Perhaps spurred by the recent progress in getting the 2020-21 season up and running, the Vegas Golden Knights are back at it, working the phones in an effort to make a move to get salary cap compliant. Vegas is one of a number of teams currently over the salary cap upper limit and must shed some salary before play begins. However, the player that GM Kelly McCrimmon is allegedly pushing to other teams may come as a surprise. TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports that veteran forward Max Pacioretty has been the subject of trade talks this off-season, with those discussions picking up steam in recent days.
Pacioretty, 32, may be one of the older players on the Vegas roster but is still an elite scorer. The long-time Montreal Canadien was in fact the Knights’ leading scorer this past season, recording 66 points in 71 games for a career-high scoring clip. He added another eight points in the playoffs. In the two seasons since coming over from the Habs, Pacioretty has shown no signs of slowing down. His loss would be felt in a major way in Vegas, both on the ice and in the locker room.
However, Pacioretty’s $7MM, while commensurate to his production, is a massive weight on the Golden Knight’s salary cap. If the team were to move Pacioretty without retaining any salary, they would not only be under the cap ceiling but would have the flexibility to make an addition if they so desire. Seravalli mentions top available free agent Mike Hoffman or a reunion with Erik Haula as possibilities. One would also think that Pacioretty would still bring in a considerable return as well; he cost Vegas Nick Suzuki, Tomas Tatar, and a second-round pick just two years ago. However, in a definitive buyer’s market, McCrimmon would have to be careful not to give away Pacioretty for too little just for the sake of cap savings. The team was already lambasted for trading top defenseman Nate Schmidt for pennies on the dollar in order to facilitate the signing of Alex Pietrangelo.
One other concern for the Knights’ brass is the locker room culture. There have already been reports of many players being unhappy with the frequent trades that the team has made and the perceived lack of loyalty toward the roster. The team has dealt Schmidt, Haula, Colin Miller, Cody Eakin, Malcolm Subban, Brandon Pirri, and Paul Stastny all in the past 18 months, leaving the young franchise with very little roster consistency. There are certainly some in the room who have to be unhappy to even hear the whispers of a potential Pacioretty move. Others in the media have noted that he is not the only name on the block either, with fan favorite Marc-Andre Fleury likely being floated again as well. Vegas must tread carefully when it comes to making any further moves and a Pacioretty trade in particular can only be made with a considerable return and a plan to replace him with the cap savings.