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Canadiens brass moving forward after Pacioretty trade

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The Montreal Canadiens are turning the page.

Just hours after a late Sunday trade sent now-former Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights, Habs brass said the team is now looking forward after a tumultuous, soap opera-like summer in La Belle Province.

“We are entirely focused now on the team and having a great start,” Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said from the team’s golf tournament on Monday. “We’re turning the page. That’s nothing against Max. It’s what happens in hockey once and a while. He and I are friends and we spent a lot of time together over the past 10 years and I appreciate and like him very much and I wish him nothing but the best.”

Molson said the trade for Tomas Tatar, prospect Nick Suzuki and a second-round pick in 2019 came together relatively quickly over the past week or so. Discussions were ongoing with Pacioretty and when the trade request came in, the Canadiens started to actively pursue it.

“The player and the organization agreed that it was probably in the best interest of Max and the organization to look for a trade,” Molson said. “Every once in a while an organization has to make a decision, a team has to make a decision to move on. Mutually, Max’s side with his agent and the Montreal Canadiens agreed that it was probably the right time to make a move.”

[Max Pacioretty saga ends with trade to Vegas]

Molson didn’t want to get into the details of Pacioretty’s trade request or when it was made.

“It’s been going on for several months now that we’ve been trying to make this happen. Here we are today, the morning after,” Molson said.

Speaking to the media after Molson, general manager Marc Bergevin said that a trade request from Pacioretty came in last season.

“That’s a fact, yes,” Bergevin said.

Last week, Pacioretty and his agent, Allan Walsh, shot down the notion that their camp had asked for a trade.

“From our perspective, we’re going to focus on telling the truth and that is a request was made and that’s it,” Molson said.

Bergevin said that when Pacioretty made the trade request, it was evident then that an extension wasn’t going to be on the table. The GM added he never told Pacioretty that he was trying to trade him at any point last season.

“This has been going on for a while,” Bergevin said.

Bergevin added that the Golden Knights were given permission prior to the trade to talk about an extension with Pacioretty.

Suzuki was the key piece in the deal, according to Bergevin, who said the Canadiens had him 11th on their draft list in 2017. The Golden Knights would select him No. 13 overall.

“It’s something we really had to have,” Bergevin said. “He’s a cerebral player, he thinks the game well… he’s got a skill set that made him the 13th pick overall.”

Bergevin expects Tatar to be in camp and believes he can be an asset on the power play.

Pacioretty and the Golden Knights make their only trip to Montreal on November 10, which should be an emotional evening inside Bell Centre.

“Max was a great Montreal Canadien and he always will be a great Montreal Canadien,” Molson said. “He’s always welcome back in this market as a person.”

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Max Pacioretty saga ends with trade to Vegas

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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 phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Second Canadiens prospect stretchered off after bad hit

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For the second straight game, a Montreal Canadiens prospect has been stretchered off the ice.

The latest incident took place Sunday and was the result of an ugly hit by Toronto Maple Leafs prospect forward Hudson Elynuik on Montreal defenseman Jarret Tyszka in the first period of the NHL Rookie Showdown tournament in Laval.

Sportsnet’s Eric Engels reported that Tyszka was taken to hospital for tests, and said that he was conscious and moving his limbs.

Elyniuk was tossed from the game for checking from behind.

On Friday, Canadiens prospect Jake Evans was drilled by a high hit from Ottawa Senators defenseman Jonathan Aspirot. Evans fell backwards, smacking his head off the ice. He required a stretcher to get off the ice and was taken to the hospital before being released.

Tyszka was selected in the fifth round by the Canadiens in 2017 and has played the past three seasons in the Western Hockey League with the Seattle Thunderbirds. Tyszka is expected back in Seattle for his final season junior hockey.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Expect huge year from Max Pacioretty no matter where he plays

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Montreal Canadiens.

As of this posting in the middle of August, Max Pacioretty is still a member of the Montreal Canadiens.

He is still a member of the team after speculation that he could be dealt leading up to the trade deadline at the end of the 2017-18 season.

He is still a member of the team after reports surfaced in mid-July (subscription required) that the team was not going to negotiate a new contract extension with him and would look to trade him as soon as possible.

How long he will actually remain with the Canadiens is anybody’s guess at this point, but given that he only has one year left on his current contract and the team seems to be on a collision course with another disappointing season, it certainly stands to reason that he may not be on the team before the end of the season. Almost certainly not at the start of next season, barring some unforeseen change in the Canadiens’ approach.

No matter where he finishes the upcoming season there is one thing you should expect from Pacioretty, and that is a bounce back year in the goal-scoring department.

Among the many things that went wrong for the Canadiens this past season, a down year from Pacioretty was one of the more damaging developments. After being one of the league’s top goal-scorers over the previous six seasons (when he was a lock for at least 30 goals every year and averaged 35 per 82 games played) Pacioretty suffered through one of his worst seasons as a pro, managing only 17 goals in 64 games.

From a traditional box scores numbers outlook, it was an ugly season, at least by the standard Pacioretty had set for himself.

But it was not as bad as it seemed, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest it will not happen again.

[Canadiens Day: Looking back | Breakthrough | Under Pressure | Three Questions

Pacioretty’s season went south early in the year when he went through a 22-game stretch starting in mid-November where he scored just a single goal. It was an eye-opening slump because it’s not what we had come to expect from Pacioretty throughout his career, and on a team that was already desperate for offense it stood out even more. The Canadiens needed him to carry the offense, and it was not happening.

It certainly was not for a lack of effort or chances.

During that slump he was still averaging more than 3.10 shots on goal per game and had managed to score on just one of his 69 total shots on goal during the slump, a shooting percentage of just 1.4 percent.

If you want to find little faults in his game during that stretch you could probably certainly do that, but the biggest issue for an All-Star level player during that sort of slump is often times just a lot of bad luck. Every top goal-scorer in the league is prone to that sort of stretch, and it is usually just as simple as the puck isn’t going in the net. As much as nobody ever wants to admit it, sometimes it just happens.

Given Pacioretty’s career shooting percentages (which are usually around 11 percent) you would expect him to score at least seven goals on that same number of shots, and if even just four or five more end up going in the net we’re probably look at his season (and that stretch) in a totally different light.

Even though Pacioretty is entering his age 30 season and has probably already played his best hockey, there was enough in his 2017-18 performance to suggest that he still has some big hockey ahead of him, and there was not much of a change in his actual play or usage. His ice-time was identical to what it was the previous year. His underlying numbers, including his possession numbers and his ability to generate shots, attempts and chances, were still strong and among the best on the team. The biggest drop came from his shooting percentage, and even that was largely due to that 22-game slump in the middle of the year.

At a $4.5 million salary cap Pacioretty is still set to be one of the biggest bargains in the NHL for at least one more season, and for right now the Canadiens are going to be the beneficiary of that.

Where he is playing at the end of the season is still up for speculation, but no matter where it ends up being (Montreal or somewhere else) that team is going to get one of the league’s best goal-scorers.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

It’s Montreal Canadiens day at PHT

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Montreal Canadiens.

2017-18:

29-40-13, 71 pts. (6th Atlantic Division; 14th Eastern Conference)

IN:

Max Domi
Joel Armia
Matthew Peca
Michael Chaput
Tomas Plekanec
Xavier Ouellet

OUT:

Alex Galchenyuk
Daniel Carr
Ales Hemsky

RE-SIGNED

Phillip Danault
Antti Niemi
Jacob De La Rose
Rinat Valiev

After getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs in 2017, the Canadiens put together a horribly disappointing season last year. None of their core players played well, which obviously didn’t help. Max Pacioretty didn’t score as often, Shea Weber suffered a serious injury and Carey Price wasn’t himself.

For the first time in five years, Pacioretty failed to hit the 30-goal mark. Now, he’s entering the final year of contract, and it sounds like a divorce between he and and the team is imminent. If the Habs ship their captain to another team, who will score goals for this team? They traded Alex Galchenyuk for a playmaker like Max Domi, so they don’t have any natural scorers left on the roster.

[Canadiens Day: Breakthrough | Under Pressure | Three Questions]

As for Weber, he’s fallen on hard times injury-wise. He got off to a great start (16 points in 26 games), but he eventually missed a good chunk of the season with a foot injury. The 33-year-old will also be out until at least Christmas because of knee surgery. Not having Weber will be tough overcome.

The biggest question surrounding the Canadiens upcoming season is whether or not Price can bounce back from the dismal season he had in 2017-18. He missed an extended period of time with lower-body injury and then a concussion. The team is light on talent, but if they can get Price back to where he was a few years ago, they’ll have a chance in every game they play. If he can’t get back to form, the next eight years will be incredibly long (they owe him $84 million).

This is a big year for GM Marc Bergevin. If botches a potentially Pacioretty trade, or if the team crumbles again, he might be looking for a new job. No matter what happens, it should be an interesting year in Habs land.

Prospect Pool:

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, 18, Assat Pori – 2018 first-round pick

The Canadiens have been searching for a number one center for years, and Kotkaniemi might finally be that guy. He’s a big body with good offensive instincts. Kotkaniemi is also capable of playing a strong all-around game. He has the ability to develop into a top-line player, but he might just need a bit more time to develop. The young Finn racked up 10 goals and 29 points in 57 games in the SM-Liiga

• Ryan Poehling, C, 19, St. Cloud State – 2017 first-round pick

Poehling made some huge strides in his second year at St. Cloud. He went from being a 13-point player in his first year to producing 31 points in 36 games last season. Like Kotkaniemi, Poehling is also big (6-foot-2, 200 pounds), but the American forward isn’t as gifted offensively. The biggest question around his game is whether or not his offensive abilities are good enough to make him a second-line center. Poehling is heading back to St. Cloud State for another year, but he could join the Canadiens next season.

Noah Juulsen, D, 21, Laval Rocket – 2015 first-round pick

Juulsen got his first taste of NHL experience during Montreal’s “lost” season last year and he certainly didn’t look out of place. He’s a good skater that can move the puck efficiently. He might not develop into a top pairing defenseman, but he’s certainly capable of being a top-four blueliner for years to come. Even though the Canadiens have several defensemen on one-way contracts, Juulsen has a pretty good shot at making the team out of camp.

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.