If you followed along with the NHL Entry Draft on Twitter during day two, the final round was interesting for Sharks fans and it had nothing to do with their picks. A rumor broke that Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty was traded to the Sharks. There were overlapping confirmations and denials, and at the end of the draft, the announcement regarding Pacioretty had nothing to do with the Sharks.
Here’s what we know and the best guesses as to what happened.
Pacioretty has been part of the trade rumor mill going back to the trade deadline most recently, but several times over the last few years. Montreal isn’t exactly kind to their players and the 29-year-old captain has taken plenty of criticism in the team’s struggles the last few seasons.
On June 22, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that four teams had expressed interest in Pacioretty. No doubt fueled by the one-for-one trade of Alex Gachenyuk and Max Domi earlier this month, GMs thought they’d find the going price for other talent in Montreal.
Four teams kicked tires on Max Pacioretty today. Doesn't mean he'll be dealt today necessarily but teams beginning to show their hand as first round approaches...— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 22, 2018
This sentiment was followed up by Sportsnet’s Eric Engels yesterday morning, before the second day of the draft began.
From all the intel I’ve gathered, a Pacioretty trade seems imminent. Fairly obvious that Kovalchuk and Tavares decisions are holding up the market. We could have clarity on those fronts before the end of the draft.— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) June 23, 2018
Ilya Kovalchuk, of course, then signed with the Los Angeles King on a three-year, $6.25 million AAV contract, freeing up the market a little. We also know that the Sharks and Bruins were in on Kovalchuk.
KHL's leading scorer and 2018 Olympic MVP Ilya Kovalchuk will join the LA Kings for the 2018-19 season after agreeing to terms on a 3-year contract.https://t.co/xp15gyuKBu— LA Kings (@LAKings) June 23, 2018
So the Sharks lost out on Kovalchuk, Max Pacioretty was potentially on the block, and then Doug Wilson was seen chatting with Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin on the draft floor during the seventh round.
Wilson and Bergevin were also spotted chatting away after the GM meetings this week here in Dallas, too— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzNHL) June 23, 2018
It then appeared that the Canadiens were prepping to announce a trade, just after talking to Wilson. The Sharks seemed to be the obvious partner.
That’s when the Pacioretty to San Jose rumors began.
Hearing from multiple people here in Dallas that Max Pacioretty on his way to Sharks, and soon— Jim Cerny (@JimCerny) June 23, 2018
Of course, as soon as there was a confirmation of the trade, there was denial.
Getting denials on the Pacioretty to SJ rumblings— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) June 23, 2018
From there, conflicting reports continued to surface.
Doesn't appear to be anything to the rumours of Max Pacioretty heading to San Jose.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) June 23, 2018
Sounds like the Pacioretty to #SJSharks rumors are true. Havent confirmed with team yet.— Paul Gackle (@GackleReport) June 23, 2018
We’ll be talking with Wilson shortly
FWIW, MTL has not traded Max Pacioretty.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 23, 2018
The final round was occupied with will-they/won’t-they? on whether or not Pacioretty was actually headed to the Bay. The draft ended and finally an announcement was made regarding the winger: he is now represented by Allan Walsh and has parted ways with agent Pat Brisson. It should be noted that Brisson represents John Tavares and yesterday confirmed that Tavares will be meeting with five teams, including San Jose.
We are proud announce that Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens is now a client of Octagon.— Allan Walsh (@walsha) June 23, 2018
Agent Pat Brisson indicates he's parted ways with Max Pacioretty. No longer his agent. No hard feelings but a mutual decision both felt made sense at this time.— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 23, 2018
It appeared the trade rumor drama was just a lot of filling in the blanks and jumping to conclusions. There was a lot of out-right denial that there was ever a conversation.
MTL has nothing going on Max Pacioretty trade front. At this point, the plan is to keep him in the lineup. That could change but for now...c’est tout.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 23, 2018
“There were rumours Saturday that San Jose was getting Pacioretty but sources on both teams confirmed they never even spoke about him.” https://t.co/GfJfdKHtlf— HabsLinks (@HabsLinks) June 23, 2018
Finally, last night, Kevin Kurz of the Athletic reported that the Sharks and Canadiens had, in fact, been in communications about Max Pacioretty, but those talks had ceased the day prior, which explains why he was so quick to assume that if the Habs were announcing a trade after Wilson and Bergevin spoke on the trade floor, it involved Pacioretty going to San Jose.
Here’s what I know about what happened today: the #SJSharks were talking to the Habs about Max Pacioretty as recently as yesterday before talks broke down. They may have revisited today, but I can’t confirm that. Regardless, sounds like it’s all off...at least for now— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzNHL) June 24, 2018
What can we take away from these rumors?
It’s possible there really was nothing to these rumors and that a lot of people were just making connections with the information that was already known (Pacioretty’s future in Montreal being uncertain, the Sharks looking for another back up plan after losing out on Kovalchuk).
What’s more likely is that there had been trade talks prior to yesterday that made people on both sides ready to believe it could or would happen, which caused them to jump the gun when the two GMs began speaking at the draft, hoping to be the first to break the news of a trade they already had a feeling was coming. It’s nearly impossible to speculate on why those trade talks broke down, but chances are Montreal was asking for a player San Jose wasn’t willing to give up.
It remains possible that the Pacioretty talks could resume depending on how free agency plays out for the Sharks, particularly regarding John Tavares. With Pacioretty in his final year of his $4.5 million AAV contract, the Sharks don’t really have to limit themselves to a one-or-the-other scenario, but would still want the cap flexibility to negotiate a Tavares contract before pursuing Pacioretty.
The news about Pacioretty switching agents isn’t as unrelated to trade talks as one would think, either. Pat Brisson represents a good number of Habs and former Habs, including Max Domi, Andrew Shaw, Mike Reilly, and Alex Galchenyuk. Brisson not only has many close dealings with Bergevin, but are childhood friends, with a relationship going back to their teenage years. The two had recently been talking about an extension for Pacioretty, so for him to leave his agent in the midst of that, especially when his agent is a personal friend of Bargevin’s, could indicate a rift between the player and the organization.
While trade talks yesterday may have been entirely overblown, it seems likely that Pacioretty will be traded soon, and with their moves so far, it’s clear San Jose is keeping their options open.