“Our Sources Tell Us” is an occasional series wherein we look at possible trade targets for the Carolina Hurricanes
Just one year after the Montreal Canadiens traded P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators, Habs general manager Marc Bergevin is reportedly listening to offers for restricted free agent center Alex Galchenyuk.
On Alex Galchenyuk future in MTL, my take as follows: MTL is most certainly "listening" on trade talk (where have we heard that before, PK).— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 14, 2017
Surprising to very few, Canes twitter made a connection. Carolina needs a first line center in order to bolster their forward unit, and by all accounts, excluding the Montreal brass, Galchenyuk is of first line center quality.
Let’s explore this odd turn of events and see if the Carolina Hurricanes fit in somewhere.
The Case for Galchenyuk
A member of what has turned out to be a very underwhelming 2012 draft class, third overall draft pick Alex Galchenyuk has had an up and down tenure with the Canadiens.
At times, it looked like he was going to be a part of that core up front with Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher.
Other times, Galchenyuk didn’t provide what Montreal wanted and it didn’t appear as if he would pan out to be that first-line center that they wanted. That opinion has been held by a Habs front office that has made their fair share of mistakes, most notably trading P.K. Subban to Nashville.
When you look at Galchenyuk, you see a 23-year-old forward who can score goals at a high rate. He’s a year removed from a 30-goal campaign and while you can look at his 44 points in 61 games a year ago and not be too impressed, there’s more to the story than that.
For starters, he was hurt. A nagging knee injury kept him out of the lineup frequently in the middle of the year and that affected not only his play but also his ice time.
Galchenyuk averaged just 15:56 of ice time last season, the lowest he had skated since 2013-14. He seemingly was in Michel Therrien’s dog house, and when he was fired Claude Julien instantly put him on the top line in practice, but that didn't stick. His ice time dropped to 14-15 minutes a night and he was slotted on the wing more often than not down the stretch and his numbers suffered.
Despite this, Galchenyuk’s 2.76 points per 60 was tops among Montreal skaters and was just a few ticks higher than Jeff Skinner’s Hurricanes-high 2.7.
So, while Montreal may not view him as a good center, every single stat would suggest he is, outside of his faceoff success rate, which is admittedly bad at 42.7%. That said, we've seen him relatively successful in the circle dating back to 2015-16 when he won 47.9% of his draws.
If you’re looking for a top-line center, Galchenyuk is a good bet regardless of what an oft-baffling Montreal front office says. His numbers are great in the middle of the ice. He racks up primary points despite his lack of ice time in Montreal.
The Case Against Galchenyuk
As wrong as Marc Bergevin has been in the past, there has to be some merit to his lack of trust in Galchenyuk.
While he drives above average possession numbers, it isn't because of his defense. He allowed the second highest Corsi-against among Montreal forwards last season, but he made up for it with the volume of shots that he was on the ice for. He was similar to, though worse than, Jeff Skinner in that regard.
If Carolina deals for Galchenyuk, they would undoubtedly want him in the middle of the ice and playing on the first line. So, while his point production will go up, the hit they’d take in that spot is his lack of faceoff success. If he can reach 48%, there won't be much of an issue, but he can’t continue to be south of 43%, especially for a team that values possession so highly.
With Rod Brind’Amour remaining on the staff and Carolina a perennial faceoff powerhouse, the assets are there for Galchenyuk to improve as a center.
With Montreal trading for Jonathan Drouin this afternoon, the Habs have seemingly doubled down on their view of Galchenyuk as a wing. This will likely not sit well with Galchenyuk, who has made it clear that he sees himself as a center going forward, but the Habs aren’t so sure. Here’s Julien at the end of the season:
Ideally, we would love to have him play center. But I think he realizes the same thing we realize right now. As a centerman, it’s one of the toughest jobs there is because you have to be all over the ice, and you’ve got to be able to skate. You have to be good at both ends of the ice, and you have to be responsible. Right now, he’s not at that stage.
So, if you’re the Canadiens, and you have very little in terms of center depth (80-year-old Tomas Plekanec as the top-line center at the moment), but you have little hope that Galchenyuk develops into that guy, wouldn’t you look to move him to acquire that piece?
Bob McKenzie sure thinks so:
I do wonder if Jonathan Drouin can play centre as opposed to the wing. I would guess MTL would most certainly give it a shot.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 15, 2017
Especially if Drouin stays on the wing, MTL needs to fill hole(s) at centre and now, due to Sergachev departure, on the blueline, too.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 15, 2017
Could a swap of Elias Lindholm plus something else for Galchenyuk do the trick? That gives the Habs the top-two center they need, and with Jordan Staal and (presumably) Victor Rask able to hold down the fort until the Nicolas Roy/Janne Kuokkanen/Aleksi Saarela generation is ready to make the jump, the Canes could afford to part with Lindholm and try Galchenyuk out at center.
And if it doesn’t work, you just plug Galchenyuk into Lindholm’s old spot, which would be a goal-scoring upgrade anyway.
That would be asking a lot of Ron Francis, but if they want a goal scorer, it’s going to cost them. Do you feel lucky, Hurricanes?
You make the call: should the Canes try to trade for Alex Galchenyuk?
This poll is closed
Yes, it’s worth the risk even if he doesn’t pan out as a center
No, let him be Montreal’s problem
Other (comment below)