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It’s Time For The Golden Knights To Move On From Max Pacioretty

Max Pacioretty

Max Pacioretty
Max Pacioretty is hurt again. While the injury is a bit of a blessing in disguise, long term the Knights should look to move on. (Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s Time For The Golden Knights To Move On From Max Pacioretty

He’s hurt again. You never want to hold injuries over players, but at some point, there is something to be said for simply being available. The Golden Knights can no longer count on Max Pacioretty. It’s just a reality and it’s probably time to move on from him sooner rather than later.

Now, of course, this needs to be said. Vegas was in the midst of facing a pretty serious cap crunch. Pacioretty is about to get hit with the Kucherov cheese. Well, it’s not really cheese because Pacioretty is seriously injured. The man who is nicknamed “Patches” underwent wrist surgery that will put him out indefinitely. Pacioretty can likely return in four months or so which would put him on track to return for the postseason.

In the short term, his injury is a bit of a blessing in disguise in a weird way. It solves the Jack Eichel dilemma. A fully healthy Vegas team was about $5 million over the cap. Moving Evgenii Dadonov would have been the logical move but he does have a limited no trade clause that would have complicated things. Scoring on the wings outside of Jonathan Marchessault has also been a serious issue this year.

Moving on from Reilly Smith was another possibility, but one the Knights would prefer not to go down. Smith is an alternate captain and has built incredible chemistry on that second line with Marchessault and William Karlsson. Alec Martinez, Brayden McNabb, and Mattias Janmark are other names Vegas could have considered cutting ties with.

This Pacioretty news likely takes away that sort of gut wrenching decision Vegas would have had to make in a month or so. Instead, Pacioretty made the decision for them because he’s never available. So yes, the injury is a great thing for this year only. Vegas essentially gets Patches for the postseason run while bludgeoning way over the cap.

After this season, it’s time to move on. Pacioretty has a chance to make up for some sins if he can come through this postseason. However, the fact remains that Vegas would much rather have Nick Suzuki today. Pacioretty might be better in the current moment but he’s never available and significantly older. That trade also was probably a big reason why Vegas lost to Montreal in the Conference Finals last year.

When Pacioretty plays, he’s an asset. No question about it. Patches money sniper can find the back of the net and create instant offense almost by himself. The former first round pick by Montreal has 21 points in 16 games. 12 of those points are goals and boosts ridiculous advanced numbers. Even at age 33, Patches still has it. He’s just never on the ice and already missed significant time with a broken foot.

The problem is the cap issue still remains next season. Vegas can let Smith walk (but I’m not sure they want to do that). Vegas would probably also prefer to retain Nic Roy and Nic Hague who hit restricted free agency this offseason. Clearing that $7 million cap hit would do the trick. Pacioretty will be in the final year of his contract next season and I’m not sure it’s an issue the Knights want to deal with long term. Can’t commit those kind of dollars to someone who’s never available.

For the rest of this year, it’s a non-issue. For next year, Vegas needs to start preparing for the future. That can happen now during the trade deadline, or this upcoming offseason. Do you throw your hat into the Evander Kane sweepstakes? Do you take a flier on a Jake DeBrusk trade? The fact of the matter is, Pacioretty should be viewed as unreliable and Vegas can’t really afford him next year anyway.

This Golden Knights team is a potential Cup winner. Pacioretty was a ghost last year when it counted and now he’s just simply not available. A first line of Mark Stone, Eichel, and Pacioretty sounds sexy but we probably will never see all of them healthy at the same time anyway, unless it’s postseason play. The goal for Vegas should be finding a more reliable, younger, and cheaper left winger to build with as Eichel heads into his prime.

The plan is simple. Enjoy one last postseason run out of Patches (if he even plays) then cut ties and move on after this season. There will still be a market for Max Pacioretty because, at his best, he can still put the puck in the back of the net. He’s worth something. Just not the $7 million cap hit the Knights are allocating to him. It’s a non-starter now after trading for Eichel.

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