Max Pacioretty is a Vegas Golden Knight. The former Montreal Canadien’s captain arrived in Vegas in exchange for Tomas Tatar, prospect Nick Suzuki, and a 2019 second-round pick. It was a major shake-up for both teams. It also caught the attention of fans of the Ottawa Senators.
Past chatter linked Vegas as a landing spot for Senator’s captain, Erik Karlsson. The trade was close last season, but the deal collapsed in the dying minutes leading up to the trade deadline. It was so close that Bobby Ryan, who was also involved in these rumors, told Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun that “we [Karlsson and Ryan] thought we were gone”.
Although it was Pacioretty, and not Karlsson, moving to Vegas from the Atlantic Division, this trade could impact the Senator’s future.
The Vegas Advantage
At the very least, don’t count Vegas out of the Karlsson sweepstakes just because they have acquired and re-signed Pacioretty.
Vegas still has more than $9.4 million in salary cap space, according to CapFriendly. Cap space is an important asset in today’s NHL, especially when it comes to trade leverage and flexibility. Vegas has plenty of space left, possibly enough to take on a player of Karlsson’s caliber. They would have even more cap space available if they could manage to trade away a roster player in a deal. Alex Tuch, a former first-round pick of the Minnesota Wild, is a restricted free agent for Vegas at the end of the year and may be a player of interest during Ottawa’s rebuild.
In addition to salary space, the Golden Knights have other assets that the Senators would covet in a Karlsson trade. These include early-round draft picks and a deep pool of prospects. One prospect of interest to Ottawa is Cody Glass.
Vegas clearly wishes to repeat their magic of last season, and this is another reason why Karlsson could be Nevada-bound sometime this year.
After making the Stanley Cup finals in their inaugural season, the Golden Knights have made some serious moves this off-season. On July 1, they signed unrestricted free agents Paul Stastny, Nick Holden, and Daniel Carr. Now, they have acquired and secured a prominent goal scorer in Pacioretty. These transactions send a clear message across the NHL that Vegas is ready to repeat their success of 2017-18.
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However, the Golden Knights weakest area remains on the blueline. Currently, their best defenseman is Colin Miller, who collected 41 points in 82 games last year. Compare this to Karlsson, who scored 62 points in 71 games for Ottawa. Karlsson, as an offensive catalyst on the back end, could be enough to power Vegas to the Stanley Cup.
Race for Hughes
Perhaps the biggest impact of the Pacioretty trade will be its role in deciding who gets to draft Jack Hughes at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMbPoOcQ3yQ.
Hughes, 17, is already regarded as the top overall prospect. He has been identified as a franchise centreman, who has drawn comparison to Patrick Kane.
The Senators are without their first-round selection this year. They gave it to the Colorado Avalanche last season in the Matt Duchene deal. Poised for a rough season ahead with a major rebuild on the horizon, the Senators won’t want the Avalanche to select Hughes with their former first-round pick.
In this regard, the Pacioretty trade may actually help Ottawa achieve this goal. Montreal’s lineup is immediately less competitive without Pacioretty. It’s further weakened with Shea Weber sidelined until the mid-season. If the Canadiens finish lower than the Senators this year in regular-season play, the value of the Senators former first-round pick will decrease. As the value decreases, so do the odds of the Avalanche using it to select Hughes number one overall.
Billy Morrison covers the Ottawa Senators and the NHL’s Atlantic Division for Full Press Coverage. Follow Bill on Twitter @BillyMorrison01.
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