A perennial 30-goal scorer for the Habs, Pacioretty simply was not a future cornerstone piece in the eyes of general manager Marc Bergevin for rebuilding a team.
WATCH: The Montreal Canadiens are sending captain Max Pacioretty to Las Vegas as part of a controversial trade. Global Montreal Senior Anchor Jamie Orchard speaks to hockey analyst Brian Wilde on what the move means for the Habs.
No insult to Pacioretty — at 29 years of age, he is a better fit for a team that made it to the Stanley Cup final last year than he is for the 28th best team in the NHL, now in transition.
Pacioretty will find success in Nevada; the Golden Knights need the goals on the wing to replace the departed David Perron and James Neal.
He would not likely have found success in Montreal in a frustrating season of too many losses and too many spotlights on him with expectations he can score 30 to 40 goals again while also playing defence.
The organization had given up on Pacioretty not giving even a bad contract offer for him to contemplate whether he wanted to stay in Montreal.
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Pacioretty fell to 17 goals last season and it will be interesting to see if that was just a one-off, or if it was the first season of a player losing a step in his game.
It’s been a long and hard road for a player with solid character to keep fighting. Not many recover from almost being paralyzed.
He also suffered a horrible concussion in Florida and contemplated retirement as a result of the headaches that lingered.
Pacioretty’s health is strong at the moment, but a difficult history of near paralyzation, a serious lingering concussion and blowing out his knee make it hard to imagine a 35-goal scorer at the end of a seven-year contract worth about $55 million.
So, the question is: should Pacioretty have been moved?
For the Habs, who aren’t going to amount to a hill of beans this season, the answer has to be yes.
Why? Because the best years of Pacioretty are in the near future and those years aren’t going to be championship years in Montreal — or even close to it.
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If Bergevin waited this year, he could have found himself with next to nothing at the trading deadline with his options getting more limited by the month.
The bottom line is, the situation played out very much like the Matt Duchene affair in Denver.
GM Joe Sakic looked like he had blown it; there was ugliness between the two sides; the locker room was an absolute mess.
There was no way Sakic could win a trade with all of that in front of him — and then he pulled off a little magic acquiring players and picks for his disgruntled player.
This is why you do not judge until the trade is made. It is only in the fullness of time that you can evaluate whether the situation was handled well or not.
It’s in the Pacioretty return do we find our winners and our losers; the return in this trade, no question, makes Bergevin a winner.
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The Habs acquire first-round draft choice Nick Suzuki, 27-year-old Tomas Tatar, and a second-round draft choice.
The big win is Suzuki, a first rounder in 2017, taken 13th overall, who can play all three forward positions but could be the centre that the Canadiens have been dying for for more than 20 years.
He was a big scorer for Owen Sound for two seasons.
Last year, he had 30 more points than the second leading scorer on his team; he dominated.
He is a terrific skater. He has amazing hands. He has tremendous vision.
Suzuki will be a top-six forward in the NHL, so the Habs have gained 10 years of asset here.
This is exactly how to rebuild a hockey team.
It is in the blueprint. Age gets traded before it starts to show itself, and youth gets brought in just before it matures.
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Suzuki likely won’t make the Habs this season, but he is a year ahead of Jesperi Kotkaniemi at the centre position and will have the inside track over Kotkaniemi and Ryan Poehling.
We will see what the future holds, but what we could see is a battle for the centre position on the Habs in a year or two — and you simply can not say that was a thing since Damphousse and Turgeon were 1-2 in the 1990s.
You can also extol the virtues of Tatar, but he is not the twinkle in the star of this trade.
He is a 20-goal scoring winger who struggled when he moved from Detroit to Vegas.
He sat most games in the Golden Knights playoff run as he simply wasn’t bringing enough of a level of compete.
At 27, he has plenty of hockey left in him. He is signed for the next three years at $5.3 million per year.
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It is interesting to note that Tatar has a no-move clause in his contract, so he actually gave the go-ahead to play with the struggling Montreal Canadiens and leave a cup-contender in Vegas — just as Pacioretty surely gave the go-ahead to move to Vegas by saying, “yes” to the prospects of negotiating a long-term deal in the desert.
In the end, if you want to criticize a general manager, then perhaps eyes should be focused on George McPhee.
He gave up a first-rounder, a second-rounder and a third-rounder to get Tatar from Detroit — then flipped Tatar and Suzuki and a second-rounder in favour of Pacioretty. He better sign him!
This brings us to the third piece of the puzzle that made this trade a winner for Bergevin — the second round draft choice.
It is the Blue Jackets’ choice in the next draft, so one assumes it will be a late second-rounder — another opportunity for Trevor Timmins to find a hidden gem.
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The Habs have 10 picks in the next draft after loading up last time. This is how you build a winner in today’s NHL.
The next two years are going to be lean, but after that, watch out.
Champions are created out of lost seasons.
They’re not made out of average seasons. You must draft high to get the best players and the best players win cups.
Now, there is a hole at the captaincy for the Habs yet again.
The Habs were disappointed in how it went trying an inexperienced captain in Pacioretty and they won’t go that route again.
They will go with an already proven captain in Weber, who held the title in Nashville.
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Weber is a natural leader, reminiscent of the great Mark Messier in Edmonton.
He commands attention and has a natural authority; he has an aura about him.
When Weber speaks, everyone listens.
The media will go hard that Gallagher is the next captain, but both the dressing room and management know the natural leader, with an undeniable presence, is Weber.
Just because he is short-term injured for the start of the season doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be the long-term captain.
It’s day one of the season and the excitement is palpable — the future is much brighter.
The Pacioretty era is over and management did exactly what you are supposed to do to keep building and rebuilding.
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A long, long time ago, Pacioretty was acquired next to Josh Gorges for Craig Rivet.
In the six degrees of separation — Rivet, who is from another lifetime in hockey terms for Suzuki, a young stud with a bright future — this is a tremendous win.
Now, that’s a stunning timeline of a trade. That’s how it is done.
Bergevin is not without his detractors — and deservedly so. He has made blunders, however, this is not one of them. This is how it is done.
Let the rebuild continue in earnest. The future looks so much brighter in September than it did in April.
Yet, this November, when too many losses are rolling in, there will be darkness.
At that moment, remember that it is always darkest before the dawn.