Despite winning their final three games, the Florida Panthers missed the Stanley Cup playoffs by one point, narrowly losing out to the New Jersey Devils. It's fair to say that the biggest reason they missed the playoffs was due to a lack of scoring depth. Losing Jonathan Marchessault and Riley Smith to the Vegas Golden Knights proved too much to overcome.
As reported by Eklund, Montreal Canadiens' captain Max Pacioretty will inevitably find himself with the Florida Panthers
sometime between now and July 1, 2019.
And Max will be there...eventually...one Montreal source actually told me I could call it "inevitable." It may be via a trade or it may be an eventual free agent...but Montreal knows this too and they would be wise to get back as much as they can will they hold his rights...
With this potential acquisition going down sometime over the next 18 months, let's examine what it would take to bring Pacioretty to Miami. Montreal will be looking to replace their veteran captain winger and to do that it will require a package of players, prospects and/or draft picks.
The most obvious place to start is with Florida prospect Adam Mascherin, who reportedly will not sign with the Panthers
and prefers to either be traded or re-enter the draft. Mashcerin was a second-round pick taken by the Cats 38th overall in 2016. The Toronto native is currently playing in the Conference Finals with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League and has 17 points in 12 playoffs thus far.
Florida has other prospects in their system that could be apart of a deal for Pacioretty, but it's unlikely that the deal would include their 2017 first round pick Owen Tippett. If the Habs require a roster player in return who might they ask to be included?
Nick Bjugstad would be a perfect fit for the Montreal Canadiens. He can play center, a position sorely lacking in the Habs organization right now, and he has the size that Montreal needs to add. It's understandable that giving up Bjugstad in exchange for Pacioretty could further hamper their depth problems. However, Pacioretty is a significant upgrade.
With Henrik Borgstrom, Owen Tippett, Maxim Mamin, Jared McCann and Denis Malgin all vying for more ice time, Bjugstad will be relatively easy to replace. The 6'6" center played 87% of the season with some combination of Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau.
Clearly benefiting from superior line mates, Bjugstad posted his best career possession numbers and a career high 101.0 PDO. Simply put, he isn't as valuable as his numbers might seem. Bjugstad's value is at an all-time high and now is a great opportunity to cash in. He also has a no-trade clause that will kick in on July 1, 2020.
Florida can afford to include a high draft pick (depending on what else is given up) in order to acquire Pacioretty, as they've accumulated significant young assets over the last several years. Obviously the Panthers will have to give up some good pieces to acquire the five-time 30 goal scorer, but he would change the look of the team from top to bottom. This is a move the organization must make (or one very similar to it) in order to compete in the top heavy Eastern Conference.
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