Deadline day was a quiet one for the Habs who made a pair of small moves while keeping Max Pacioretty in the fold. Did they do enough? Did they make the right call by not trading Pacioretty? Our writers offer up their thoughts.
Kevin Leveille: From everything being about Mike Reilly on social media, one is lead to believe that this is essentially a very Marc Bergevin-like move. He moved out a player who excels at creating scoring chances at the offensive end but is terrible in managing the defensive zone, for another player that has the same strengths and weaknesses. The main exchange here is the hope that Reilly can exceed expectations in Montreal, and the improvement of their 5th round pick to a 4th round pick.
I usually prefer to judge the player for myself, and though this is based on only a few games, this is my early take on Reilly. He reminds me a great deal of Nathan Beaulieu. He makes extremely risky decisions all over the ice. While these are welcome in the offensive zone (especially considering the lack of puck-moving defencemen on the roster), they can create havoc in the defensive end. Also, it depends if those risks are working out on a given night. Against the Islanders, the risks were paying off for Reilly so he had a great game. Not so sure the outcome will be the same versus teams with a more structured forecheck. Finally, perhaps Reilly can find a home in Montreal as an offensive-minded fifth defender, without the pressures of being a first round pick (like Beaulieu and Morrow).
I think not moving Pacioretty is a great move. It seems relatively clear that Montreal shopped him and didn’t find what they wanted on the market. If Pacioretty still feels like it’s time to move on in the offseason, then perhaps the market can look like what the management team wants as a return. Or, perhaps Bergevin can entice an elite playmaking centre to come play in Montreal to help Pacioretty change his mind. At his current cap hit, there is absolutely no negative in keeping Pacioretty around into the last year of his current contract. Keeping him around after that depends entirely on his requested monetary figure, but it’s quite acceptable to cross that bridge when one gets there.
Brian La Rose: I’m not all that surprised by the lack of overall activity from the Habs on deadline day. Their one true chip to play was Tomas Plekanec and he had already been dealt. Getting a fourth for Morrow was a bit more than I thought he’d get and Reilly should at least fill the depth defender spot through next season at a pretty cheap cap hit. For a future fifth-round pick, that’s not a bad move to make, even if it’s not too exciting.
As for Pacioretty, it certainly sounds like Bergevin was asking for the moon (and then some). While it’s nice to see him not settle, going this route has also come back to bite him in the past (look no further than Jarred Tinordi). A decision now needs to be made – is he part of the future or not? If it’s the latter, a trade will need to be made before next season starts; the circus that was in place the last few weeks cannot be allowed to be in place for next year as well.
Paul MacLeod: Considering the haul of players and picks that the Rangers got for Rick Nash and all of the negative press around Pacioretty, I was hoping for a trade to restock the cupboard. Specifically, I wanted a deal with St. Louis to bring Robert Thomas to Montreal. Alas, Doug Armstrong decided to fold on the season and the full-on rebuild was not to be–at least not yet.
Trading Morrow for a fourth and collecting Mike Reilly for the fifth-rounder received from the Jerabek deal were typical Bergevin moves. Okay, not earth-shattering, and not addressing the primary, gaping holes in the roster.
Overall Grade: Meh.
Norm Szcyrek: I was somewhat surprised the Habs did not trade Pacioretty. This season’s scapegoat for all of Montreal’s woes was the target of a lot of speculation but the deadline passed without that changing. It’s very likely that the market demand was not high enough for a proven goal scorer like Max, and it did not help that he’s having his career-worst scoring season. It’s still possible he may be moved at around the June draft; however, doing so will likely leave another hole to fill for Marc Bergevin with regards to the Canadiens’ offence.
With regards to the minor trades the team completed to obtain Reilly and jettison Morrow, I am pleased with these moves. Morrow was a nightmare at times in his own zone, making bad decisions especially for a young player with over 100 games played at the NHL level now. He does have a pro level shot which must have been the main reason another team wanted him. Now Reilly arrives in Montreal with a similar reputation to Morrow. I went back and re-watched the two games Minnesota played Montreal in November and focused on Reilly. What I found was that reputation was undeserved, as he played a decent game on defence, practically mistake free while flashing some offensive tools in his skating, passing and shot. I realize that is a short sample size but I believe if he continues to keep his game simple he should be an improvement as a third pairing defenceman and one that can help out with the second wave of the power play.
Dave Woodward: The Reilly and Morrow deals are difficult to assess. One is tempted to review the deals as related since late-round picks were exchanged for each player (a fifth surrendered for Reilly and a fourth was received for Morrow). Reilly was playing on the third pairing in Minnesota and Morrow was in and out of the lineup on a weak Montreal defence corps. The Wild have a stronger defence and a better team (which suggests that Reilly may be a better NHL defenceman at this phase) and Reilly is also touted as a puck-moving defenceman, which addresses a glaring weakness on the Canadiens’ back end. There is also some benefit to the Canadiens’ acquisition of a 2018 fourth-round pick. Before these trades, they were without a guaranteed pick in that round for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. If someone they have their eye on remains available after their third-rounder, the fourth-round pick may have some value.
The word out of Montreal is that the Canadiens did not receive an offer close to their asking price for Pacioretty so they did not come close to trading their Captain. Their asking price was likely too rich (rumoured to have been a first and second round pick, a prospect and a roster player). Nonetheless, if the management team did not get a good offer, it makes sense to wait until the NHL Draft. At that time, more players, picks and prospects will be available and more buyers will be bidding. In my view, it should not be a foregone conclusion that Max should be traded. Pacioretty is a good player that has accomplished a great deal on an ordinary team and without ever playing with a number one centre. If the Habs retool (rather than rebuild), absent a deal they cannot refuse, the Canadiens should strongly consider keeping and extending him.