A recent TSN report indicates that Vegas Golden Knights left winger Max Pacioretty may be made available in a trade.
The Golden Knights, like 10 other NHL teams, are over the salary cap upper limit of $81.5M as it stands today (per CapFriendly). TSN Senior Hockey Reporter Frank Seravalli was first to report, followed up by reporting from The Athletic's Jesse Granger.
"I’m told the Golden Knights have doubled down in recent days and weeks in an attempt to try and move Pacioretty", Seravalli said on TSN's Insider Trading. "He has three years left at $7 million a year, coming off a 32-goal shortened season. You think back previously in this off-season, they were trying to move any number of players on their team to try and gain salary cap flexibility. There is no question the team is over the cap at this point, but they believe they can be cap compliant by opening night. Pacioretty would go a long way in terms of getting some of that flexibility and also enable them to potentially take a run at any number of the high-profile free agents that remain unsigned at this point, like a Mike Hoffman or an Erik Haula."
More recently, Golden Knights owner Bill Foley denied the reports, saying "We’re not shopping Patches. We do have cap issues, and so some of those things have to be resolved as we go forward, we started getting into the season. But he definitely is not being shopped."
Even if the Golden Knights aren't "shopping" Pacioretty, it's likely that Vegas would be willing to listen to offers. The 32-year old is still a productive player, coming off a season in which he led Vegas with 32 goals and 66 points in 71 games. So, should the Blue Jackets be interested in trying to acquire Pacioretty?
The Blue Jackets need scoring help, and Pacioretty is a proven scorer. He would immediately become their top goal-scoring threat. And while the center depth chart has been improved with the acquisition of Max Domi, Mikko Koivu, and Mikhail Grigorenko, and the right side is strong with Oliver Bjorkstrand, Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno, and Emil Bemstrom, the left side could use an offensive injection.
Pacioretty would immediately slot Blue Jackets wingers into more appropriate roles. Alexandre Texier could play on a second line alongside Domi and either Bjorkstrand or Atkinson. While Gus Nyquist is rehabbing from shoulder surgery, Boone Jenner or Liam Foudy would make for a solid third line left-wing option.
Any theoretical trade would likely require "money out" for the Blue Jackets. The club is roughly $9M under the salary cap, but Pierre-Luc Dubois has not yet signed. On the other hand, Brandon Dubinsky's $5.85M can be put on LTIR, which could nearly offset the $7M incoming money.
Lastly, this offseason has been highlighted by a lack of return on trades, a glut of free agents who are still unsigned, and a handful of teams in salary cap hell. If ever the Blue Jackets would be able to take advantage of an oversaturated market and other team's misfortune, this could be the opportune time.
The elephant in the room is the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Do the Blue Jackets have an internal salary cap? Is there be a directive from ownership to avoid adding salary?
Then there's the player. Pacioretty is on the wrong side of 30, and while he had a monster season in 2019-20, he also played on a strong line primarily alongside superstar right-winger Mark Stone. Is it likely that he'll be able to maintain that level of production for three more seasons? I wouldn't bet it.
His $7M salary is also less than ideal, as he would be the highest-paid player on the club (barring Dubois signing for more than expected), and who knows how that would play in the locker room.
Lastly, I speculated in the pro's that the Blue Jackets (or another team) may be able to steal Pacioretty for a less-than-typcial return. Granger thinks that's an unlikely scenario, and actually argues that the Golden Knights would be foolish to trade Pacioretty.
Pacioretty is a true sniper, the exact type of player the Blue Jackets covet. Is his price tag prohibitive? Possibly. That, combined with the type of prospect/player/draft capital the Blue Jackets would need to move in order to entice the Golden Knights, make it unlikely that this trade would come to fruition. But crazier things have happened in 2020.