Canadiens linked with reunion with veteran free agent forward

Canadiens linked with reunion with veteran free agent forward

The Montreal Canadiens could consider bringing a familiar face back to the Habs this offseason, if they are interested and can reach a deal with unrestricted free agent Max Pacioretty.

No one from the Habs organization will reveal their plans. However, according to Blain Potvin of The Hockey Writers, “some are hoping Max Pacioretty returns to Montreal as a UFA,” in what he believes “could be a way to find closure for Pacioretty and Habs fans.”

Pacioretty spent the first 10 years of his career with the Canadiens, earning the franchise’s “C” as the Habs’ captain. Potvin believes he can bring a veteran presence to the team as it completes its rebuilding process.

“He captained the Canadiens during a time when the team was struggling, and a return now that they are emerging from a rebuilding period could be appropriate,” Potvin wrote.

According to PuckPedia, the Canadiens have $10.2 million in cap space to fill their roster. Montreal has 19 of the 23 players under contract on their roster as of July 10.

According to Daily Faceoff, based on AFP contract projections, Pacioretty should be available in exchange for a one-year contract worth $1.5 million, which easily fits within Montreal’s salary cap space.

Could the Canadiens consider a reunion with Max Pacioretty?

From a strictly financial standpoint, the Habs have more than enough leverage to sign Pacioretty to a one-year or multi-year deal.

Pacioretty completed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Washington Capitals in late June 2024. He played in just 47 games during the 2023-24 season, scoring 4 goals and dishing out 19 assists for a total of 23 points. Pacioretty averaged 0.49 points per game and was penalized 25 minutes.

“Pacioretty is now 35 years old and has suffered some very serious injuries that have caused him to lose a step or two,” Potvin wrote. “Last season, the winger had just four goals and 23 points in 47 games, and his age and the injuries all indicate he’s likely willing to take a one-year deal for a low cap hit.”

The Canadiens are in need of high-scoring forwards as they are the fifth-worst team in total points going into the 2024 season. In 82 games, they have scored just 76 points, which is an average of 0.92 points per game.

As good as Pacioretty has been historically, his best days are behind him and he may be a little too far past his prime for the rebuilding Habs to emulate. Pacioretty has scored 50-plus points just twice in the last seven seasons, last doing so in 2021 when he scored 51.

“Some argue that having Pacioretty as a third-line winger could help the club improve this season,” Potvin noted. “But with Hughes looking for help in the top six, he may not be the right fit as he would at best become a third-line winger who would eventually take the place of a youngster who needs to play.”

Habs GM Kent Hughes builds for the future

Kent Hughes spoke after the first wave of free agency in early July and said he and the franchise are focused on building a team capable of long-term success.

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Hughes stressed the importance of not compromising the team’s long-term goals for short-term gains when he spoke to reporters on July 1. He highlighted the risk of young players’ progress being blocked by long-term commitments to veterans.

“As we’ve said all along, we’re not going to do anything that’s going to give us short-term gains at the expense of our long-term plan,” Hughes added. “And if we commit to a player too far into the future and we block young players from coming up, I think we’re undercutting what we’re trying to achieve. So we went in knowing the odds were against us, hoping we could win, convince people this was an exciting place to play on, I think, inferior financial terms.”

In line with this strategy, Hughes signed an eight-year, $60.8 million contract with forward Juraj Slafkovsky (22), the franchise announced on Monday, July 1.

Slafkovsky scored 20 goals and 30 assists for a total of 50 points in 82 games during the 2023-24 season.

The Canadiens drafted Slafkovsky with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. He leads his draft class in games played (121), goals (24), assists (36) and points (60).