Canadiens Linked to Reunion With Veteran Free Agent Forward

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

Nobody from the Habs organization will unveil their plans. However, according to Blain Potvin of The Hockey Writers, “some are hoping to see Max Pacioretty return 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 and got to earn the “C” for the franchise as the captain of the Habs. Potvin thinks he could bring a veteran presence to the team as it completes its rebuilding process.

“He was captain of the Canadiens in a period when the team was struggling, and a return as they are working their way out of a rebuild could be fitting,” Potvin wrote.

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

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

Could the Canadiens Entertain A Reunion with Max Pacioretty?

On a strict financial basis, the Habs have more than enough room to land Pacioretty on a one- or multi-year contract.

Pacioretty completed a one-year, $2 million contract at the end of June 2024 playing for the Washington Capitals. He appeared in only 47 games throughout the 2023-24 season, scoring 4 goals and assisting 19 for 23 total points. Pacioretty averaged 0.49 points per game racking up 25 minutes in penalties.

“Pacioretty is now 35 years old and has suffered some very serious injuries which 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 point to him likely being willing to take a one-year deal for a low cap hit.”

The Canadiens need goal-scoring forwards as the fifth-worst team in total points during the 2024 season, scoring just 76 points in 82 games for an average of 0.92 per contest.

As good as Pacioretty has been historically, his best days are over and he might be a bit too much past his prime for the rebuilding Habs to pursue. Pacioretty has scored more than 50 points just twice in the last seven seasons, and he last did it in 2021 when he scored 51.

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

Habs GM Kent Hughes Is Building for the Future

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

Hughes emphasized the importance of not compromising the team’s long-term goals for short-term gains speaking to reporters on July 1. He highlighted the risk of blocking young players’ progress with long-term commitments to veterans.

“As we’ve said all along, we won’t do something that will provide a short-term gain at the expense of our long-term plan,” Hughes added. “And if we commit too long into the future to a player and we end up blocking young players from moving their way up, then I think we’re doing a disservice to what we’re trying to accomplish. So we went into it knowing the odds were long, hoping that we could prevail, convince people that this was an exciting place to play with, I guess, inferior financial terms.”

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

Slafkovsky scored 20 goals and 30 assists for 50 total 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).

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