With the Montreal Canadiens’ 2017-2018 season taking a turn for the worse, at risk of missing the playoffs, many fans and media members have reached the decision making point. In fact, there are three options: start a full rebuilt, a reload or load up at the deadline, a very unlikely scenario. With 40 points in 42 games, the Canadiens have to leapfrog six teams in hope to make the playoffs, or three teams to make it to the bottom three in the league for a better shot at the number one overall draft pick.
While showing his disappointment and acknowledging that the odds were stacked against his team, General Manager Marc Bergevin said, during his recent press conference, that he still believes that this group can turn things around this season. For that to happen, everyone knows that some changes need to happen and that’s where the rumour-mill is going wild around the NHL.
The most often mentioned name out there for the Habs? Captain Max Pacioretty who, with his 10 goals in 42 games this season, is far from his steady 30-39 goals production in the past few years. Many will agree, Bergevin included, that his failure in finding an offensive centre worth that title is what’s holding Pacioretty back and no one knows better than the GM that if traded to a team with such asset, the sniper would likely heat up wherever he’s traded. And that’s why Bergevin must be very careful. The “step back” from this season weights a lot and if he doesn’t get full value for his best asset, he might as well submit his resignation.
But how much can the Canadiens realistically expect for their captain if they were to trade him? Everybody and anybody can take a stab in the dark in hope to find Pacioretty’s trade value but let’s take a more… logical approach. Let’s find parallels, similar situations that will at least give us a gauge of what such player can fetch.
Some have brought up the Phil Kessel trade when acquired by the Leafs from the Bruins… but that was over eight years ago. A better barometer might just be the most recent trade of a saga which finally came to an end: Matt Duchene. The Avalanche’s centre was rumoured to be on the trade market for a long time and team GM Joe Sakic stuck to his guns… and got full value for him. Here’s how the trade broke down:
(C) Matt Duchene
(C) Kyle Turris
In other words, the Avalanche received a first, second and third round pick, a prospect recently selected in the first round (Bowers), two prospect recently selected in the second round (Girard and Kamenev) and, watch your food, the Hamburglar. They received all of that for a guy who came out of 41 points season with a not-so-flattering minus – 34 rating. It sure makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
In fact, just looking at the last three years, we can compare Pacioretty to Duchene very favourably. The Habs’ captain had more goals (obviously), but also more assists and more points than his counterpart. While playing similar minutes on the powerplay, Pacioretty has been more productive and to top it up, the winger can be used in shorthanded situations.
Duchene playing centre is a plus, definitely, but Pacioretty is one of the NHL’s top goals’ scorers over the past few years, a legitimate, fast left winger who has never had a true number one centre feeding him the puck. Duchene has one year left to a contract with a $6 million cap hit, while Pacioretty also has one year left, but with a $4.5 million cap hit.
So put yourself in Bergevin’s shoes for a minute. What is your asking price for Pacioretty? We know that the Canadiens have two glaring needs: a top line offensive centre and a mobile left-handed defenseman to eat up minutes alongside Shea Weber.
Taking into consideration that Pacioretty does not have a no-trade or no-movement clause in his contract, meaning that he can be traded to the most offering team, adding the fact that American teams would love to have one of their own, a member of Team USA, rest assured that Pacioretty’s value is quite high and that, in spite of his sub-par season thus far.
Some people are arguing that Pacioretty could be moved prior to the February 26th trade deadline but allow me to doubt that. Not that it couldn’t happen, but the likeliness is minimal, unless a team offers Bergevin the moon, which teams tend to avoid doing in a trade.
“If [a trade] happens, it happens. I’m very proud of the past success I’ve had in Montreal.” ~ Max Pacioretty
If you’re Bergevin, why not wait until the NHL Draft before pulling the trigger? For one thing, the picks’ position (if any) would already be assigned, avoiding the conditional clauses in a trade. But also, there are those teams who would love to add Pacioretty but find themselves in a playoffs’ spot battle, so they can’t afford to give up enough, as much as they might be able to during the off-season… particularly for those teams under the gun after an early exit or those who will go through a GM change.
If I were a betting man, I would say that when comes March, the Canadiens will have the same captain in place but as the Draft approach, I would definitely keep my ear to the ground to listen for that freight train coming. Go Habs Go!