The Skinner Effect on Pacioretty? Not So Fast!

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The market value of a player is a constant moving target, everyone knows that. There are so many things factoring into how much players are worth, particularly when it comes to trade value. Age, production, health issues, statistics… and yes, even intangibles such as off-ice antics, grit and leadership. But really, a players isn’t worth what most General Managers would give up for that player, but rather what only one GM is willing to trade away to acquire him. Only one. And when assessing that, there are even more factors playing into what they are willing to sacrifice in order to get rid of or acquire a player.

We had a good example of that on August 2nd when the Carolina Hurricanes traded away Jeff Skinner to the Buffalo Sabres for what seems to be a relatively low return. Skinner, a 3-times 30 goals scorer, only has one year left to his contract and Hurricanes’ GM Don Waddell “settled” for a former third round pick in Cliff Pu, Buffalo’s second round pick in 2019 as well as their third and sixth round picks in 2020. Call it what you want but value-wise, this is low return for a proven NHL goals’ scorer.

Some people are quick at saying that Buffalo won that trade hands-down, but this will prove to be true only if they manage to re-sign Skinner or if they manage to get significant assets in return for him at the trade deadline if they don’t get him re-signed. If he walks away next summer, it will be a steep price to pay. But that’s beside the point.

Effect on Pacioretty’s value?

Many people were quick at pointing out that this trade should set the benchmark for Max Pacioretty‘s value in a trade. This is, in my opinion, a very superficial analysis of the Pacioretty situation. Yes, Skinner is a winger with one year left to his contract and yes, he has scored similarly to Pacioretty (in a shorter career though) but that’s where the comparison ends. One plays in all situations including short-handed, the other one doesn’t. And one is captain of his team, voted by his teammates. Skinner also had a no-trade clause, which Pacioretty doesn’t have, and came with a cap hit of $5.725M, which is over a million dollars more than the Canadiens’ captain. But then again, that’s all superficial.

In my humble opinion, Skinner is worth more than what Carolina received for him but there is no doubt that the Sabres had the best offer out there – at that time – and that’s the return that they got for him. Don Waddell settled. He’s sitting at the poker table, he flinched and panicked. Whether he was forced or not to trade Skinner at that time, only he knows, but this moves smells desperation. And for an experienced GM like him, that’s a no-no. Unless Skinner had requested a trade and had threatened to not show up at training camp (and even then), Waddell should have hung on to Skinner and even started the season with him in the line-up instead of giving him away for less than his value. That’s my opinion anyway.

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Marc Bergevin is holding for higher value for Max Pacioretty

Contrarily to Waddell, Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin has chosen to take the same approach as Joe Sakic did with Matt Duchene, and what Steve Yzerman chose to do with Jonathan Drouin back then: if the price isn’t what you feel is true value is at this moment in time, hang on to your asset. Someone will come calling later. Every team is a contender in August but injuries happen during a season, teams and GMs get desperate. Further, it seems rather obvious that Bergevin, for a second year in a row, won’t be spending anywhere close to the salary cap and that, even with Carey Price‘s new contract kicking in. This means that he will be able to accommodate a team by taking a contract to get more in return if or when he trades Pacioretty. But as we touched on recently, the Canadiens are, under no circumstances, in a position where they have to trade their captain.

So what’s Pacioretty’s value? His value is what ONE General Manager is willing to pay at a point in time. This will be dictated by the level of desperation that said GM will be in, and how Pacioretty picks up his game after a bad season, in what is now a contract year for him. In addition, a positive twist with Skinner being traded is that it’s one less asset available for those teams looking for a quality scoring winger. That also has an effect on value. Will the Canadiens get more for Pacioretty by choosing to wait? Time will tell but what we know now is that the offers aren’t anywhere close to his value.

In the meantime, be grateful that it’s Bergevin and not Waddell who runs the Habs as the return may not have been much different than what the Hurricanes got for Skinner. Go Habs Go!

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Is Pacioretty at The Point of No Return?

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He was rumoured to be traded all year… then the trade deadline came and went, only to see him continue his miserable season, as did the rest of the Montreal Canadiens. Rumours got even stronger in the off-season, particularly heading towards the NHL Draft. News came out that he was traded but when the New York Islanders realized who they could pick at 11th and 12th, they pulled the plug on a 3-way deal which would have see Ryan O’Reilly continuing his career in Montreal. Boom! He fired his reputable players’ agent Pat Brisson, and replaced him with Allan Walsh. Then the news came out that he was traded… but wait. No, he couldn’t agree to a contract extension with the L.A. Kings. 

It’s been a busy stretch for the Max Pacioretty, one that no professional athlete wishes to have to go through. You see, he genuinely loves Montreal. He truly cares. Unfortunately, hearsay is a mode of life amongst Habs’ fans and some of the low-life media who follow this team, and story have been told, most of which a result of make-belief, due in big part because the Canadiens’ GM dared trading a player who was an expert at acting like an angel when the cameras were in his face, but not so much when the spotlight was away. As a matter of fact, he and then coach Michel Therrien took the majority of the blunt from those for whom the number in the back of the jersey is more important than the logo at the front. But it certainly wasn’t the Captain’s doing.

Marc Bergevin‘s pundits will be quick to make up stories about a strained relationship between the two men and that, with zero supporting evidence. Some will go to great lengths to “prove their point” by claiming a lack of respect by the GM towards the player, based on the fact that he did try to trade him. Guess what folks? A GM who does his job will always be looking at trying to improve his team, a fact particularly true after the dismal prestation displayed last season. And when you have an asset like Pacioretty, who is entering the final year of a contract paying him a well under-valued $4.5M cap hit – contract given by Bergevin himself, might I say – you have a very tradable and valuable asset in your hands, one that can bring a quality return. But it’s far from personal.

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Pacioretty was voted team captain by his teammates in 2015

Pacioretty has been a model citizen in Montreal. In a year when Golden Boy P.K. Subban pledged $10 million to the Montreal Children Hospital, it’s the captain who was voted by his team as their representative for the King Clancy award, given for charitable work and leadership. He faces the cameras in good and not so good times. Calm and collected, he faces the music, a feat particularly difficult on him last season when not only the team didn’t fair well, but his own production took a serious hit. He was still there, answering questions.

Between 2011 and 2017, only Alexander Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and Joe Pavelski had scored more goals in the entire NHL than Pacioretty and even after his poor production of last year, he’s ninth in the NHL in that category since 2011. The most amazing part of this is when one looks at whom he had at centre all of those years… David Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec and Philip Danault, in all due respect to those guys, aren’t considered anywhere close to number one centres in this league. But Patches produced at a top-level rate.

The Future

But what does the future hold for Pacioretty? According to Marc-Antoine Godin of The Athletic, the team informed Pacioretty’s agent that they would not negotiate a new contract and they would try to trade him as soon as possible. But that was almost a month ago.

Hockey is a business today, and no one knows that better than professional athletes. Unlike keyboard warriors, they know that things aren’t personal when it comes to guaranteed contracts in a hard salary cap era. While some players are traded because of on and off ice issues – see Beaulieu, Subban, Galchenyuk – teams regularly make moves based on business and financial decisions, which have absolutely nothing to do with the relationship between players and management.

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Pacioretty is a family man living in Montreal 12 months of the year.

Seeing that Bergevin could not get full value for his captain, he doesn’t have to trade him. Yes, Pacioretty can face the media, even the sharks in Montreal. Yes, he is well liked by his teammates who don’t like seeing their captain, one of their leaders, being in trade rumours. But rest assured of one thing: Pacioretty can return to the Canadiens to, at the very least, start the season. No, the Habs don’t have to trade him. As a matter of fact, on a team desperately looking for goals’ scoring, a motivated Pacioretty in the final year of his contract, wanting to improve on a bad season, might just be what the Canadiens need.

Seeing what the Carolina Hurricanes received for Jeff Skinner, perhaps we can better understand why the American left winger is still property of the Canadiens. Contrarily to what some want you to believe, the team doesn’t have to trade him. He’s the captain of the Canadiens. He loves Montreal, where he lives year-round. He’s a multiple times 30-goals’ scorer. Aside for perhaps some vendetta against the team’s GM, perhaps even misplaced blame for the Subban trade, why are people turning on him? If the team isn’t in contention for a playoffs’ spot in February, then perhaps a trade could be considered? But to trade Pacioretty for the sake of trading him is definitely not what Bergevin should, or wants to do. Go Habs Go!