Sainte-Julie, QUE. — Max Pacioretty’s days with the Montreal Canadiens are numbered. That’s the one thing that seems abundantly clear about his situation.
Sure, there’s a chance Pacioretty will spend the entirety of the upcoming season in a Canadiens uniform, but the smart money would be on him being moved to another team between now and the NHL’s trade deadline, possibly even at some point over the next 13 days, in the lead-up to the Canadiens’ annual golf tournament.
But even if a trade doesn’t come to pass over the coming days, weeks, or months, the chances of Pacioretty returning to the team on a new contract beyond this season appear to be dead.
It’s a fact Pacioretty seems resigned to, one that had him wrestling with the decision to host his third annual golf tournament on Tuesday. That’s why invitations to the event — not just those to Canadiens owner Geoff Molson, general manager Marc Bergevin and head coach Claude Julien — weren’t sent out until just 14 days ago.
“This tournament was … I don’t want to say rushed … but I think we wanted to wait until the last possible minute just in case something did happen,” Pacioretty said before teeing off at the Vallee de Richilieu golf club, some 40 minutes southeast of downtown Montreal.
“Something,” is a trade he’s been expecting since December of last season when the Canadiens were well on their way towards a 28th-place finish in the NHL standings.
It nearly went down at the NHL Draft in June, when a deal with the Los Angeles Kings was hinging on Pacioretty signing a six-year, $36-million contract extension. But the captain, who fell well shy of his perennial 30-goal pace with only 17 goals last season, passed on L.A.’s offer, fired agent Pat Brisson, hired agent Allan Walsh, and has since been waiting for a contract offer from the Canadiens that he said on Tuesday has yet to come.
He doesn’t appear to be holding his breath for one, either.
“I can’t control that situation,” Pacioretty said. “I just gotta worry about what I can control and that is out of my control. I think when it comes down to it, whether it’s Berge or my agent, I’ll have the discussions that are necessary. But, at this point, I can’t control any of that.”
That he would even discuss “any of that” on this day, the purpose of which was to raise money for the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation and for his own — which will allow Montrealers dealing with brain trauma to use a new MRI machine being donated to the Montreal General Hospital — was a bit of a surprise. Pacioretty had plenty of incentive to defer all the hockey questions to when hockey officially resumes in September. Instead he took the opportunity to reaffirm his commitment to the city, his love for its people, and to share his perspective on his situation.
“This is life, and not everything in life is perfect and smooth,” said Pacioretty. “I have no control of that situation, but at the end of the day you guys know how I feel about living here, and I do live here 12 months out of the year. My kids start school tomorrow and we’re really excited about that. But oftentimes I get asked about if it’s weird to be in this situation, but tons of people around the league are faced with this situation on a yearly basis. It’s just mine is so magnified because of where we are and who I am.”
How he’ll deal with that in his remaining days with the Canadiens is anybody’s guess.
“It gets annoying to be asked about it all the time,” said Canadiens centre Jonathan Drouin, who was in a similar position with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the better part of two seasons before he was traded to Montreal in June of 2017. “I think he’s handled it pretty good so far. I’ve kinda lived it a little bit the past few years and sometimes it’s nice to not hear anyone. You talk about what’s going on in life and other things.”
But so long as Pacioretty remains with the Canadiens, with his contract situation unresolved, the subject of his inevitable departure will dominate.
Molson and Bergevin will be faced with it on a daily basis, too.
Both men took the opportunity to deflect on Tuesday, with Bergevin saying he’d stay true to his policy of not discussing negotiations on the public stage and Molson saying they were present to support the Children’s Foundation and that of Pacioretty’s. The window was open for them to say they still had interest in retaining their captain’s services beyond this season, but neither would go further than to suggest they expect to see him at training camp this fall.
All signs are pointing to it being Pacioretty’s last with the Canadiens.