Last Word in Hockey Habs team manager Connor Lapalme has a good piece out this week. He argues that the Montreal Canadiens should not trade Alex Galchenyuk. I agree. I also agree that “…the Canadiens would be foolish to give up on him…”
Trading Galchenyuk would be a mistake. A lamentable, idiotic, and otherwise asinine error. They will trade him though. When they do, it will cap off “…a history of player mismanagement and poor development.”
The Case Against a Trade
Connor’s case against a trade is based on three arguments. These are based on his age, his offensive upside, and the influence of Julien. Connor is correct. Galchenyuk is still developing as a player. Patience makes sense. At just 23, he is a skilled offensive player who has his best years ahead of him.
Galchenyuk is an exciting, creative offensive talent. Since the 2015-16 season, Galchenyuk has scored 51 goals and 55 assists. This is despite an injury last year. It is also despite being shuffled from center to the wing, and back again. While he has averaged 15:41 TOI since 2015, he has had stretches of under eleven minutes a game. He has improved his game of late.
A New Coach
Connor also points out the value of Claude Julien. He notes that Julien helped build and guide the Boston Bruins to a Stanley Cup.
To these useful arguments, I would add another: value. The Canadiens are unlikely to get near the return that Galchenyuk is worth. Based on longstanding rumors, the Habs would be looking for an established top center or a puck-moving defenseman. This ask is a result of Habs management blowing up their defense during the offseason. It is a continuation of the Canadiens long-standing inability to develop or acquire the depth needed at center.
Montreal Canadiens Will Trade Alex Galchenyuk
So why, given these all these reasons would the Canadiens even consider trading Galchenyuk? There are three reasons: Value, Fit, and Character.
Ironically, the first reason is value. As I argued above, the Canadiens are likely to lose a trade on value. However, the reality is Galchenyuk is one of just four players the Habs have that could bring significant value back to the organization. Goaltender Carey Price, defenseman Shea Weber, and winger Max Pacioretty all could be traded for exciting new players. For a variety of reasons, this is unlikely. Price has a no-trade clause kicking in soon. Weber is Bergevin’s dream defenseman. Captain Pacioretty is an elite scorer. Galchenyuk is the next player who could bring the most in return in a trade.
The second reason is fit. Listen to the coach and GM speak about Galchenyuk.
One gets the distinct impression that Galchenyuk doesn’t fit into the system that is envisioned for the Canadiens. Although this is not a team that has been able to execute that vision, both Julien and Bergevin want a defensively sound team. As long as the Canadiens are tied to this mentality, any player who cannot adapt defensively is unlikely to be successful in Montreal.
A Question of Character
The best way to assess how a GM feels about a player’s character is to listen how they speak about them. Last year, Bergevin suggested he was disappointed by Galchenyuk’s performance. Last month, Bergevin stated suggested he was looking in the wrong places for answers.
Complicating matters, Galchenyuk has had some issues off-ice including incidents that required the team to step in. This includes when his girlfriend at the time was arrested on a domestic violence charge. This year, former Canadiens player and coach Mario Tremblay said in a radio interview that Galchenyuk has been to rehab for substance abuse issues on more than one occasion. This required Marc Bergevin to publicly address the claim.
Taxes, Death, and Trading Galchenyuk
In sum: Bergevin is obsessed with character, even if he can’t define what it means. Galchenyuk has had some character-related issues. Likewise, Galchenyuk is a creative player. He simply cannot be who he is as a player if he is constrained by a defense-first system. Finally, the Canadiens have significant holes in their lineup and few tradeable assets. When a trade comes it will involve Galchenyuk. He is young and he is skilled. For the right team with a modern approach, he will be able to fulfill his potential. It is a shame it can’t be in Montreal.