Max Pacioretty on joining Golden Knights: “It’s a really special group”

The forward skated with his new teammates for the first time Wednesday, expressed excitement for fresh start in Vegas.

For the first time in 10 years, Max Pacioretty dressed in different gear than the red and blue he donned in Montreal. He admitted it was weird.

It didn’t take long for the weirdness to shed. The newest member of the Vegas Golden Knights felt the camaraderie right away from his teammates and quickly understood why the now-second-year franchise had high levels of success last season.

Pacioretty also understands why he was brought to Vegas — to duplicate that same success the Golden Knights experienced as an expansion team going into their second year.

“There’s been a build up of emotion,” Pacioretty said during his introductory press conference at City National Arena on Wednesday. “That’s not to say we all knew this was going to happen, but there was a good chance.”

Pacioretty was acquired in a three-player trade on Sunday with the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Tomas Tatar, prospect Nick Suzuki and a 2019 second-round pick. Just over 12 hours later, Pacioretty signed a four-year extension with the Golden Knights worth an AAV of $7 million.

The former Canadiens captain and five-time 30-goal scorer skated with his new teammates for the first time Wednesday. From the moment he walked into the locker room, Pacioretty already felt like he had been a Golden Knight from the beginning.

“There’s a lot of strong characters in that room. I saw it today,” Pacioretty said. “I’ve heard about it throughout all last year. Right from the second I came into this room, I felt like a part of it. It’s really a special group and it’s a reason why they had so much success.”

Speaking with the media for the first time since the blockbuster trade went down Sunday, Pacioretty expressed excitement about playing for the reigning Western Conference champions and the potential of playing with Vegas newcomer, friend and potential linemate, Paul Stastny. Pacioretty said when Stastny entered free agency, and found out Vegas was in the mix, the two had discussions of the top-notch reputation the Golden Knights quickly developed in how they treat players, coaches, and staff.

“I think I read about (Vegas being in the mix), 30 minutes later he signed here,” Pacioretty said. “It’s amazing what they’ve done here and this is a place where you can get top free agents after one year in the league. It says a lot about the way they do things here.”

When Stastny signed his three-year, $19.5 million deal with Vegas on July 1, he and Pacioretty had more frequent discussions on the possibility of playing together once trade rumors started picking up steam. Vegas had the deal in place with Montreal, but it was only contingent on Pacioretty signing an extension.

That launched the six-to-seven-hour window general manager George McPhee eluded to on Monday to wrap the extension up.

“As I spoke to George and [coach Gerard Gallant] on the phone in that window, they reiterated that this is a team that wants to win, and I’m going to be a big part of that,” he said. “I’m not someone that’s chasing the dollars. You see longer deals than a four-year deal. I just want to be a part of this team right now, and that seemed like the best option to get it done for both sides. Right now, five years is a good place to be, in my mind, with this organization.

“Ultimately, I had to sign an extension to be here, and there are many reasons why I wanted to sign that extension, but Paul Stastny was definitely one of them.”

Montreal’s willingness to trade its captain showed the acceptance of a rebuild, but Pacioretty was not concerned about that if the franchise wanted to keep him. Pacioretty confirmed that he was willing to sign an extension with the Canadiens at the end of the season. He also denied that he asked Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin for a trade before last season began.

Pacioretty was named the Canadiens captain in 2015 and said he was “grateful” to wear the ‘C’ for the historic franchise. When Pacioretty arrived in Vegas, he was told that the Golden Knights are a franchise with 23 captains. He felt that immediately when he met the team.

Pacioretty also admitted that he thinks not bearing the captain mantra will help to an extent when he plays, but that shouldn’t take away from the accomplishment of being the Montreal captain.

“I couldn’t think of a better situation to be in, coming off a down year for myself personally,” Pacioretty said. “I feel I have the opportunity right now to take out my brain and go play hockey — get back to what I loved doing as a kid and that’s just going out there, having fun and playing hockey.”

Pacioretty also has familiarity with Gallant. The Jack Adams Award winner was an assistant for Montreal in 2012, Pacioretty’s fifth year in Montreal.

“I know what Turk brings,” he said. “He knows when to be hard on people, and when he is, you listen, because he knows what he’s talking about. That being said, he’s someone I trust very well.

“Not to take away from his hockey knowledge, but what Turk brings most to a team is his character, the way he speaks to people, the way he listens to people, and his honesty. He gives you confidence with the way he talks to you with his honesty, his approach of giving you opportunities, giving you opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them.”

As for adjusting to life in Las Vegas, it’s a hectic time for the Pacioretty family. His wife, Katia, is expecting their fourth child. The couple has three boys together. When the Canadiens played in Vegas in late February, Pacioretty called it “one of the most amazing hockey experiences” of his career playing at T-Mobile Arena. He told his wife “if I ever become a free agent, we have to come here. This place is unbelievable.”

After a conversation with Marc-Andre Fleury and his wife, Katia came around to the idea of moving to Las Vegas.

“As soon as I got here and heard from everyone else, it made her feel a lot better,” Pacioretty said. “She’s excited to bring the kids here and start this chapter of our life.”

Pacioretty will bring his 448 career points (226 goals, 222 assists) to Las Vegas. That skillset will be on display Nov. 10 in Montreal, when the Golden Knights play his former team. Pacioretty is excited for that game, but it’s one out of 82 as Vegas looks to get back to the Stanley Cup Final. The Golden Knights will lean on Pacioretty to be a key component in getting back there.

“I’m very excited to be in Vegas,” he said. “This is a new chapter in my life. I’m ready to be a part of something that they’re building here in Vegas, so I’m honored to be here.”