As far as bad ideas go, re-signing Max Pacioretty wouldn’t even rank on Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin’s list. That’s not even because Bergevin’s had some pretty, let’s say, “interesting” impulses in the recent past. Without reading too much into it, getting Pacioretty under a new contract would simply be a good thing. But that’s not the whole story.
Pacioretty on the Move?
It’s downright logical to want to keep a perennial 30-goal scorer in the fold, especially one who serves as team captain. Nevertheless, amid reports the Canadiens and Pacioretty have started preliminary discussions on a new deal, there’s a sense of disappointment in the air.
Pacioretty was set to be Bergevin’s biggest trade chip heading into the heart of what has already been the GM’s most successful offseason so far. If Bergevin plays his cards right, he could conceivably land a left-handed, puck-moving defenseman or a top-six center in exchange for the left-winger.
That’s in addition to how, after the season Pacioretty and the Canadiens have just had, he may have worn out his welcome. Keep in mind none of the team’s last nine captains have ended their careers with the team, dating back to just after Bob Gainey.
If even Guy Carbonneau, the team’s last Stanley Cup-winning captain can get traded, so too can Pacioretty. I mean, aside from his scoring prowess, which was notably absent this past season, his cost-effective $4.5 million contract was what had made Pacioretty special. Now it’s set to expire in July 2019.
Pacioretty’s Underrated Value
So, getting something significant for Pacioretty makes sense, when the Habs would likely otherwise lose him for nothing. The fact is though, re-signing Pacioretty could actually help Bergevin out in that regard. Pacioretty under contract for multiple seasons following a sign-and-trade is far more valuable than Pacioretty for just one.
It’s simple math, really. And, should the goal be to keep Pacioretty around, there are far worse things than icing a legitimate top-end left-winger, especially if the Habs are able to land John Tavares (however unlikely that seems). Any bid to get back to the playoffs would be aided by a duo like that on the first line.
Regardless of Pacioretty’s lack of star power or how some fans believe he has to go, there is little denying his effectiveness on the ice. In spite of the team’s lack of playoff success on his watch, that includes clutch play, as he owns the Habs’ overtime-goals-scored record.
Price as a Case Study
Nevertheless, if there’s one thing the extension to goalie Carey Price has taught Habs fans, it’s that timing is everything, with the all-star goalie seemingly having lost his. Obviously Price had just been nominated for the Vezina Trophy last summer when he signed his new 8-year, $84 million deal. In that sense, the Habs are in better shape with regard to negotiations with Pacioretty. Everyone understands he just had a bad season.
Still, cracks in Price’s game had become apparent in the middle of last season, when Michel Therrien was still head coach. From early December 2016 to when Therrien got shown the door, Price went 11-11-4 with a save percentage of .899. Those aren’t numbers worthy of a Vezina candidate, let alone one on the verge of signing a deal that will pay him an average of $10.5 million per season.
So, the smart move on Bergevin’s part would have been to see the writing on the wall, wait until the end of this season, and then decide whether or not to re-sign Price. Bergevin should not make the same mistake with Pacioretty after he put up just 37 points in 64 games.
There’s good reason to believe Pacioretty’s game is still intact and he was just incredibly unlucky this season. In fact, his shots-per-game rate actually went up relative to the one he had posted in 2016-17 when he scored 35 goals. But, if the Habs are intent on re-signing and keeping Pacioretty, there’s absolutely no good reason not to wait.
If on the other hand, a sign-and-trade is in the works, go for it. Sign away (to a deal that won’t turn off prospective buyers, obviously). But Bergevin, who’s always under the microscope as Habs GM and especially now with his job at risk, has a chance here to avoid repeating the same mistake.
It’s funny, because Pacioretty’s current deal is probably one of Bergevin’s greatest accomplishments. Both his current deal and Price’s previous one had been signed in the summer of 2012 as two of the Bergevin’s first moves as Habs GM. Each ended up being a huge bargain.
However Price plays the rest of the way, his new one won’t. The best the Habs can realistically hope for is Price regains some semblance of the game that led him to win both the Hart Memorial Trophy and Vezina a few years ago and they pay him fair market value.
At least in Pacioretty’s case, the no-movement clause Price got in his deal seems off the table here, if only because the organization has reportedly tried to deal their captain for the better part of last season. Whether or not a trade materializes is the guess of anyone outside the organization. Whatever his intentions, it’s clear that when it comes to re-upping his captain,Bergevin needs to be a better job. After all, his is on the line.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.