Two days after he was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights, Max Pacioretty has landed in Sin City.
Pacioretty hasn’t slept much the past two days as he scrambled to his new home, and was at the rink early this morning, getting a chance to see the room at 5:30 a.m. Later, he stepped on to the ice for the first time with his new team.
Max Pacioretty takes the ice for the first time with the @GoldenKnights. pic.twitter.com/pPkQdHHk1l
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) September 12, 2018
With training camp just about to open, Pacioretty couldn’t be happier about his new opportunity.
“My emotions are excitement,” he said at Wednesday’s press conference. “Excitement to be a part of this group.”
In just their second year of existence, the Golden Knights already have an aura about them. Although the team lost David Perron and James Neal to free agency, Paul Stastny was signed and GM George McPhee traded for Pacioretty, who signed an extension shortly after. Both players can be viewed as upgrades.
This is already a destination for players and their families. Pacioretty talked a lot about how much positivity he had heard about how the city and its fans treated those tied to the Golden Knights. He said his son was over the moon excited that his dad was headed to the team that put on all those flashy pre-game shows he saw during the playoffs.
“If I had got taken in the expansion draft I wouldn’t be feeling the way I am today. Everyone had question marks about what this franchise would be like,” Pacioretty said. “No one knew it would be a hockey town.
“When we came here (with the Canadiens) and we played them I’m not sure exactly what I said, but it was something along the lines of ‘it was one of the more amazing experiences of my hockey life.'”
Refreshed, rejuvenated and clearly excited to move on, Pacioretty looks primed to recover from his 17-goal season. He scored at least 30 goals in each of the four seasons before last and that level of production would more than make up for the loss of Neal.
Consider, too, that Pacioretty is most likely to play alongside Stastny, since the top line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith was so effective last season. The playmaking Stastny was a beautiful complement to Patrik Laine and Nik Ehlers after he was traded to the Winnipeg Jets last season and should do the same for Pacioretty’s tendencies.
The two already know each other well and Pacioretty said he even discussed Stastny’s free agency with him “as a friend” this summer. When the trade rumours picked up around Pacioretty the past few weeks, the two even dreamed of potentially teaming up.
“We talked about how great it would be if I did end up here,” Pacioretty said.
Pacioretty no longer has to deal with the pressures of being an NHL captain. No one on Vegas has the ‘C’ stitched on their jersey and as often as we hear about how the Golden Knights are a team full of leaders, Pacioretty was already able to confirm that after one skate.
“They mentioned there would be 23 captains on this team and I could feel that today.”
The last few days of Pacioretty’s tenure in Montreal were rocky, between an awkward handshake with Marc Bergevin at a charity golf tournament, to the conflicting stories on whether or not he had asked for a trade last season.
Although he again insisted that he would have signed an extension to stay in Montreal, this is a player clearly ready for a fresh start, and who couldn’t be happier with where he finally ended up.
“I think (the Canadiens are) going in the direction of a rebuild or reset and I’m ready to move on to something new and I’m very excited this is where that is going to be,” he said.
Last year Vegas caught everyone by surprise, but in 2018-19 expectations are high as the Golden Knights return with an even better lineup this time around.