The Best Time for Habs to Trade Pacioretty

The Montreal Canadiens may believe they have to trade captain Max Pacioretty as soon as possible, but it actually depends…

Pacioretty Rumors, Lies & Innuendo

Take for example the fact that line of thinking was probably accurate a few days ago too… just ahead of Pacioretty’s annual golf tournament. That’s just further proof timing is everything, as a trade yesterday would have set off a public-relations disaster of epic proportions.

Hell, there was a controversy based on a sheer rumor that general manager Marc Bergevin and owner Geoff Molson weren’t attending, despite them not having yet received invitations. Needless to say, the Habs must handle this situation with the utmost care to both mitigate any potential bad press and maximize the return.

Granted, to truly maximize the return, Bergevin would have traded him at last year’s trade deadline. Since then, the NHL Entry Draft has come and gone, followed by a report the Habs will not negotiate a contract extension with Pacioretty, who’s entering the last year of his deal.

It was (in part) confirmed by Pacioretty, who said at the tournament that there haven’t been negotiations between the two sides. Unfortunately for the Habs, that report has arguably given the other 30 teams at least the illusion they’re desperate to trade him. Combined with Pacioretty’s meager (by his standards) 2017-18, during which he scored 17 goals, it’s fair to say he won’t fetch all that much on the market. So, it’s up to the Canadiens to increase demand for his services.

Patience Is a Virtue for Habs

How can they do that, you might ask. Well, in a word, wait. Trading Pacioretty now for a bag of magic beans does no one any good. In fact, if Bergevin is serious about trying to make the playoffs, the Habs could do much worse than to hold on to a perennial 30-goal scorer, regardless of the disappointing season Pacioretty just had.

Truth be told, if the return fellow-left-winger Jeff Skinner fetched in early August is any indication, any Pacioretty trade will only serve to disappoint even more. The Habs realistically have little to lose by keeping Pacioretty in the lineup.

Max Pacioretty
Max Pacioretty – (Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)

Of course the Pacioretty trade watch may prove to be a distraction the longer it goes on. Look at it from a different angle, though: Bergevin has lost a few trades over the last few years and no one seems to let him forget about any of those, right? What’s another drop in the bucket?

Walking the Captain Back from the Plank

No, Bergevin must not rush it. That means giving Pacioretty a chance to rebound and return to his old 30-goal-scorer self. If this season goes as every analyst is expecting and the Habs head into the trade deadline as sellers, they should have little trouble bleeding the stone that is Pacioretty dry. Just look at what the New York Rangers got for Rick Nash, an older winger also headed to free agency with a worse contract and longer history of being in decline, ahead of last year’s deadline.

Admittedly, if Bergevin waits too long, trying to build up a bidding war, he may lose out altogether. If Bergevin’s learned one lesson since last year, that’s gotta be it. God knows he’s yet to learn not to make a one-for-one trade. He’s not very good at those.

Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin
Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin – (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

What Bergevin is good at on the other hand is keeping his job… somehow. He must understand he needs another controversy like he needs another P.K. Subban, which is funny, because the Habs could actually use the services of an in-his-prime, puck-moving, multi-time Norris Memorial Trophy candidate to play with Shea Weber.

In any case, Bergevin said at the tournament he expects Pacioretty to be at training camp. There’s no reason to believe anything to the contrary, even if only because the right offer won’t realistically present itself until a few months into the season at least.

Patience is key here, because, again, the Habs have nothing to lose except games. If it so happens that Pacioretty resurrects his career, Bergevin will have dodged a bullet. He’s the one about ready to pull the trigger in this case, though. Glass half-full? He’s run out of feet to shoot (probably).

As long as Bergevin doesn’t let loose any additional friendly fire in the direction of one of his key players in Pacioretty, so as to give him the best chance to succeed, all should be all right. Unfortunately, the key word there is “additional.”

So, it all actually depends on Bergevin, it turns out. Fingers crossed.