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NHL Trade Season: Penguins interested in Canadiens Max Pacioretty?

Is Montreal about to make another bad trade? If so, hopefully it will be with the Penguins

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

We usually run a “Thoughts on Thoughts” from Elliotte Friedman’s missives, only one item of directness to the Penguins this week but boy is it a doozy:

I could see Pittsburgh, which wanted Matt Duchene, keeping an eye on Max Pacioretty — if he becomes available.

This would be a bombshell of a trade, being as Pacioretty is the captain of the struggling 8-12-3 Canadiens team that is arguably the most disappointing team in the league so far in 2017-18. TSN’s Bob McKenzie wrote about Montreal’s situation a three days ago, saying:

Marc Bergevin is believed to be the league's most active general manager right now and is looking to make a move to "shake up" the team.

The Canadiens sit third last in the league in goals for this season and third last in goals allowed. Fittingly, their negative-23 goal differential is also third worst in the NHL, ahead of only the Buffalo Sabres and the Arizona Coyotes.

Could trading Pacioretty be the next big move for Bergevin? It certainly wouldn’t be too shocking considering Bergevin has made major trades recently, he’s dealt PK Subban to Nashville and acquired Jonathan Drouin from Tampa in the past 18 months. In this day and age where trades aren’t too prevalent, Bergevin has been one of the most active and impactful dealers in the NHL.

The Pens have been pretty disappointing themselves and seem to need a jolt or inclusion of fresh blood. As we pointed out, a lot have figured this could be in a depth addition of center to strengthen the bottom six, but Pittsburgh has a goal-scoring problem that extends higher.

Sidney Crosby has only 1 5v5 goal this season in 23 games. Evgeni Malkin has only 2 5v5 goals himself. Some of that may correct itself, but some of that is indicative of needing better offensive wingers, or perhaps just the spark of something new.

Here’s a quick look at Pacioretty

From HockeyDB:

This is pretty remarkable on paper, throw out the lockout year and Pacioretty has been a 30+ goal scorer in the last 5 seasons. Going back to the start of the 2011-12 season just look at the leading goal scorers in the league (from hockey-reference)

That’s really awesome for Pacioretty, so Pittsburgh ought to have more than a small interest in him. A star winger on a Canadian who produces in spades but for some unknown reason of “not meeting the pressure” or other weird criticism is on the trading block? Yeah, Pittsburgh loves that script, let’s go.

Financially, Pacioretty is under contract this season and next for a friendly team-deal of $4.5 million. He is scheduled to be a free agent in 2019, which is a little concerning since he’ll be 31 years old and have the leverage to get a nice raise but the team will be paying for past-prime years.

Acquisition cost seems tough to peg with Bergevin, based on his past deals. He’s made the Subban trade as a one-for-one with Shea Weber. Some draft picks were included in the Drouin deal, but that was largely seen as one-for-one with the major piece of Mikhail Sergechev going to Tampa.

One would think if Bergevin wants to “shake up his team” he’s going to concentrate on getting NHL talent back. Montreal isn’t scoring many goals, but Pittsburgh doesn’t have a lot of expendable pieces to help. Would they include Jake Guentzel? Doubtful, but Pacioretty’s production above speaks for itself and would represent an upgrade. Many Pens fans wouldn’t probably conceive a situation where the Pens trade last year’s leading playoff goal scorer (still on his entry level contract through 2019) for anyone, but Guentzel’s play has been just OK so far this season and Pacioretty is one of the best offensive wingers in the game.

If somehow Guentzel can be left out, would Conor Sheary or Bryan Rust be of interest to Montreal? Surely those guys aren’t nearly in Pacioretty’s league and more pieces would have to be included but that’s about all the obvious possibilities. It’s difficult to imagine Montreal trading their captain for Carl Hagelin and a draft pick, that ventures deep into “all our bad players for all your good” territory. Yet Pittsburgh doesn’t really have too many good options for Montreal to take.

Then again, in any trade where Montreal is going to “shake things up”, if they decide to include Pacioretty, it’s probably likely they’re going to be giving up the best player in the deal. If they’re looking to give away such a talent, hopefully the Penguins can take advantage.