CALGARY, AB - DECEMBER 22: Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on December 22, 2017 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

The Montreal Canadiens are currently sitting well back of a wild card spot at the midpoint of the season and have a huge decision to make regarding their captain, Max Pacioretty. With the thought of needing 95 points to make the playoffs, the Habs would need to get 55 points in their last 40 games in order to accomplish this. Not impossible, but with the league as competitive as it is, that is not an easy feat. With that, trade rumours are starting to swirl around the team, most recently, Pacioretty.

Pacioretty is in the midst of his worst offensive season since the 2009-2010 season, sitting with just 10 goals and 23 points in 42 games. He was also questioned at the end of last season, especially in the Stanley Cup playoffs where he only recorded one point in six games. Pacioretty has always been a streaky scorer, but it seems like once the playoffs come, he is always on his cold streak. This season, Pacioretty has been unable to find chemistry with Jonathan Drouin. He’s also had one of the worst slumps of his career, and overall just has not seemed to be himself.

When questioned about recent rumors of a trade Pacioretty said “if it happens, it happens.” This is not the reaction you would expect to get from the captain of such a storied franchise and it would have to make people wonder if its time for the Habs and their captain to go their separate ways.

What Should The Canadiens do with Max Pacioretty?

Trade Pacioretty for picks and prospects

The Habs could look at moving their star forward to a playoff team, for high-end prospects and picks to help the team for the future. Teams such as the St. Louis Blues or Nashville Predators are amongst the teams who could look to acquire the Habs winger, with names such as Vince Dunn, Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou of interest from the Blues, as well as, Eeli Tolvanen and Dante Fabbro from the Predators. Both deals would fill the need the Habs have at centre, to join prospect Ryan Poehling. There is a deal to be had from both teams who could afford to pick up Pacioretty’s $4.5 million contract.

Trade Pacioretty for immediate help

In Marc Bergevin‘s press conference on January 7th before the Habs went to battle with the Vancouver Canucks, Bergevin said he was not ready to become a seller and the season could be salvaged. He also stated that he was not willing to part with the future in order to turn the season around now, and even though he has the cap space, there’s not a player available right now that would be able to turn the season around.

It’s no secret that the Habs have been looking for a centre, and not just one, but they could benefit from two. All Habs fans are holding their breath for John Tavares, but is there a hockey deal to be made with teams such as the Edmonton Oilers, Buffalo Sabres or the Calgary Flames?

The Oilers who are currently in the same boat as the Canadiens and also believe they have a shot at the playoffs. The Oilers are interested in adding a scoring winger to play alongside Connor McDavid and Pacioretty would fit the bill perfectly. Could a deal send Pacioretty to the Oilers for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and benefit both teams? A second option could be Ryan O’Reilly in Buffalo. Buffalo is willing to sell, but acquiring Pacioretty to play with Jack Eichel could work perfectly for the Sabres. The third option would be Mikael Backlund in Calgary. Calgary is exploring different options to help improve scoring and Pacioretty would be the perfect solution.

All three of these centres would be perfect options for the Habs as they all play a good two-way game, which fit Claude Julien‘s defence first style of play. This would also benefit Jonathan Drouin, as he would be able to move back to the wing and play in a position he is more comfortable in.

Keep Pacioretty

The Habs could also elect to keep the captain with the hopes that he breaks out of this slump. Trading the captain midseason isn’t always the best option as it can create turmoil in the locker room. Also, it’s not the most common thing to do for a team who feel they could turn the season around and make the playoffs. The Habs also should not be willing to trade Pacioretty just for the sake of trading him. If there is not a good offer, the team can be patient and try to move him at the NHL Draft.

Depending on where they sit and what the offers are at the trade deadline, Bergevin could decide to keep Pacioretty for this season and reevaluate in the off-season. Pacioretty will still have another year left on his contract after this season, so trade talks could pick up again at the draft in June.

With the trade deadline about a month and a half away, the Habs still have time to figure out if they will be buyers or sellers. If Pacioretty doesn’t start scoring goals, and the Habs don’t start winning games, he could find himself being the first one packing his bags and getting shipped out of town.

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