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Pacioretty seizes some control of his situation by announcing he won't negotiate during season

The Canadiens have held the keys to Max Pacioretty's future for the entire off-season, but the Montreal captain snatched back some control by saying he won't negotiate a new deal once the campaign begins.

Until now, the Montreal Canadiens and GM Marc Bergevin have pretty much controlled the situation with respect to the future of captain Max Pacioretty. And they’ve essentially used that control to jerk around a productive player who loves playing there and wants nothing more than to be in Montreal beyond next season and for the rest of his career.

Well, you can mark down Thursday, Sept. 6, as the day that Pacioretty seized some of that control back. In announcing that he won’t negotiate – with the Canadiens or any other team – on a contract extension once the season begins Oct. 3, Pacioretty is now the one setting the rules of engagement going forward. In a best-case scenario, it prompts the Canadiens into action and forces them to either trade or sign him before the season begins. Worst case is once the season begins, Pacioretty has essentially put the screws to the Canadiens and Bergevin by making himself a rental player instead of a long-term investment. And that would lessen a market value for Pacioretty that might not be as bountiful as the Canadiens thought it would be in the first place.

Pacioretty made the announcement at teammate Jonathan Drouin’s golf tournament Thursday morning, citing the fact that negotiating mid-season would be too much of a distraction for him and his teammates. It is to laugh. Does Pacioretty actually think that by not negotiating he’s going to remove the distraction his situation has become? Ask John Tavares how that strategy turned out. This is an imbroglio that has enveloped Montreal throughout the summer with everyone from former teammate Lars Eller to former Canadiens GM and legendary player Serge Savard chiming in. (And spoiler alert, neither of them sides with the Canadiens on this one.)

Last week, Eller tweeted about the Pacioretty situation, saying: “As a friend, I hope Max Pacioretty’s situation is resolved soon. He has shouldered one of the toughest jobs in hockey wearing the ‘C’ for the CH, taking responsibility and blame for things beyond his control. At the same time being one of the top goal scorers in the game.” He later tweeted: “He is as committed and cares as much as anyone I’ve ever played with. Any team would be lucky to have him.”

Savard, the last man to manage the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup in 1993, had this to say about Pacioretty on a Montreal radio station: “He’s a fine gentleman. He’s a great human being with a nice family. When you have problems, it’s like a family. You have three, four kids, you have a problem, you solve the problem. Attitude is not only the players’ attitude, it’s the management attitude and you’re responsible. You’re responsible to solve those problems.”

Ouch. But in reality, the Canadiens have had a lot of this coming. In Pacioretty, they have a player who can score on a roster that finished 29th in the league in that category last season. He takes the responsibility of leading one of the league’s most tradition-steeped franchises and wants to be part of the solution. If the Canadiens want to rid themselves of Pacioretty and move forward, they’re entirely within their rights to do that. Pacioretty scored just 17 goals last season – albeit without a playmaking center – and the Canadiens may view him as a diminishing asset. But the way they’ve handled this has provided a clear template on how not to deal with situations like this.

If the Canadiens have a clear vision here, it’s hard to see what it is. And now, in terms of getting a valuable return on their captain, that prospect is growing dimmer by the day. A trade to the Los Angeles Kings at the draft couldn’t be completed because the team and Pacioretty couldn’t come to terms on a long-term deal. Pacioretty is on what can only be described as a team-friendly contract and there’s no way he’s going to accept less than what he thinks he’s worth just to put this situation behind him an move on.

In a best-case scenario, Pacioretty gets his game back on track and returns to his form as a guy who can score 30 to 35 goals in this league and leads the charge for a run at a playoff spot. Perhaps then the Canadiens realize what they have in Pacioretty and sign him long-term after the season before he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

That’s an awful lot that has to go right for both sides. This is a bad situation that continues to go sideways and the more Pacioretty takes control of the narrative, the potential for it to get dicier for the team increases by the day.

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