ARLINGTON, VA — The Washington Capitals added a star-studded wild card to their roster in free agency, signing forward Max Pacioretty to a one-year deal worth $2 million plus another $2 million in performance bonuses. Pacioretty’s contract comes after a season with the Carolina Hurricanes where he tore his Achilles twice, limiting him to only five games. His most recent injury came in January, just two weeks after he made his season debut.
Pacioretty confirmed in his first meeting with Capitals’ media that he is not currently healthy. While he declined to address the specifics of his re-injury, he remains confident that he can recover and contribute on the ice.
“I’m doing really well,” he said. “I’m very comfortable with where I’m at right now. I don’t think I’ll be ready for the start of the season, but it shouldn’t be too long after when I’m expected to come back and play.”
A stint in Washington could provide a fresh start in the wake of a chaotic year for Pacioretty. After four years in Vegas, Pacioretty’s $7 million contract proved too expensive for the Golden Knights, who sent him and defenseman Dylan Coghlan to the Hurricanes for future considerations last July. Pacioretty had played only 39 games the previous year between lower-body injuries and surgery on his wrist, but those injury woes would only worsened in Carolina.
The first Achilles tear came in early August of last year before Pacioretty ever dressed for the Hurricanes. He would make a relatively quick comeback from the injury and was playing again in just five months. The return wouldn’t last long, and he would go down again shortly thereafter. This time around, Pacioretty’s recovery will take far longer.
“I think when you do get re-injured it’s time to take a step back and try to analyze what went wrong and we feel we have a good grasp on all that,” he said. “If you’re going to take a bright spot, it’s [that] I know what to expect when you hit those milestones and how you should feel and how hard to force it and whatnot. But a big part of the process was to figure out what went wrong and kind of build off that.”
When asked directly, Pacioretty wouldn’t say whether that quick turnaround contributed to his re-injury.
“It’s tough to talk about,” he explained. “We know that information. It’s for me to personally talk about. I don’t think this is the platform for that. The one thing I do want to focus on is moving forward and making sure it doesn’t happen again. So to be positive and to think that the future, I want to focus on that, respectfully.”
This summer was Pacioretty’s first time testing free agency, and he spoke highly of the opportunity to work with his new teammates. Playing alongside Alex Ovechkin stood out as a particular highlight.
“I think when you look at the roster, there’s some obvious things that stick out,” he explained. “There’s at least three playmaking centermen and that’s always fun as a goalscorer–an expected goalscorer–to play with guys who want to distribute the puck. Ovi’s obviously the best goalscorer to ever play. I can learn a lot from him.
“And at the end of the day, this is a big boy line up. There’s a lot of big bodies in this line up and we all know that when you get to the playoffs, if you get to the playoffs, that’s a good way to make some teams pay and wear them down. So I really like this team. I think I can contribute by helping them score goals, maybe help out on the power play.”
The Capitals also offered Pacioretty stability. His deal includes a no-movement clause, ensuring that he won’t be flipped at the deadline if the Capitals aren’t satisfied.
“I think there were opportunities out there where there’s a lot of unknowns, teams are signing guys and not knowing what’s gonna happen in February and maybe you flip it that way,” he said. “And then there’s some situations where teams are really up against the cap and there’s not much you can do there. I have five kids, my family’s the most important thing to me.”
Further, Pacioretty’s time missed to injuries allowed for an unusual contract structure. Because Pacioretty spent more than 100 days on IR last season and has played more than 400 total NHL games, he became eligible for performance bonuses.
He will earn an additional $1 million if he plays 10 games, $500,000 if he plays 15 games, and a final $500,000 if he reaches 20 games this season. Any cap overage caused by the bonuses will carry over to the following season, effectively meaning the Capitals are paying Pacioretty in part against next year’s cap.
Ultimately, Pacioretty wants to prove that he’s not done yet. He scored 37 points (19g, 18a) in his final season in Vegas, despite being limited to 39 games. Before that, he broke the 50-point mark in seven of 10 seasons. Can that level of production continue after two serious injuries and nearly a year away from the game? The Capitals are gambling that it will.
“To be able to come to a team that I feel can have a very good year and [where] I can contribute and personally show that I’m capable of playing this game at the level I once was, for me, I feel blessed that I have this opportunity,” said Pacioretty.
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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