On June 15, Montreal made a splash and acquired the rights French-Canadian winger Jonathan Drouin, and promptly signed him to a 6 year, $33 million contract. After this signing, many thought this spelled the end of Alex Galchenyuk’s time in Montreal, as he is a restricted free agent, in need of a contract, and doesn’t appear to have many fans in Montreal’s management. Reports are saying that he is likely going to be traded, with some even saying that he’s actively being shopped.
Also, it appears Alex Galchenyuk is very, very likely to get traded. Strong possibilities for a defenceman to come back the other way.
— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) June 15, 2017
Many think Drouin’s acquisition makes Alex Galchenyuk expendable, as they have a suitable replacement for him now. Montreal’s biggest holes are at centre and left defense, so trading Galchenyuk for one of those things could theoretically help plug those holes. Ignoring the fact that Galchenyuk was drafted to be Montreal’s top-line centre, and Drouin is a winger (although it’s been suggested that he could play centre for the Habs), let’s assume Galchenyuk is traded for a centre or a left-handed defenseman that’s on the market, would the Canadiens be better off, or should they keep him?
Let’s explore these options.
Option 1: Trade Galchenyuk For A Centre
There are a few names swirling around the rumor mill in terms of available centres, most notably: Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers, Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche, and Tyler Johnson of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In a trade for any of these centres, you’d assume that Galchenyuk would be going back the other way, most likely along with other assets, but for the purposes of this analysis, we’ll compare them directly to Galchenyuk.
|Contract||Unsigned RFA||4 years, $6.5 million AAV||2 years, $6 million AAV||Unsigned RFA|
|2017 CF% RelTM||-3.54||3.03||0.75||-3.15|
When looking at the table, Galchenyuk compares favorably to all these players, ranking first in Points Per Game (P/G), tied for first in Points Per 60 (P/60), and was also first in Corsi For Per 60 (CF/60). All these things show that Galchenyuk was a solid offensive performer, especially when comparing him to the centres rumored to be available. His only deficiency is defense, where he was by far the worst in terms of Corsi Against Per 60 (CA/60). However, on a team as offensively starved as the Canadiens, they need all the offensive help they can get, and they already have this great offensive player on their team. His deficiencies in defense and faceoffs (his faceoff percentage for the year was 45.5 on the year) can be improved over time with coaching and practice. Does a team ranked 4th in GA/G and 15th in GF/G really need to sacrifice offense for an improvement defensively?
Option 2: Trade Galchenyuk For A Defenseman
Seeing as the Drouin trade made Galchenyuk expendable, the Habs should be able to trade him for a defenseman. First off, let’s set aside the fact that if they did this, they would have traded their best defensive prospect for a forward, only to flip a forward for a defenseman, essentially ending up in the same place they started, which is a lateral move at best. So, we’ll compare Drouin and Galchenyuk, because if Drouin really is a suitable replacement for Galchenyuk, they should be able to trade him for a defenseman, because they have a forward of equal offensive talent to offset the loss of Galchenyuk.
Now let’s look at Drouin’s year compared to Galchenyuk’s:
|Contract||Unsigned RFA||6 years, $5.5 million AAV|
|2017 CF% RelTM||-3.54||0.88|
Now both Galchenyuk and Drouin scored at a similar pace, 0.72 and 0.73 points per game, respectively, and they were both positive possession players. However, Galchenyuk was a much better player in terms of P/60, meaning that although they scored at a similar rate, Galchenyuk did it with more limited ice time. When comparing their CF/60 and CA/60, Galchenyuk was much better offensively, but much worse defensively. Again, it comes down to one player was better offensively, while the other was much better defensively. So, while Drouin could fill in offensively for Galchenyuk, they’re better off with both Galchenyuk and Drouin in terms of offense, rather than Drouin and a defenseman.
Option 3: Don’t Trade Galchenyuk
As you may have gathered from the title, in my opinion this is the best option. In Galchenyuk, the Montreal Canadiens have a great offensive player who lacks defensive skill. Should he be able to improve on that defense even slightly, the Canadiens will be much better off not trading him. While a centre corps of Galchenyuk, Danault, Plekanec, and Mitchell certainly isn’t the best in the league, they can offset that with the talent they have on the wings in Max Pacioretty, Alex Radulov, Jonathan Drouin, Brendan Gallagher, Arturri Lehkonen, and Andrew Shaw. Trading Galchenyuk and other assets for a better “two-way” centre doesn’t make sense for a goal-starved team like the Canadiens. Many forget Galchenyuk is only a season removed from 30 goals, and had 23 points in 25 games and was tied for 11th in league scoring before suffering a knee injury this season.
Sure, Montreal could trade Galchenyuk for a better “two-way” forward like a Stepan or a Duchene or a Johnson (who is unlikely to be traded now that the Lightning traded away Drouin), but this team can’t afford to sacrifice any goals. Or they could trade Galchenyuk for defensive help, but why would they do that? They’d just end up right where they started with an offensive forward and a defenseman. That makes keeping Galchenyuk the most logical move, especially considering his value is lowered after his demotion to the fourth line to start the playoffs, and Montreal’s seemingly low opinion of him, an opinion they’ve seemingly made pretty public. If Montreal’s Top 6 consisted of Pacioretty-Danault-Radulov and Drouin-Galchenyuk-Gallagher, that would give them 2 solid scoring lines they could count on, and that’s without the rest of their forwards where guys like Lehkonen, Byron, Shaw, and Plekanec have also shown scoring ability.
To summarize: Montreal should not be trading Alex Galchenyuk unless it’s a clear win.