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Pacioretty says his heart's with Canadiens

Despite stresses, Montreal captain glad to remain in only organization he's ever known

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty has heard the rumors since late last season. As the NHL Trade Deadline approached Monday, the Montreal Canadiens captain was atop many lists of players figured to be on the move from a team that stumbled out of the gate and is playing out the string this season, looking to the future.

Veteran Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs with prospect Kyle Baun in exchange for forward Kerby Rychel, defenseman Rinat Valiev and a second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft on Sunday.

But the deadline passed and Pacioretty remained in Montreal, where the Canadiens lost a 1-0 shootout to the Philadelphia Flyers at Bell Centre. They fell to to 23-29-10, 13 points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card in the Stanley Cup Playoffs out of the Eastern Conference.

"I take full responsibility for where my game is at and how I've contributed to, I guess, the negatives of the season," Pacioretty said after the game. "But to be honest, guys, I can't shoulder the whole thing. That's unfair to myself and to my family."

The grind of the rumor mill has been wearing on Pacioretty for much of the season. As the deadline neared, the forward talked to about his future in Montreal while reflecting on his past.

Video: TBL@MTL: Pacioretty tallies PPG from the slot in 2nd

"The politically correct thing is to say that being traded doesn't matter, that it doesn't make any difference where you play," he said then. "But to me, it does matter. I have a family and I'm concerned about them."

Pacioretty was selected No. 22 by the Canadiens in the 2007 NHL Draft, and Montreal is the only professional organization he's known. He's completing his 10th season with the Canadiens, his third as captain.

With one year remaining on the six-year contract extension Pacioretty signed on Aug. 13, 2012, the 29-year-old native of New Canaan, Connecticut, was widely viewed as a valuable trade commodity for general manager Marc Bergevin, who has a significant rebuilding project on his hands.

For weeks in Montreal, which breathes hockey 12 months a year, the trade deadline was seemingly more important than the Canadiens' performance. Pacioretty heard the noise, but he was doing his best to not let it be a distraction.

Last summer was the first offseason Pacioretty spent in Montreal, moving from a home not far from the Canadiens' suburban training facility to a place downtown. He and his wife, Katia, are happy and comfortable there with their three children -- Lorenzo, 4, Maximus, 2, and James, 7 months.

"At the end of the day, my heart will always be in Montreal," he said as the deadline approached. "I'd bet that for the rest of my life, whether I play here or not, I'll call Montreal home, even if it's to be in the summer. I absolutely love it here and I always have. But at the same time, if I'm not playing hockey here, I'll concern myself with that and worry about my family.

"This is something I think about and that I believe anybody would think about. Yes, like some players would, I'm thinking about this one day at a time, but I'm also trying to look out for my family."

Pacioretty has been his Canadiens' leading goal-scorer the past four seasons, with 35 in 2016-17 and 30, 37 and 39 in the three seasons before that. His 17 goals through 62 games this season trail teammate Brendan Gallagher by four. Pacioretty's 37 points lead Gallagher by one.

Video: PHI@MTL: Mrazek uses pad to deny Pacioretty in OT

The rumblings of discontent from many fans and his regular media critics began during last season's Stanley Cup Playoffs when Pacioretty had one assist in the Canadiens' six-game elimination by the New York Rangers. If he took a lot of heat, he was buoyed by the support he was shown by coach Claude Julien, his first NHL coach who returned for a second tour of Canadiens duty on Feb. 14, 2017.

As Montreal continued to lose this season, the noise in the city grew louder and Pacioretty became a lightning rod for many.

"Things got so crazy and so out of hand that it almost made things easier," he said. "Sometimes, the criticism is reasonable. But when things get so out of control and so many ridiculous things are said, you kind of sit back and say, 'Wow, that's crazy.' I have a family to worry about and a life to live and at the end of the day I'm living a very good life.

"I'm privileged and honored to play professional hockey and wear the 'C' for the greatest franchise in hockey. I'm just going to worry about doing the best I can. If the results aren't there, at least I can put my head on the pillow at night knowing I'd tried my best.

"I've been through a few very tough stretches and there's always been stuff out there. But this is the first time that a lot has been out there, trade talk and whatnot, that I knew could affect my family. Obviously, with the team results and the personal results not being there this year, there's been a lot of stress. It got to a point that it got so ridiculous, I said, 'I'm going to take a step back here and understand what's important in life. I have to just worry about myself, my teammates, my family and what I can control.' "

As the trade deadline neared, Pacioretty spoke of wanting to remain in Montreal for his entire career. But he also understood the business of hockey as he reflected on the decade he had spent in the Canadiens family.

"I'm very comfortable with what I've achieved in Montreal," he said. "There's been so much negativity surrounding this whole thing but there are a lot of positives to look at. I've played 10 years in this organization and I'm extremely proud of what I've accomplished.

"The goal is to win the Stanley Cup, of course, I've had a lot on my plate while playing here. There's a lot of pressure, a lot of stress and that's what I love about playing in Montreal. I still feel that there would nothing in the world like winning a Cup in Montreal. Hopefully, I can be a part of that one day. If not, at least I can know that I've accomplished a lot wearing this jersey."

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