Time To Create a Bidding War For Max Pacioretty

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Max Pacioretty

Coming out of the NHL All-Star break, the NHL trade deadline is just under a month away. With the Montreal Canadiens out of the playoff race, it’s time to look towards the future. Deciding who needs to be moved is now the priority. For the Canadiens, the asset that can bring the most return is their captain. It’s time to create a bidding war for Max Pacioretty.

Time To Create a Bidding War For Max Pacioretty

Max Pacioretty is having a difficult season. He is on pace for 28 goals and 54 points, his lowest output since 2010-11. Fortunately, Pacioretty has caught fire, scoring eight goals in his last nine games. There will always be a market for a consistent 30 goal scorer, with a very digestible $4.5M cap hit through 2018-19. Teams may have been hoping to get him on the cheap because of his poor play but Pacioretty has found his game. Max finding his game will only help his trade value heading towards the deadline.

The question becomes, how to create a bidding war and more importantly what teams should the Habs target. The holes in the Habs roster are obvious. The team needs help at centre ice and on defence. Hoping Pacioretty can land the Habs a true number one centre is unrealistic, but he should be able to bring in a significant return that can help the team down the road.

Calling The Western Conference

The ideal location for Pacioretty is the Western Conference. While Habs general manager Marc Bergevin needs to take the best deal for the team, the Habs don’t necessarily want to see Pacioretty too often. There are also several teams in the West that are looking for that final piece to push them over the Stanley Cup hump.

Contenders

Probably the best chance for the Habs to create a bidding war for the services of Max Pacioretty is to reach out to the Western Conference contenders. Contending teams are usually willing to give up a bit more to get a player they feel can push them over the top. Even if they part with a significant prospect in the process, if they win the cup it’s all worth it.

St. Louis Blues

The Blues should be at the top of the list for the Habs. The Blues have been considered Cup contenders for the past few seasons, however, they have not been able to survive the West during the playoffs and make it to a cup final. Acquiring Pacioretty could help put them over the top. Having Vladimir Tarasenko on one line and a streaking Pacioretty on another line would give the Blues some serious scoring depth. The Blues also have the organizational depth that the Habs can look to raid if they create a bidding war.

Forward Targets

Unfortunately, its unlikely that the Canadiens will be able to pry top prospects Vince Dunn or Ivan Barbashev from the Blues, there are more than enough prospects the Habs could target. World Junior gold medalists Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou should be high on their wish list. Kyrou has 26 goals and 80 points through 36 games with Sarnia in the OHL. He also added three goals and 10 points during the World Junior Hockey Championships with Team Canada. Thomas has 22 goals and 56 points through 35 games split between Hamilton and London of the OHL. He also added one goal and six points for Canada at the WJC this year. Both Thomas and Kyrou play centre.

Defensive Targets

If the Habs are looking to improve their defence, they can look at Jake Walman. If this season made one thing clear is the Canadiens lack puck moving defencemen. Walman is a great skater playing with the Blues AHL affiliate. He is poised with the puck and makes excellent decisions with the puck. He also possesses a great breakout pass.

Other players the Habs should target:

San Jose Sharks

The Shakes are another team that has been a cup contender (and sometimes favourite) that has failed to break through. The Sharks probably have one last shot at making a run before the future Hall of Famer Joe Thornton retires. It would also be very intriguing to see Pacioretty play with one of the best set up men in NHL history (Sorry David Desharnais). A second line of Thornton (when healthy), Logan Couture and Pacioretty would be hard to match up with.

Forwards Targets

The Sharks are not nearly as deep as the Blues, but they are still deep. Timo Meier is off the table. He is playing top minutes for the Sharks this year and is unlikely to be part of any deal. Still, the Sharks have some players the Habs should look to target. American centre Josh Norris could be at the top of the Habs wish list. Currently playing at the University of Michigan, Norris has eight goals and 16 points through 23 games. Norris was drafted 19th overall in the 2017 NHL draft by the Sharks.

Another player the Habs should inquire about is Rourke Chartier. If the Habs are worried about losing the goal production of Pacioretty, Chartier is a pure goal scorer. In his first pro season with the Sharks AHL affiliate, he scored 17 goals. Unfortunately, he has been dogged by concussion issues this year and has only played five games.

Defensive Targets

 Joakim Ryan is not likely to be part of any deal at this point. He is taking a regular shift in the NHL and seeing time on the top pair with Brent Burns. The Sharks do have some defence prospects the Habs should target, however. Mario Ferraro and Jeremy Roy should be at the top of Marc Bergevin‘s list. Roy has the higher upside than Ferraro but both have potential. Roy has more talent, that is for sure. Still, Roy is rough around the edges. His game needs to be polished. Roy also has had issues staying healthy. He had his last three season’s cut short due to injury. Ferraro is a bit more polished in his skating. Both players can drive the play and be relied upon in the defensive zone.

Other players the Habs should target:

Winnipeg Jets

The Winnipeg Jets are one of the surprise teams of the season (Vegas has to be THE surprise though). The Jets are currently sitting atop the Central division. While the team continued its roll after Mark Scheifele went down with an injury, adding more forward depth would be beneficial. The Jets top line of Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine and Scheifele were among the best in the league before the injury. Bringing in Max Pacioretty to solidify the Jets second line would give them incredible depth heading towards the postseason. The Jets also have one of the deepest prospect pools in the NHL. They should be willing to part with some of them to help them on a Cup run.

Forward Targets

Kyle Connor would be high on the Habs wishlist, but he has been performing very well with the Jets this year Its hard to see a scenario where the Jets move him. The Habs could turn their focus to Jack Roslovic. His awkward skating aside, Roslovic is one of the Jets best prospects. While he has seen some time with the Jets this year, Roslovic still needs time to round his game into form. Another player that the Habs should inquire about is Michael Spacek. Again, Spacek still needs time to round out his game, but he has the talent and skill to succeed at the NHL level.

Defence Targets

Again, the Jets have a very deep defensive prospect pool. The Habs should inquire about Dylan Samberg and Sami Niku. Samberg is extremely raw but possesses the tools and talent to develop into a top-flight NHL defenceman.

Niku is an offensive defenseman that skates well and has great vision. The Habs are lacking puck-moving defenceman and Niku definitely fits that bill.

Other players the Habs should target:

Nashville Predators (Dark Horse)

The Predators are a cup contender for sure. They are also in the market for a scoring winger after losing James Neal to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft. They are a dark hose because will Marc Bergevin want to deal with David Poile again? Also if we are to believe the rumours from 2015-16, Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban cannot get along so why would the Predators want to acquire a potential conflict for their locker room. Still, the reality is the Predators could use Pacioretty. The Predators also made a high profile trade this year acquiring Kyle Turris in a three-team trade, so they might not be interested in parting with more prospects.

Forward Targets

The Predators best prospect is Eeli Tolvanen. The Finnish winger is a pure sniper. If the Habs are interested in replacing Pacioretty with a winger, Tolvanen might be the best bet. The Predators might not be so willing to part with their top prospect and top draft pick from the 2017 NHL draft, however. Russian centre Yakov Trenin could be an option. While his game is still developing he has the ability to put up points, although he projects more as an NHL winger than centre due to his skating. Viktor Ejdsell is big centre the Habs should consider. Signed by the Predators as a free agent this past offseason, Ejdsell has a unique combination of size and skill that make scouts drool. He is by no means a finished product, but if he continues on his development path he should be a great NHL player.

Defence Targets

The Nashville Predators are deep in defensive prospects. Its why they were able to move Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen in 2016. Nashville also has one of the best bluelines in the NHL. It will be difficult for all of their defensive prospects to crack the NHL playing behind such a strong unit.

The Predators are especially deep with mobile puck moving defencemen. Dante Fabbro is having a breakout year at Boston University with eight goals and 20 points through 24 games. He was also a key part of Team Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the World Junior Hockey championships. Alexandre Carrier is another one of Nashville’s high-end two-way defenders. Similar to Fabbro, Carrier has great hockey instincts and high offensive upside, while still being responsible in his own end. In his first pro season in 2016-17, Carrier had six goals and 39 points in 72 games with Milwaukee of the AHL.

Other players the Habs should target:

  • Frederic Allard (D)
  • Trevor Murphy (D)
  • Grant Mismash (C/W)

On the Bubble

Teams on the bubble might be willing to make a deal for a player that can secure their playoff spot. These teams might not be willing to give up as much to get a player without a clear path to the playoffs. Still, if a team believes that one piece can vault them on a run, they might be willing to part ways with some significant pieces.

Calgary Flames

The Flames are back in a playoff spot after missing out last year. The Flames are in a six-team dogfight for one of the two wild-card positions and a three-team fight for third place in the Pacific division. The Flames have an exciting roster but the strength of the team lies in its defence. Adding another goal scoring forward might let the Flames put some distance between them and the team chasing them.

Forward Targets

An easy target for the Habs would be centre Mark Jankowski. It will be difficult to pry the hulking centre away from Calgary, as he is playing a regular shift with the Flames this year. Dillon Dube is having another great year with Kelowna in the WHL. He has 21 goals and 46 points in 31 games with the Rocket. He also had a strong World Junior Championships with Canada, scoring two goals and five points in seven games. Slovak centre Adam Ruzicka is an interesting prospect. He has tons of talent and ability but he struggles with consistency. If he can find consistency in his game, he could be a star at the NHL level.

Defence Targets

Similar to the Nashville Predators, the Flames are much deeper on defence. With a strong NHL defence corps, it will be difficult for some of their prospects to crack the NHL in the coming years.

High on the Habs target list should be Rasmus Andersson. Andersson has performed well since joining the Stockton Heat of the AHL. He is a strong skater with great offensive instincts. Oliver Kylington is another great skating defencemen the Habs should be interested in. He has great vision and a strong passer. Both Andersson and Kylington need to refine their defensive game but should develop into strong NHL defencemen.

Other players the Habs should target:

  • Adam Fox (D)
  • Linus Lindstrom (C)
  • Spencer Foo (W)

Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars are currently sitting in one of the Western Conference Wild Card spots. The Stars are locked in the same playoff battle as the Flames. The Stars are a bit long shot to go after Pacioretty. The Stars are deep in offensive talent and could probably use help on defence. Still, Stars general manager Jim Nill has shown he isn’t afraid to add a player he thinks can help the Stars. Unfortunately, the Stars don’t have an exceptionally deep prospect pool to work with.

Forward Targets

The Stars top forward prospect is Roope Hintz. Hintz is a versatile forward that can play on the wing and at centre. He is a smart player with good offensive instincts. He is also smart in his own end. Another forward the Habs should target is Reilly Tufte. He is a great skater and a slick stick handler. He possesses a rare combination of skill and size (6’5″).

Defence Targets

Miro Heiskanen is probably the ideal target but the former third overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft is not likely available. Julius Honka possesses great offensive ability. While his size can lead to issues in his own end, his skating makes up for it as he can transition from defence to offence very quickly.

Other players the Habs should target:

Anaheim Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks are sitting on the outside of the playoffs right now. The team had to deal with injury issues early in the season and are now making a push towards the playoffs. For a team that lost in the Western Conference Finals last year and is considered a Cup contender, the Ducks might feel pressure to go out and acquire a player to put them over the top.

Forward Targets

Sam Steel is a player the Habs should ask about. Steel is having a strong season with Regina, netting 17 goals and 48 points through 38 games so far this year. Steel was also a key member of Canada’s World Junior Hockey Championship gold medal-winning team. He scored four goals and seven points through six games. Maxim Comtois is another player the Habs should be high on. He is a versatile forward that can play all forward positions. He is a natural goal scorer and a big body. He also scored three goals and six points for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships.

Defence Targets

The Ducks have deep organizational talent on defence. Their top defensive prospect, Brandon Montour would be ideal but is probably off the table. If the Habs are looking for immediate help, they could look at Jacob Larsson, Marcus Pettersson or Keaton Thompson who are playing in the AHL and impressing. If the Habs are interested in a player that needs more time to develop, they should look at Josh Mahura.

Other players the Habs should target:

It Only Takes One

If the Canadiens decide to move on form Pacioretty he will command a significant return.  Last year at the trade deadline, the Phoenix Coyotes were able to move Martin Hanzal for a significant return. Pacioretty should have a higher value than Hanzal if the Habs play it right. Right now general managers are being more conservative hoping to get help on the cheap. The closer it gets to the deadline, the offers should improve and can get extravagant. The trade deadline does funny things to NHL general managers.

Habs general manager Marc Bergevin should be working the phones to drive up Pacioretty’s value among contending teams. Teams will look to try to pry Pacioretty away for less than fair value, but with Pacioretty rediscovering his scoring touch, his value will continue to rise. Even still, it only takes one general manager to think that he is the missing piece to their Stanley Cup puzzle and overpay. In a Stanley Cup arms race, once you get one team willing to go above and beyond, more will follow.

 

 

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4 COMMENTS

  1. The Blues would be very unlikely to deal Kostin, Thomas or Kyrou in my opinion. Likewise with Tage Thompson. Walman, Barbashev or Sammy Blais would be possibilities but I don’t know if a package including any of them would be enough. The Blues are well-stocked with defensive prospects that should be attractive to the Habs but their forwards are the future of the franchise and I don’t get a feeling Doug Armstrong is likely to let any of them go.

    • If they aren’t going to deal at least one of them, then they aren’t going to geta a player like Pacioretty. You have to give talent to get talent, and this is a 5-time 30 goal guy… including 4 consecutive seasons, on a contract worth a mere 4.5 million per season, for 2 playoff runs. You have to give assets or you aren’t getting him.

  2. To go with your point if you are not happy with him at trade deadline next year, he would command nearly the same return for a contending team.

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