The road through the Pacific Division got much more difficult for the Sharks.
That's because the Vegas Golden Knights acquired winger Max Pacioretty from the Montreal Canadiens hours before midnight on Sunday. Vegas sent trade-deadline acquisition Tomas Tatar, top prospect Nick Suzuki, and a second-round pick to Montreal.
Pacioretty, 29, is one of the NHL’s most consistent goal-scorers. His 173 goals since the lockout-shortened 2013 season are the 10th-most, and Pacioretty’s scored 30-plus goals in a season more times (five) in the last decade than every active player but:
- Alex Ovechkin (10 seasons)
- Sidney Crosby (six)
- Phil Kessel (six)
- Corey Perry (six)
- Patrick Marleau (five)
- Rick Nash (five)
- Steven Stamkos (five)
He’s coming off a down year, but that's probably owed more to bad luck five-on-five (4.72 percent shooting percentage, per Natural Stat Trick) than anything else. Pacioretty's absolutely an upgrade over Tatar, and probably a substantial one at that.
Midnight trade! Pacioretty goes to Vegas. High shot volume player and underrated playmaker. Should replace what Vegas lost in Neal and then some.— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) September 10, 2018
Suzuki & a 2nd to the Habs along with Tatar's contract. pic.twitter.com/S70m2sk4bx
Suzuki, the No. 13 overall pick in last year's draft, is a prospect with pedigree, but this trade is good news for Vegas in 2018-19. It's also bad news for San Jose.
The Sharks mostly stood pat after missing out on John Tavares this summer. The band’s back together, while the Golden Knights (Pacioretty, Paul Stastny), Los Angeles Kings (Ilya Kovalchuk), and Arizona Coyotes (Alex Galchenyuk) added big names.
Can San Jose keep up with the arms race in the Pacific Division without a similar move? Sure, especially considering reason went out the window as soon as Vegas won the division and the conference as an expansion team.
Still, there is a reasonable case to be made. Joe Thornton and Evander Kane playing at the same time will be a boost, as will the continued offensive growth of Tomas Hertl, Kevin Labanc, and Timo Meier. That, plus some regression in Vegas’ sophomore season, could bridge the nine-point gap at the top of the Pacific.
The Golden Knights are doing their best to stave off a sophomore slump, though, and the odds of unseating Vegas just got a bit longer.