It has been a wild few months for Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty. After being the subject of trade talk leading up to the trade deadline, things died down a little through the playoffs. Since then, however, there has been plenty of speculation about a trade that nearly happened, one that was reported as done but didn’t actually happen, and talk that he might just sign a contract extension with Montreal instead. The latest in this saga comes from a report stating that the team has no interest in signing him and intends to deal him as soon as possible. With that in mind, here is a look at some teams that could be interested in trading for the five-time 30-goal scorer.
San Jose Sharks
It seems like so long ago that GM Doug Wilson cleared out Mikkel Boedker’s contract in an effort to free up cap space to make a big addition this summer. While they pursued John Tavares, he instead went to Toronto and their other moves have been to re-sign their own players (including Evander Kane, whose seven-year, $49 million deal could be a Pacioretty comparable).
There was some talk that San Jose had interest at the draft but nothing came of it despite a brief report saying a deal had been reached. With the Sharks, Pacioretty wouldn’t be counted on to be a top line player and while that would lower his ice time compared to his time with Montreal, he’d likely be facing lesser checkers which could help boost his production.
While this may seem a little strange given their intention of trading fellow left winger Jeff Skinner, Carolina doesn’t appear to be typical sellers. Instead, they’re more or less simply looking to shake up the core. Accordingly, bringing in Pacioretty to replace an eventually-traded Skinner makes some sense.
Acquiring him would also free them to take a more futures-based return for Skinner rather than necessarily looking to bring in an immediate replacement. However, given their lack of recent success, there’s no guarantee that Pacioretty would be open to signing a long-term extension right away.
Vegas Golden Knights
While they added a key centre in Paul Stastny, Vegas did lose wingers David Perron (St. Louis) and James Neal (Calgary) in free agency without signing a replacement. Trade deadline addition Tomas Tatar figures to slide into one of those spots but someone like Pacioretty would fit into the other one quite nicely.
Given their reported interest in Erik Karlsson, that deal would have to have been made (or Vegas withdrawing from those talks) as they likely wouldn’t be able to be involved in discussions for both players.
Another team that lost out in the Tavares sweepstakes, Dallas could look to Pacioretty to add another key player to an already impressive attack. While it would mean adding another player whose contract is up next offseason (joining Tyler Seguin of note), they have enough money coming off the books from other deals (such as Jason Spezza) that they could re-sign both without seriously hurting their salary cap moving forward.
Like Vegas, however, they’re also involved in the Karlsson sweepstakes and conceivably wouldn’t be able to add both players so there would need to be a resolution to those talks (or the Stars deciding to withdraw) before they could really pursue Pacioretty.
Until they freed up more than $4MM in salary cap space with the seven-player Marian Hossa trade earlier this month, the Blackhawks didn’t have the room to make a run at another top player. If they decide to try to make a splash in their offseason spending, they now have that room.
Considering that they have several roster spots to fill though, they may not want to burn roughly half of their remaining salary cap room on just one player. With that in mind, they would likely hope that the Canadiens could retain at least a small portion of Pacioretty’s contract to give them a bit more wiggle room to fill out the remainder of their roster.
On top of those teams, Florida was believed to have some interest previously but their addition of Mike Hoffman could take them out of the equation. The Islanders could certainly stand to add having lost Tavares but given the fact he’s gone, they may be hesitant to part with a top pick or prospect in a trade. Minnesota was involved in talks with Montreal before the draft but given their salary cap situation, they’d need to send a player making similar money back. If the Canadiens want an established player in return for Pacioretty, the Wild could be a dark horse. Los Angeles had interest before and I’m sure would be open to circling back if the right deal came along but their cap situation would make it difficult to accomplish that now. New Jersey has tried to sign left wingers this summer (James van Riemsdyk and Patrick Maroon) but haven’t been able to get a deal done so if they believe there is a need to improve at that position, Pacioretty could be someone they turn to.
With some potential suitors needing to wait for Karlsson’s situation to be resolved and others potentially in the mix for Skinner, this deal may not happen as quickly as Montreal seems to want it to. However, given everything that has transpired in recent weeks, it seems like the Canadiens moving on from their captain is the eventual inevitable outcome.