The Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes have been aggressive in making big trades over the last few years. On Friday night, they combined to make the first big swap of what could be a very busy summer.
Coyotes receive: Alex Galchenyuk
Canadiens receive: Max Domi
Wow. This is one of those hard-to-believe-your-eyes trades. Although, again, Habs GM Marc Bergevin is happy to entertain us with bold trades. Of course some would replace “entertain us” with “make us laugh.”
As of this writing, this seems like a big win for the Coyotes, who showed some impatience with their station in the West cellar last summer by anteing up for Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta. GM John Chayka didn’t allow a disappointing season to discourage him from adding more immediate talent.
On paper, Galchenyuk stands as the more intriguing talent, indeed.
He scored 19 goals and 51 points during what was mostly a lost season for Montreal. “Chucky” is already a proven scorer in the NHL, as he’s scored 30 goals once, 20 goals one other time, and generated 50+ points in two of his past three seasons.
Even so, Galchenyuk felt a lot like the next P.K. Subban: a talented player who was seemingly always on the verge of being out the door, even after signing a new contract. The 24-year-old will carry a manageable $4.9 million cap hit through the next two seasons in Arizona, and then he’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agency.
In the case of Domi, there are a lot of “What if?” facets.
For one thing, the 23-year-old needs a new contract as an RFA.
It will be intriguing to see what kind of deal he nets. Bergevin wasn’t shy about paying Jonathan Drouin before playing a single game with Montreal, as Drouin received a massive six-year, $33M contract shortly after the ill-fated (for now?) trade involving Mikhail Sergachev.
This trade could look brighter in retrospect if the Canadiens sign Domi to a cheap contract, especially if they guess right and also lock him up for term. There’s a dream scenario where this works out like a lower level version of signing Max Pacioretty to bargain deal.
Montreal’s side of the trade could also age nicely if Domi’s shooting luck turns around. Thanks to a decent finish, he saved his 2017-18 season in a relative way, scoring nine goals after heading into February with just three, but that’s still not exactly the goal total you’d seek when you’re trading away a promising player such as Galchenyuk.
The key for Domi will be to generate a renewed confidence. He only connected on six percent of his shots on goal this past season, and only fired 150, less than two per night. Domi’s only generated an 8.7 shooting percentage during his 222-game career.
Is that a sign of poor shooting talent, or is it mere bad luck? If the answer is closer to “bad luck,” then Montreal might just be clever like a fox with this trade.
One side note is that this also ends the often-aggravating discussion about Galchenyuk’s competence as a center. He’ll likely get that chance to prove himself down the middle, but either way, a change of scenery could be refreshing for both forwards. (Domi, meanwhile, has consistently been a winger.)
Let’s not forget that they’re both entering their primes at nearly the same ages (again, Domi is 23 and Galchenyuk is 24). A lot can change.
Still, as of this writing, you’d reasonably argue that Galchenyuk has already shown the production that Montreal will hope to see from Domi. Right now, this seems like a big win – a really big win, honestly – for the Coyotes, and another strikeout for a wildly swinging, rarely connecting GM in Bergevin.
Time will tell if that reaction is correct, or if Bergevin finally pulled off a trick. Unless maybe he has something else up his sleeves that will make this move seem a little smarter?