With losses mounting in Montreal, Max Pacioretty’s future has fast become something many, many people are monitoring. We’re nearing the point where the question isn’t whether the Habs will move him so much as whether they’ll move him for immediate or more long-term help.
Given all he’s been through with Montreal and done for the club since becoming an NHL regular in 2009-10, you wonder if Pacioretty isn’t ready for a more plum assignment than facing probes after every defeat about the shortcomings of a team that just doesn’t have much talent.
As for an asking price, assume the Habs are seeking something that aligns with the fact only three players — Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and Joe Pavelski — have netted more goals from the start of 2011-12 through last season than the 29-year-old Pacioretty. Yeah, he hasn’t scored in a month, but that doesn’t mean there will be any discount shopping here — especially with a team-friendly $4.5-million cap hit through next season before free agency beckons.
Montreal would likely prefer to send Pacioretty out of its conference, which is why we have a West-heavy list. With that in mind, here are six clubs that would make sensible landing spots for the super-skilled left winger.
Spoiler alert: The squads on this list could use some help in the goal department.
Calgary has a wonderful top line anchored by Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, but secondary scoring is lacking. Pacioretty might pair well with two-way centre Mikael Backlund and would certainly love not seeing the other team’s top defenders every night. The power play — currently ranked 20th in the league — could also use a boost and the vision of ‘Johhny Hockey’ sliding sweet passes to triggerman Pacioretty should stimulate saliva glands all over Southern Alberta.
As for what could go the other way, the captain of Canada’s World Junior Championship entry, Dillon Dube, was a Flames second-rounder in 2016. And, with Sam Bennett coming to life in the past six weeks, maybe the Habs have interest in the 2014 fourth overall selection.
Talk of an Oilers-Habs transaction actually traces back to the start of the year, when both teams were scuffling.
Oh, how times haven’t changed.
The difference between these two clubs is Edmonton will try and save this season until the last possible second. A Pacioretty-for-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins deal seems less likely now than it did two months ago because RNH has been one of the few bright spots in Edmonton and Montreal might actually want younger pieces than the 24-year-old pivot.
Still, there was smoke here once, so maybe the fire’s still burn. Team USA world juniors forward Kailer Yamamoto could hold appeal if the Habs are after youthful skill.
From the Montreal frying pan to the beaches of California!
The Ryan Getzlaf-Rickard Rakell duo is killing it right now; could you imagine throwing big No. 67 on the left side? Whatever line he played on, it’s so easy to envision Pacioretty thriving in a situation where all he has to worry about is going out and shooting the puck. That, along with the return of Corey Perry from a leg injury, would help the Ducks rise up from their rank of 23rd in terms of average goals-per-game.
The Canadiens blue line has arguably been the weakest part of the club this year, so a return package could focus on a young NHL defenceman like Brandon Montour.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
Another literal, as opposed to figurative, hot spot for Pacioretty to thrive.
The Kings — playing a more offensive style this season — are just outside the top 10 in terms of goals-per-game, but another weapon may be required for them to regain their spot as one of the league’s elite teams. If the Canadiens are really ready for a re-tool, perhaps there’s a blockbuster to be done here where the Kings send the always-hurt Marian Gaborik — who’s still valuable when healthy, but, you know… — the other way. Taking on that salary through 2020-21 is doable for Montreal if it means getting its mitts on another couple prospects or picks.
Canadian WJC defenceman Kale Clague is part of the Kings system. Los Angeles also drafted big scoring forward Gabe Vilardi 11th overall last June, and though he’s been sidelined by a back injury all year, he was recently traded from the defending-Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires to the Kingston Frontenacs.
OK, we have to get at least one East team in the mix.
The Canes are firmly in the playoff chase and, given the team hasn’t made the post-season since 2009, Carolina really needs to make this happen. Jeff Skinner paces the Hurricanes with 12 goals, the lowest total to lead any team in the NHL.
Habs fans, don’t you dare start dreaming about Noah Hanifin or Jaccob Slavin. However, with the Canes’ bevy of young blue-liners, maybe they’d be willing to talk about a package headlined by 21-year-old Haydn Fleury?
Might as well make it a six pack. The Wild rank 17th in average goals-per-game and while the team right in front of them in that category — the St. Louis Blues — could surely use a boost, too, Minny gets the nod.
With Zach Parise having just returned, the Wild would look like a new outfit in 2018 if they could get Pacioretty in their lineup. Matt Dumba, a 23-year-old, right-shot defenceman, might hold some appeal along with centre Luke Kunin, the 15th overall pick in 2016.