by Trege Wilson, Staff Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

Max Pacioretty (Photo by Montreal Canadiens)

It should come as no surprise that Max Pacioretty has been one of the best forwards for the Montreal Canadiens since the 2011-12 season. Over that time period, Pacioretty has been ninth in goals scored in the NHL, placing him ahead of players such as Phil Kessel, Brad Marchand, and Sidney Crosby.

This is the final year of his team-friendly contract with the Canadiens and Habs fans seem  divided about what should be done with the All-star goal scorer. Most want the team to re-sign him while others would like to see him traded for the best return possible.

It has been rumoured that numerous teams have shown varying degrees of interest in acquiring Pacioretty including the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Florida Panthers. According to The Athletic, Pacioretty is not part of Marc Bergevin’s plan and the captain will not be offered a contract extension. There has been no statement from the team.

Since last year’s trade deadline, it’s fair to say that Pacioretty has been on the trading block. On one of Rocket Sports’ fine podcasts, Habs Unfiltered, my co-host Blain Potvin thought for sure the draft was when Max would be moved to another team. As of right now, he is still the Captain of the Montreal Canadiens.

So here is the big question, will he stay or go? Let’s break it down.

If the Canadiens chose to keep Pacioretty then they are not truly rebuilding but retooling. With Pacioretty, Carey Price and Shea Weber still on the team, they are keeping a group of 30-plus year-old players and infusing young players into the team. By keeping Max, they are still trying to keep their valued players and build around them in hopes of making the playoffs sooner rather than later.

As of now, the season looks like it will start with this captain still at the helm. He is in his last year of his very team-friendly contract and will be looking for a big payday. The Habs still have the option of trading him at next years deadline, but that will all depend on where they are in the playoff race.

If Pacioretty isn’t traded by the deadline and stays with the team, they have to consider whether they let him walk or sign him to a multi-year deal. Any deal that he will get will depend on how his season goes and, in my estimation, could be in the realm of seven to eight million dollars per season. If the Habs decide to sign him then it could be for eight years which will put him at 39-years-old by the end of his contract.

This may not be what the Canadiens want considering they are embracing a youth movement. In my opinion, it would be preferable for the team to sign him for four or five years, but I highly doubt that would be something Pacioretty would want. If Pacioretty stays then it creates a lot of tough decisions in next year’s off-season for the Canadiens, unless a deal can be reached.

The other option would be to trade the captain and get the best possible return from whatever team wants him. 

Whichever team wants him will have to pay a hefty price if the package is the same now as what it was at the deadline. At the deadline, Marc Bergevin was reportedly asking for a first-round draft pick, a top prospect, and a roster player.  This may seem high for a thirty-goal winger, but he is in elite company when it comes to scoring in the past six seasons.

Pacioretty’s performance last season could factor into why he hasn’t been moved yet. Teams may want to see how he comes back this season before getting seriously invested. He is also in his final year, so unless he signs with the team he is traded to, he would essentially be a rental. At this point, it brings his value down to start the season but will only increase his value at the deadline if he has a comeback year.

In the end, unless the Montreal Canadiens think that Pacioretty is needed for the “retool” that they are doing, he will be traded. I can’t see the team signing another thirty-year-old player to another long-term contract, especially when they already have $17.8 million a season annual average value tied up in Price and Weber.

The best case scenario for both team and player would be to either sign Pacioretty to a four or five year contract or trade him at the deadline for the best possible package. Either way, I don’t see Pacioretty being a Hab much longer. The team is two players over the minimum of 23 with at least one forward too many, and someone has to move.

Edited by Cate Racher, All Habs Hockey Magazine