On Thursday night, TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Pittsburgh Penguins may have some interest in Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk.
The Penguins have been looking for another center since the departure of Nick Bonino in free agency this summer, so them being interested in him makes sense.
“There’s been some speculation as to who might be available as to players who aren’t and Matt Duchene probably isn’t a great fit financially for the Pittsburgh Penguins,” Dreger said during the Insider Trading segment. “But Alex Galchenyuk from the Montreal Canadiens, his name has surfaced. We shouldn’t be overly surprised by that, again given the fact that more often than not Galchenyuk seems to be in the doghouse there and given the play of the Montreal Canadiens as of late, perhaps there’s a fit there that could make some sense.”
Galchenyuk has been as enigmatic of a player as we’ve seen in the NHL over the last few seasons. Two years ago, he scored 30 goals for Montreal. Last season, he was top 10 in league scoring when he suffered a knee injury in Los Angeles. When he returned to the lineup, he clearly wasn’t the same player.
Things haven’t been rosy under head coach Claude Julien, either. During lasts year’s playoffs, The 23-year-old found himself as the fourth line left winger. He finished the postseason with three assists in six games.
To say that Galchenyuk’s been in the dog house under Julien would be an understatement (most of the time, he fully deserves to be there).
It hasn’t gotten much better this year. After a slow start, he found himself back on the fourth line. But with the Canadiens struggling out of the gate, Julien decided to put Galchenyuk, Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Drouin together against the Kings on Wednesday night. The line didn’t produce any offense, but Galchenyuk seemed to be a little more engaged than he had been in previous games.
As inconsistent as he’s been, there’s no denying that he’s a rare talent. When he’s playing well, you’ll notice his vision, quick hands and his quick release. He’ll never be an excellent two-way player, but other teams may be willing to put up with his defensive shortcomings more than Montreal has been willing to.
So, what does Pittsburgh have that Montreal could use?
Realistically, we know that the Penguins have a bunch of untouchables (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang and Matt Murray aren’t going anywhere). They still have other pieces that could be used to get Galchenyuk out of Montreal.
First, the Canadiens would either have to hold on to some of his $4.9 million cap hit, or they’d need to take salary back because Pittsburgh only has $2 million in cap space.
Secondly, Montreal could use a puck-moving defenseman and/or more offense. Would the Pens be willing to sacrifice a blue liner like Olli Maatta to add another center? That’s what it might take to get a deal done.
But again, Montreal isn’t exactly loaded with offensive talent. Can they really trade one of their best offensive weapons without getting a forward back? GM Marc Bergevin is in a tough spot (mainly because he put himself there).
Would Pens GM Jim Rutherford be willing to make Jake Guentzel available, too? He’s been solid for the Pens and his entry-level contract comes with a cap hit of just $734, 167, which makes him even more valuable to the defending Stanley Cup champions.
It’ll be interesting to see how this all unfolds. The longer Montreal’s struggles last, the more likely they are to want to shake things up.
Galchenyuk has his issues, but he seems like the perfect buy-low candidate right now.
Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.