Will he stay or will he go?
We are now week away from the trade deadline, and Captain Max still hasn’t quite gone down with the foundering ship.
Is Bergevin holding out for the best possible deal after already receiving competent offers or are teams waiting to see if there are cheaper deals before making their final pitches for the longtime 30-goal scorer?
As per usual there are plenty of rumours, speculation and innuendo….the only person who knows the true answer to that is the beleaguered Montreal GM. They say he’s perhaps the busiest GM in the game, and that label isn’t about to go away this week. One can picture Bergevin buried in a pile of phones this week a la Fred Flintstone when he became a stock market guru…there will be lots of offers going both ways, and Habs Nation is hoping that he can land that elusive number one center prospect.
With Florida’s recent winning streak it is becoming more likely that the Panthers will be one of the main bidders for Pacioretty. Henrik Borgstrom would be the plum prize. With Alex Barkov and Nick Bjugstad being young and holding down top-two center positions, Borgstrom, a talented Swede that has lit it up for Denver University the past two seasons, is a coveted prospect that may be expendable if Florida GM decides to go for it.
He is a prospect that would interest the Habs, and if he is part of a package that also includes a first-round draft pick, there is a strong possibility that Montreal will prefer that deal to some others, as Calgary, Minnesota and St. Louis are less likely to be offering high picks as they’ve recently surrendered some in earlier deals.
It is looking less likely that Calgary will be willing to deal Sam Bennett for Pacioretty, especially if the Habs also insist on the Flames surrendering a first-round pick in 2019. Calgary is not going to want to have dealt several of their top picks over 2018-19, particularly if they end up missing the playoffs anyway, and it’s still too early to be giving up on a former top-five pick who is just 21 years of age.
Additionally; one would suspect that Calgary would have less chance of re-signing Pacioretty than an American team so they would be reluctant to mortgage the future for a 14-month rental.
St. Louis remains one of the top teams in the mix for Pacioretty, but with the Rangers declaring their intentions of selling Nash and Grabner, there are going to be other options if Bergevin is unwilling to waver on his hefty asking price.
All of my sources contend that Thomas is not on the table, and that Armstrong likes his club’s chances of competing for a Cup over the next five years, not just this season. Thus it is more likely that Robby Fabbri would be the main piece in any legitimate offer for Pacioretty along with Kyrou, and since they don’t have a first-round pick in this year’s draft, it would be unlikely that a high draft pick would be included.
Fabbri has been injured for much of the past two seasons with knee issues, so the Habs are going to want a fair bit more if he is the main piece coming back. Assistant coach Kirk Muller has a history with Fabbri, so that connection may help intrigue the Habs; if he is able to bounce back from injuries he certainly has top-two potential even if he doesn’t bring ideal size.
Minnesota has been burned in the recent past at the trade deadline, so it is getting more and more difficult to envision management once again giving up some of the future for a veteran forward. Martin Hanzal didn’t work out, and that cost a first and second-round pick. Will the Wild dangle Joel Eriksson-Ek and another piece for Pacioretty? If so…will their reluctance to include another high pick be the dealbreaker?
As is often the case at the deadline, a team that one doesn’t think is interested in a certain player can end up stealing the spotlight – a good example of that was when Bergevin traded for Thomas Vanek, so one never knows who may also get into the Pacioretty sweepstakes.
A lot will depend on what happens in the next week in regards to the standings. Teams that are in that cluster of teams on the playoff bubble will want to wait until next weekend to make the important decision on whether they like their chances of making the playoffs and may be willing to sacrifice some future assets for a piece they think can put them over the top. Moreover; teams that are in playoff spots today but still in danger of missing the dance may want to fortify the roster to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Carolina, New York Islanders, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Washington, Columbus, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Anaheim, San Jose, Dallas and Colorado are clubs in that cluster that will have some tough decisions to make.
Jake Bean and Haydn Fleury would be left defencemen that would interest Montreal if Carolina GM Ron Francis finally decides to deal some of his vaunted defence depth for that veteran piece that may get them into that playoff spot.
The Islanders have two first-round picks, Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier as chips that may be used in one form or another as an enticement for the Connecticut native Pacioretty if Snow sees his GM job flashing before his eyes. The Islanders more likely to seek help on the blueline, but if they want to convince Tavares to stay they may want to give him a new toy up front and add both defence and forward depth as making the playoffs will be quite important in any quest to retain Tavares.
Devils GM Ray Shero is less likely to mortgage some of his future as he sees his club as being a year or two away from truly competing as his young core matures. Michael McLeod may be an expendable piece if the Devils seek a veteran winger at the deadline since the club is loaded with young pivots…perhaps even Pavel Zacha would be available…but if the Devils make a big move it is more likely to be for a top-four defenceman.
Any deal with Los Angeles would likely begin and end with Gabriel Vilardi, but there is a certain amount of doubt about whether Vilardi will play center in the NHL given his skating concerns. The other thing is that the Kings aren’t exactly brimming with promising high-end prospects, so they are not going to want to part with Vilardi either.
Pittsburgh would be more likely to be shopping for Tomas Plekanec than Pacioretty as he’ll cost less and fill their biggest need. Philadelphia…from all reports…isn’t interested in getting Pacioretty so don’t expect any offers from them.
Washington lacks the trading chips for Pacioretty having not selected a decent center prospect since Evgeni Kuznetsov in 2010, and there aren’t any high-end defence prospects that would intrigue the Canadiens, either. No…the Habs won’t be taking back Eller.
Columbus doesn’t really have what the Habs will be seeking either in that promising young center prospect, so they aren’t likely to be in the mix. The Blue Jackets aren’t likely to trade Wennberg as that would be a sideways deal where the club doesn’t improve for a playoff push, and Dubois is not going anywhere.
Anaheim GM Bob Murray has never been afraid to make moves, and the Getzlaf/Perry era is drawing to a close. Will he be willing to offer Sam Steel in a deal? The issue with that is he may well be Getzlaf’s replacement in a couple of years, so it’s doubtful that the Ducks make that move.
San Jose has Josh Norris as a possible trading chip if they are seeking another veteran winger. The main issue with that is he has disappointed this season and looks like he may have less NHL upside than Ryan Poehling, who the Habs selected after him in the 2017 NHL draft. He is also at least a couple of years away, and Montreal will be looking for a center that can play in the next couple of seasons if not next year.
Dallas doesn’t have what the Habs are looking for in terms of a young center prospect with top-two potential, and Colorado would have to be willing to part with Tyson Jost if they hope to land Pacioretty, and given GM Joe Sakic’s patience in building his team for the future that is very unlikely to happen.
Among the firmly entrenched playoff teams – Boston never makes huge deals with their huge division rivals, nor do the Leafs, so rule those two teams out. Vegas is not likely going to mess with their chemistry and just happy to be making the playoffs this year. As an expansion team, the long-range goal is still to build through the draft, so don’t look for them to be offering Cody Glass at the deadline.
Nashville doesn’t really have the pieces Montreal would be seeking at this point, especially in regards to a young center prospect. Eeli Tolvanen is an undersized winger, and heaven knows the Habs have enough of those already in the system and on the big club. Besides; he’s not likely to be offered anyway.
Winnipeg may be the most likely team at the top to be interested in making a deal for Pacioretty, and Roslovic would be the prime asset coming back in such a deal of one were to be made. Winnipeg has done an admirable job of stocking the prospect cupboard in recent years, so it may be time for a serious playoff push for a fan base starving for some playoff success.
At this point if one were to handicap where Pacioretty may go if he’s dealt, the most likely candidates would appear to be the Blues, Jets, Flames, Panthers and Hurricanes, so look for him not to end up with any of those teams. As Bergevin has been known to say in a phrase he borrowed from former Montreal GM Bob Gainey…”Expect the unexpected.”
The Clash is about to begin. Buckle up.