Is Calgary the Right Fit for Pacioretty?
December 21, 2017
By Grant McCagg
When the Habs are outside of the playoffs at ANY point in an NHL season there are always calls for management to “blow it up” and do a complete rebuild.
Many suggest Price and Weber should be dealt because the thinking is that they would bring the most in return. This is, of course, true. Why? Because they stand a very good chance of being elite NHLers for the next five years or more, and in Price’s case, perhaps even another decade, and that is exactly why you don’t deal them.
When one projects Montreal’s roster over the next five years, there is one legitimate top-pairing defenceman in the organization, and that is Weber. Same goes with Price in nets; there are no guarantees that any of the other goalies will be elite starters. Why deal two players that the club could spend the next few years in a fruitless attempt to replace?
The “All in for Dahlin” sentiment would have made sense in 1993 when there was no draft lottery, but there are no guarantees that if you finish dead last that you’ll get the top pick. In fact…the odds are against it, and there is even a decent chance that the team that is the league’s worst won’t end up with Adam Boqvist. Beside…NHL players have pride and never play to lose; even if you “gutted” this team the odds are good that it won’t finish behind Arizona and Buffalo.
Filip Zadina would be a nice player to have on the club, but do you sacrifice your only legitimate starting goalie and number one defenceman to ensure that you are bad enough to get him? There are no guarantees he’ll be any better in the NHL than a forward picked in the 7-10 range.
The sensible approach for Habs GM Marc Bergevin, if the club ends up being sellers near the deadline, is to deal players who after this season stand a good chance of having declining value, and the players who best suit that description would be Alzner, Montoya, Pacioretty and Plekanec, and to a lesser extent Benn, Petry, Schlemko, and Shaw.
There has been a lot of talk about Galchenyuk being dealt, but right now when his value is at an all-time low would not be the best time. It would be wisest to ride it out this season and hope that he can improve and figure a few things out in regards to the sacrifices he needs to make to be the best player possible and reach his vast potential.
Pacioretty is the prime piece to be moved while he still has more than a year left on a contract that most agree was one of the better bargains of the past few years. Slumping or not, Max’s deal is one teams will find attractive, and there will always be clubs out there who think they can break him out of his slump. Often a change of scenery can do wonders, and put with a proven offensive centerman for the first time in his career, it’s not inconceivable that Pacioretty could once again find his scoring touch.
There is no shortage of possible suitors, and ideally, the Habs look to get back a top-three defenceman or top-two center in return. If that’s out of the question, the Habs will certainly at the very least want a defenceeman or center with top-two potential, perhaps both.
There has been some chatter recently that the Calgary Flames have been inquiring about Pacioretty, and that would seem to make some sense as the Flames are a club in need of some goal scoring on the wing. Max would look pretty good beside Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau on the first line, and since the Habs are facing the Flames tomorrow and Bergevin and Brad Treliving could be chatting face-to-face – let’s explore such a trade scenario.
The key forward return in such a deal would likely be Mark Jankowski, an up-and-coming young center with size who is just now finding his way at the NHL level and a former first-round pick of the flames. A deal involving Jankowski would almost certainly include another young prospect/and or draft picks if the Flames hope to pick up one of the most productive wingers of the past half decade.
Ideally, the Habs would like to fill their two major needs in one deal even if it would mean having to wait on the return as it may involve a prospect that is not yet NHL ready.
A deal centering around Jankowski and Adam Fox in exchange for Pacioretty and Plekanec would most certainly intrigue the Canadiens, but would Calgary be willing to part with two of its most coveted young players?
Sam Bennett’s recent hot streak and the drafting of Juuso Valimaki last June make Fox and Jankowski more expendable than they were a year ago. Calgary is in a “win-now mode” with its defence core and goaltending and is hoping to garner support for a new building. Club President Brian Burke has always been one who wants to go for the gusto if history has taught us anything, so it would not shock me if those were the names being dangled if the teams are indeed talking.
The question would be whether the Flames would be reticent to give up so much promise in that deal. Fox has the smarts/puck skills to run an NHL power play some day, so would they be willing to part with him?
The thing is that the Flames have a strong young defence corps as it is with Dougie Hamilton and Valimaki among others…if any club besides Anaheim/Carolina has the defence depth to part with such an asset it might be the Flames.
The Flames get the big, productive winger for two playoff runs or more in Pacioretty they were hoping to get in Jagr on a temporary basis, and a veteran center to check the many top-end centers Calgary faces every game in the western conference in Plekanec.
The Habs going forward they would have three young pieces to mould into top-two centers in Jankowski, Drouin and Ryan Poehling. The runner-up could play a top-six role on the wing down the road as Jankowski is versatile and can also play on the wing, much like Drouin.
Fox would give the Habs a future power-play quarterback that has been missing since Subban was dealt, and a good bet to vie for a top-three position on the blueline that was lost with the trading of Mikhail Sergachev. Fox is undersized and not the fastest blueliner by any means, so there would be work to do before he was ready to assume such a role, but certainly his smarts and puck skills are at a level that no defenceman in the Canadiens’ system can match.
All of this is pure speculation of course, and the odds of anyone ever “guessing” the possible pieces in such a large trade scenario rarely, if ever, come close. It’s much more likely that only one of the two Flames mentioned would ever be involved in such a deal for Pacioretty.
You start going through teams and who might be interested in dealing for Pacioretty though, and the list is not a short one. Many argue that the Habs shouldn’t deal him….but it’s not working any more, and things may indeed only get worse, and his value only fades.
Pacioretty’s departure opens up an opportunity for Nikita Scherbak to be called up and put into an offensive role..and he looks ready to contribute at the NHL level if his play in the AHL this season is any indication. Are the Habs worse right now with Jankowski and Scherbak replacing Plekanec and Pacioretty? Perhaps…but they most certainly won’t be worse in 2-3 years, and sometimes new blood brings renewed enrgy and positive change.
If the right deal comes along, I really think a major shakeup in the dressing room is what’s needed. No…Max hasn’t been a poor captain in the room and off the ice, but I don’t think he is leading by example on the ice, and it is affecting the team in unseen ways. Deal him while his value is still pretty decent given that he has more than a year remaining on his cheap contract.
I think if MB moves Pacioretty he needs something more guaranteed coming back (i mean if such a thing exists). Jankowski has been a little slow to round out and as you say Fox may need work and time. Pacioretty has to be parlayed into something more bona-fide. Pacioretty may be following along the same path of a James Neal and trading too soon thinking he is a declining asset for some “hope” scares me