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.
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.
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.
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!