M)? As Granger notes, the Golden Knights could also squeeze under the cap by waiving Nick Holden, or even Fleury.

So, really, the Golden Knights don’t really need to trade Pacioretty or Marchessault. Considering the investment they just made in Alex Pietrangelo, do you really want to weaken the team? Especially after having to give up Nate Schmidt and Paul Stastny for little more than breathing room?

Let’s push past the Golden Knights’ side of trading Pacioretty or Marchessault for the time being, though. If you were a team looking to improve, would you be better off trading for Marchessault or Pacioretty?

Marchessault Schmidt Pacioretty Golden Knights trade rumors
(Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

The argument for trading for Golden Knights’ Marchessault over Pacioretty

  • Jonathan Marchessault is cheaper than Max Pacioretty.

Marchessault carries a cap hit of $5 million for four more seasons (through 2023-24). Meanwhile, Pacioretty presents a $7M cap hit through 2022-23.

Considering COVID context, both forwards cost less money toward the end of their deals. For two seasons, Marchessault costs $5M in actual salary, but then that drops to just $3.5M in 2022-23 and 2023-24. Pacioretty earns $7M in 2020-21, then a more affordable $5.25M in 2021-22 and 2022-23.

So, neither player gives a team immediate relief from a cap hit vs. salary perspective, but both do down the road. (Interestingly, salary bonuses aren’t much of a factor with either player.)

  • Marchessault is younger than Pacioretty, and thus brings lesser risks.

To the Golden Knights’ credit, they didn’t give Pacioretty — an aging forward with the sort of injury history that earns the nickname “Wolverine” — an outright gargantuan contract. But it’s still not totally worry-free.

Remember how wobbly the Golden Knights’ investment in Pacioretty looked after 2019-20?

At 32, the bottom could fall out for Pacioretty. While Marchessault could also tussle with Father Time, it’s less of a worry, being that he’s 29.

(Granted, it’s fairer to say that Pacioretty is two-years-and-change older than Marchessault. The point still stands.)

The value perspective

  • Marchessault may not be far behind Pacioretty from an on-ice impact.

Yes, it’s true that the Marchessault – William KarlssonReilly Smith line no longer drives the Golden Knights’ bus the way it once did. But Marchessault measures up reasonably well to Pacioretty based on Evolving Hockey’s RAPM multi-season charts:

Pacioretty Marchessault RAPM trade rumors Evolving Hockey
RAPM comparison via Evolving Hockey

Their isolated impacts at Hockey Viz also point to Marchessault providing similar value to Pacioretty.

  • You might not need to give up as much in a Marchessault trade.

Now, it’s true that Pacioretty’s stock is higher than Marchessault’s, particularly after the 2019-20 season. Marchessault scored 22 goals and 47 points in 66 games, while Pacioretty reached 32 goals and 66 points in just 71 contests. “Patches” looked downright resurgent alongside Mark Stone.

But such movement in perception could really drive up Pacioretty’s asking price. In trading for Marchessault, a team could get a younger, cheaper player than Pacioretty, and maybe give up less in return.

[More Golden Knights trade fodder: teams that should target Pacioretty]

Smaller trade(s) would likely benefit Golden Knights the most

Look, it makes sense for the Golden Knights to at least do some window-shopping when it comes to the idea of trading Marchessault or Pacioretty. There’s value in knowing what’s out there. Even if that translates to planting seeds for a trade when it makes more sense in the future.

But, really, their best move is likely to trade neither Marchessault nor Pacioretty.

(Fleury? Now that would be a good idea, but that’s easier said than done.)

Even though they’re getting ready for merely their fourth season in the NHL, the Golden Knights are in win-now mode. They’re most likely to win big with both Pacioretty and Marchessault in the mix.

Still, it’s interesting to bat around different scenarios. What would you do if you were running the Golden Knights?

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.

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