Max Pacioretty has seen his name come up in trade speculation due to his struggles and the Habs falling quickly out of the playoff race. Is this the right time to trade him though? Our writers offer up their thoughts.
Brian La Rose: While the case can be made that Pacioretty is worth more now in that the acquiring team will get more than a full year out of him, I’d be inclined to wait to deal him if I’m Marc Bergevin until closer to the draft. The exception to this would be if a team is desperate and is willing to pay the steep price that has reportedly been set. If someone thinks Pacioretty is that final piece of the puzzle and the Habs can land a key piece for the future (preferably a centre) plus a top draft pick (or another quality prospect), then it would make sense to move him within the next month and a bit.
If not, there should be a larger market for Pacioretty’s services in June. Teams will have a lot more payroll flexibility (even though Pacioretty is on a team-friendly deal, $4.5 million is still a lot for some contenders to absorb) and there should be more suitors as there may be non-playoff teams who want to make a splash in advance of free agency or have a mandate to add to get back to the playoffs. Yes, the team isn’t getting as much value in terms of control over the player but the extra teams involved in the bidding process should help offset a lesser starting offer due to only having him for the one year.
Pacioretty is showing signs of slowing down and while he has a few good years left in him at least, I don’t think keeping him around in the hopes of signing a contract extension after July 1st makes much sense unless he is willing to sign a below-market deal. That doesn’t seem like a possibility at this time so a parting of the ways makes sense before the puck drops on next season.
Alex Létourneau: The best time to trade Pacioretty is at this trade deadline. You have an elite goal-scoring winger with a very, very attractive contract for next season, so it would be best to take advantage of inflated prices during that market window. Shipping him to a team that thinks they’re contending for the cup should be able to net a young, proven offensive prospect and a 1st round pick at a minimum.
That said, for a team bereft of scoring, is it wise to trade one of the most prolific scoring wingers in the NHL over the last five seasons? Can Bergevin be trusted to trade such an asset and expect to receive a just return? Pacioretty has been snake-bit this season, so you’re also looking at trading your asset at a current lower value.
Should they trade him? I’m not sure yet, let’s see where they are at the trade deadline. If they do trade him though, it should be at this trade deadline. He’s more than a rental with that cap friendly contract.
Kevin Leveille: Bergevin should trade Pacioretty when he can maximize the return he will receive for him. Consider that the Avalanche received picks in the first three rounds of the draft, along with a potential top-six winger (Vladislav Kamenev), a former first-round pick (Shane Bowers – 28th overall), an offensively gifted defenceman in Samuel Girard (though undersized and likely best suited for 2nd pairing minutes as his ceiling), and a backup goaltender in exchange for Matt Duchene earlier this season.
Now, the price for a centre is higher than a winger, but Pacioretty is one of the league’s elite snipers, whereas Duchene hasn’t been as consistent. Realistically, any offer not including a very high potential top centre and a first-round pick doesn’t even get me to call back if I’m Bergevin. As for the suggestion that has gone around with Pacioretty going to Edmonton for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, trading Pacioretty low and Nugent-Hopkins high is the only reason this one-for-one is even suggested, so my answer to that is no! I very much doubt teams will be in a position to offer the desired return midseason, so I’d look to the summer/draft as the best time to move on from Pacioretty.
Norm Szcyrek: When should Pacioretty be dealt? As soon as possible. A case could be made that he has been playing like he wants out of Montreal, while smartly not stating anything to the media to make it obvious. Unfortunately for the Habs, the rest of the team is not scoring and he is technically their best goal scorer. His trade value is at a low but he does have a solid track record. So a good team with depth could benefit a lot by trading for him. Personally, I’m hoping a trade could be made with the Blues, who have some solid prospects yet have a strong enough team to be a serious Cup contender who might be willing to roll the dice on obtaining Max.
Dave Woodward: The threshold question is whether they should trade Pacioretty in the first place. In my view, there is much more fundamentally wrong with the Canadiens than their beleaguered Captain. In fact, despite his recent struggles, Pacioretty has been one of the leading NHL goal scorers five-on-five for the past several years and has done so without ever playing with a number one centre. If they do not get an attractive package for a player of Pacioretty’s calibre, they should keep him.
All that said, the Habs’ aging core players (of which Max is a part) and their current struggles means they must at least retool, if not totally rebuild. The reality is that the Habs’ current core players will not form a contender. This fact along with Pacioretty’s past success, his club-friendly contract and the incontrovertible fact that the “C” weighs on Pacioretty all make a trade more than likely. If the Canadiens have decided to explore a trade (and all indications are that they have done just that), the right time to trade him is when a good deal comes along and not before. There is absolutely no hurry as he is locked up for the 2018-19 season.
This season is lost and there will likely be more suitors in the offseason, particularly at the NHL Draft. In fact, prospects, picks and young players are more likely to be available at the draft which is probably what the Canadiens should be looking for in any trade. That said, if a good deal comes along before the trade deadline, the Canadiens should have a hard look at it. My own view is that the Canadiens’ pipeline of young talent must be replenished and a Pacioretty trade would have to address this organizational weakness.