Should the Blackhawks have kicked the tires on Max Pacioretty?

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A middle-of-the-night trade splash woke up the hockey world over the weekend when the Montreal Canadiens announced at 1:06 a.m. eastern time on Monday that five-time 30-goal scorer Max Pacioretty had been shipped to Vegas.

This was inevitable.

It became apparent that Montreal and Pacioretty, who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, were both ready for a change of scenery at the NHL Draft in June after the Canadiens were reportedly close to dealing their captain to Los Angeles. For whatever reason, the deal fell through, which led to Pacioretty changing agents from CAA’s Pat Brisson to Octagon Hockey’s Allan Walsh while the first round was going on.

It was reaffirmed during Montreal's annual pre-training camp golf tournament, where owner Geoff Molson revealed both parties agreed a trade was best for everyone — although Pacioretty denied ever requesting a trade.

That brings us to the trade itself.

In return for Pacioretty, the Canadiens received forward Tomas Tatar, a top-tier forward prospect in Nick Suzuki, who was taken 13th overall in 2017, and a second-round selection in 2019. Montreal is retaining 10 percent of Pacioretty's salary ($4.5 million cap hit) while Vegas is retaining 9.4 percent of Tatar's salary that carries a cap hit of $5.3 million until 2020-21, according to TSN's Pierre LeBrun. That package is without a Pacioretty long-term contract extension already in place, but will certainly be discussed as Vegas looks to maximize its value. (Update: Pacioretty agreed to a four-year, $28 million contract extension with Vegas on Monday afternoon).

Colleague Pat Boyle and I discussed on our most recent Hawks Talk Podcast whether the Blackhawks should go after Pacioretty and weighed in on what a potential package would look like. There were several layers to this.

Would the Blackhawks have done a deal if Pacioretty wasn't willing to sign a contract extension from the outset? If so, what would that have looked like? On the flip side, would the Blackhawks have been willing to up their package if they knew he would? If so, is that something they would have even wanted to do, given he turns 30 in November? And what would that new contract look like and how would that have impacted the long-term plans?

These are all questions the Blackhawks surely tried to answer before exploring that avenue, which would have included a package similar to what Vegas gave up: a roster player, top prospect and draft pick.

While acquiring Pacioretty probably would have increased Chicago's chances at competing for a playoff berth this season, perhaps the real eye is on the 2019 free-agent class, one of the strongest we've ever seen: Matt Duchene, Jordan Eberle, Erik Karlsson, Anders Lee, Artemi Panarin, Tyler Seguin, Jeff Skinner, Mark Stone...

There will be money to spend for the Blackhawks, who got rid of Marian Hossa's contract too late to make a big-time signing for this year's class (if they wanted to do so). And waiting until then means you wouldn't have to part ways with any of the younger talent coming through the pipeline.

But it comes at a cost of waiting a full season to do it — with Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews another year older — and hoping the 2018-19 campaign isn't a wasted opportunity for the second straight year.

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