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Pacioretty excited about fresh start with Golden Knights

Forward just wants 'to get back to what I loved doing as a kid'

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

LAS VEGAS -- Max Pacioretty arrived in Las Vegas about 11 p.m. Tuesday. He hadn't slept well in days, and he didn't sleep well this time, either.

He woke up in his hotel room about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday and wandered across the street to City National Arena, the practice facility of his new team, the Vegas Golden Knights.

The guy in front recognized him.

"You want to go see the room?" the guy asked.

"Sure," Pacioretty said.

So there he was at 5:30 a.m., looking around, marveling at what he called the best facility he'd ever seen.

"I'm just completely blown away," Pacioretty said.

 

[RELATED: Pacioretty 'going to fit well,' Golden Knights believePacioretty trade puts Vegas on track to win Stanley Cup]

 

This is an emotional time for Pacioretty, who was traded by the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday and signed a four-year, $28 million contract extension with the Golden Knights on Monday.

Montreal was the only NHL organization he'd known. He'd spent 10 seasons with the Canadiens and been their captain since Sept. 18, 2015, and he'd taken everything that came with that -- the culture, the history, the pressure -- to heart. Maybe too much.

Video: Max Pacioretty takes in first practice with Vegas

He had 17 goals in 64 games last season, a disappointment for a five-time 30-goal scorer, as Montreal finished 28th in the NHL standings. He was entering the last season of his contract, about to turn 30 on Nov. 20, with a wife, three kids and another child on the way.

Asked if he'd requested a trade, he said things can be interpreted in different ways. He said he would have been willing to sign an extension with the Canadiens, but the trade was mutual. He had to agree to an extension with Vegas for the Golden Knights to send forward Tomas Tatar, prospect Nick Suzuki and a second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft to Montreal.

"[The Canadiens are] going in a direction of a little bit of a rebuild or a reset, and I'm ready to move on to something new, and I'm very excited that this is where the next chapter's going to be," Pacioretty said.

The Golden Knights are a perfect fit personally and professionally. 

Pacioretty doesn't have to be the captain, let alone the captain following legends like Toe Blake, Maurice Richard and Jean Beliveau in an intense, bilingual media market. As general manager George McPhee said, he will be one of 23 captains. For a brooder, that's a huge relief.

"I have the opportunity right now to just 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 and having fun," Pacioretty said. 

Pacioretty knows and trusts the coach, Gerard Gallant, who was an assistant in Montreal from 2012-14.

"He gives you confidence with the way he talks to you, with his honesty, with his approach of giving you opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them," Pacioretty said.

Pacioretty, a left wing, has chemistry on and off the ice with his likely center, Paul Stastny. When they have played together for the United States, they have been linemates. They're friends. So are their wives and parents. Stastny is new to Vegas too, having signed as an unrestricted free agent July 1, so they can experience this change together.

"He's a very reliable center who takes care of his end, slows down the game, more of a give-and-go player," Pacioretty said. "That's kind of why I like playing with him a lot."

Pacioretty is going from the oldest franchise in the NHL to the youngest, and from one of the best atmospheres to … well, one of the best too, just in a different way. After his first game at T-Mobile Arena, a 6-3 Montreal loss on Feb. 17, he called his wife.

"I still had goosebumps," Pacioretty said. "I was all fired up after we played them. I said, 'If I'm a free agent, we've got to come here. This place is unbelievable.' She's like, 'It's crazy there. The Strip, it's not good for kids.' It's just crazy how we have this misconception of … We don't know what the reality is, so we just assume you're living in a casino."

Pacioretty knows goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury well from training with him in the summer. Fleury's wife spoke to Pacioretty's wife and raved about the community and the schools. When Pacioretty told his kids about the trade, he showed them YouTube videos of Vegas' over-the-top pregame shows.

"I feel that this organization has changed the game," Pacioretty said. "You're going to see a lot of teams copying what they do in terms of in-game production. As I mentioned when I came here, this experience was amazing, but I couldn't imagine being on the other side of it, and now that I am, I'm really looking forward to it."

Most important, though, Pacioretty is going to a team that finished fifth in the NHL and went to the Stanley Cup Final last season, a team that is trying to win now, as evidenced by his very acquisition.

"I'll be put in a position to succeed," Pacioretty said.

No wonder he can't sleep. 

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