Canadiens Trade Pacioretty to Golden Knights

The Montreal Canadiens have traded captain Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a 2nd round pick in 2019, the team announced early Monday morning/late Sunday night. The Canadiens are retaining 10% of the last season of Pacioretty’s contract while Vegas is retaining 9.433962% of Tatar’s contract for the remaining three years.

Pacioretty has spent his entire 10-season NHL career as a member of the Canadiens after the team used a first-round pick on him in 2007. While the Canadiens landed a haul that season with Ryan McDonagh (also a first-round pick) and P.K. Subban, a second-round pick that season, the Canadiens have now effectively moved on from every member of that draft class.

Despite a down season in 2017-18 that saw Pacioretty score only 17 goals and 37 points in 64 games, often showing a lack of effort or passion that fans would have liked out of their captain, there’s no denying Pacioretty’s ability to produce at a high level. Not including the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season when he scored 15 goals and 39 points in 44 games, Pacioretty had previously scored north of 30 goals and 60 points in five consecutive seasons from 2011-12 until 2016-17.

Pacioretty may be nearing 30 years old – he’ll play the majority of the 2018-19 season at 30 following a late-November birthday, but his talent level shouldn’t be questioned. For the Canadiens, this was a move to clear up a contract situation as Pacioretty is in the final year of a very team-friendly six-year, $27 million contract which counts for $4.5 million against the salary cap, while also putting a bookend on their disappointing 2017-18 season by moving on from two core players in Alex Galchenyuk and Pacioretty.

Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty
Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

The Canadiens likely weren’t looking to give Pacioretty a big-money deal with significant term given their current contention window being so blurry and Pacioretty obviously would rather have financial security in his life than have uncertainty moving forward. Whether or not the Golden Knights do offer him a long-term contract is yet to be seen but this move could be good for both sides with Vegas looking to make another strong run at a Stanley Cup in 2018-19 and beyond.

The Golden Knights acquired Tatar from the Detroit Red Wings at the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline in a shocking deal that saw the Golden Knights pay a high premium of a first, a second and a third-round pick for a player that would ultimately only play in 28 games (regular and postseason) for them. Tatar would score four goals and six points in 20 regular season games in Vegas before only dressing for eight games in the postseason, scoring one goal and two points in those contests.

Canadiens Getting Solid Value for Pacioretty

While Tatar may not necessarily be worth his high price tag of $5.3 million per season for the next three seasons, he does bring some scoring to the Canadiens having scored north of 20 goals in each of the last four seasons, recording a career-high 29 goals and 56-points in 82 games in 2014-15.

The second-round pick is a nice piece of draft capital for the Canadiens, though the real kicker in this deal is Suzuki, the 19-year-old center prospect who was taken 13th overall by the Golden Knights in 2017. Suzuki would score 45 goals and 96 points in his draft year with the Owen Sound Attack in the OHL as well as an impressive eight goals and 23 points in 17 playoff games. He would do just as well the following season, scoring 42 goals and 100 points in 64 games in 2017-18 with another three goals and 12 points in 11 playoff games.

Nick Suzuki, Owen Sound Attack, OHL, 2017 NHL Draft
Nick Suzuki is leading the way for the Owen Sound Attack. (Photo by Terry Wilson/OHL Images.)

While the Canadiens have been notoriously weak at the center-ice position for decades, the team now has Jesperi Kotkaniemi (third overall in 2018), Ryan Poehling (25th overall in 2017) and Suzuki who should form a formidable trio of centers for the team in the near future.

While Poehling has looked mature beyond his years and had a breakout campaign at St. Cloud State in 2017-18, he may be best-suited for a third-line role at the NHL level. If Suzuki and Kotkaniemi can make up a legitimate top-six duo then the Canadiens could use Poehling in a more favorable way each and every night. That said, there’s no reason to believe Poehling can’t play in a top-six role – it’ll all depend on how his game translates to the next level.