Hockey fans were treated to a bomb recently, as the Montreal Canadiens traded Alex Galchenyuk to Arizona in exchange for Max Domi. Domi, 23, is a left-winger that has a career high of 52 points. Galchenyuk, 24, was playing left-wing for Montreal and just came off an up-and-down season with MTL. Many fans in Montreal are livid that GM Marc Bergevin traded away a top-6 goal-scorer for yet another playmaking winger. Meanwhile, in Arizona, GM John Chayka believes he has acquired a top-6 centre to play with his young core. Bergevin has gone on the record to say that Domi’s contributions go beyond the stat sheet. It is far too early to claim that Arizona has won this deal, as fans are basing their opinion on Galchenyuk’s potential.
In our estimation, this deal is something that Hab fans had to look at long-term. However, we believe this is a good return once you consider the many underlying factors at play. The on-ice production, the possible progression, the asset management implications and the off-ice aspects all played a big role in making this trade. We love Alex Galchenyuk and he has been quite fun to watch on some nights, but this is the type of trade that will benefit both teams. Here’s a quick look as to why Montreal got a good return for Galchenyuk:
NHL Potential: A huge variable
Potential is always a determining factor in any trade for players under 25-years-old. Galchenyuk had a ridiculous amount of potential, which is why he was selected 3rd overall in 2012. This is a hugely problematic for fans. Alex Galchenyuk has simply put not played to the level of a 3rd overall pick. The 2012 draft class, which boasted a top 5 of Nail Yakupov, Ryan Murray, Galchenyuk, Griffin Reinhart and Morgan Rielly, was the worst class in the last 10 years. Galchenyuk and Nashville Predators star Filip Forsberg are the two best forwards out of that draft, but Forsberg has played about 70 games less.
On the flipside, Max Domi just finished his third year in the NHL and looked to be turning the corner with Arizona to finish the year. He was drafted 12th overall in 2013 and was an absolute force in juniors and a play driving winger for Arizona. He is faster than almost anyone currently on the Habs roster, has one of the highest primary assist ratios in the NHL and is as aggressive as it gets. He won a gold medal with Team Canada at the World Hockey Championships last year as well. The kid is a winner through and through and we have been enamored by him since he played in London.
However, is Max Domi has his career high 52 points truly worth a 24 –year-old, former 30 goal-scorer, former 3rd overall pick? We think so on so many levels. Alex Galchenyuk was not exactly shielded from scoring goals this season. He played with Drouin for over 20 games, he played with Pacioretty, he played everywhere. In the end, he managed 19 goals playing top 6 minutes this season (he played on the 4th line for 8 games). Had it not been for his incredible performance during his 400th game (3 goals and 1 assist), Galchenyuk was trekking for 15 goals and un 50 pts in 80 games. Imagine where this discussion would be if that game never happened and Galchenyuk put up 47 points instead?
Furthermore, Galchenyuk was an offensive winger/centre. His defensive game left much to be desired on so many nights. Fans loved him with the puck in the neutral zone, but in the offensive zone, he would often stick handle too much or turn the puck over. Max Domi has a higher Corsi % than Galchenyuk (39 % vs 49 %) and outs up 1.97 pts per 60 minutes vs Galchenyuk’s 2.2 pts per 60 minutes. This means that, although Galchenyuk did put up more points than Domi, Domi drive’s the play much more than Galchenyuk. For those Hab fans that don’t believe in such a stat, look at Galchenyuk’s even strength scoring? Galchenyuk put up 25 points on the powerplay, playing more PP minutes than Domi. Domi, on the other hand, had 34 of his 45 points come from 5 on 5 with slightly less pp time.
It’s clear to see that Domi’s numbers will rise once he will be a stable guy on the power play for Montreal and his totals shall rise. The question now stands as to if Galchenyuk will produce the same amount of points on a lesser powerplay.
For those fans who chose to ignore Galchenyuk’s incredibly hushed personal life, it is a huge factor. Although Max Domi has a very famous, and hated, father in Tie Domi, he’s pretty hands off. Alexander Galchenyuk, on the other hand, has been omnipresent in his son’s affairs since 2010. While Galchenyuk was playing in Sarnia, Alex and fellow Stinger Nail Yakupov would do their own private hockey practices prior to the team’s practices on a daily. When Galchenyuk first arrived in Montreal, instead of moving in with a current Canadiens player, he chose to live on his own with his mom and sister. Meanwhile, Brendan Gallagher, who had started at the same time as Galchenyuk in 2012-2013, went to live with Josh Gorges. More often than not, learning how to be a pro from an existing pro is far more intuitive than an ex-player from the 90s.
As the years progressed, Galchenyuk was often spotted in shady places partaking in shady situations. He’s had run-ins with the cops, he’s been rumoured to have gone to rehab, he has had a volatile relationship with coaching staffs because of his father. I would understand the frustration of fans if the Canadiens were trading away a 20-22-year-old future star, but Galchenyuk had already damaged his own reputation. His value as a player was obliterated also by the fact that the Montreal management team saw fit to stick him on the 4th line as a teaching moment. Galchenyuk had his problems, but the Canadiens are also known for being extremely ancient in their management practices.
Meanwhile, Max Domi has been talked about for his character and his relentless hustle on the ice. He will essentially become a stronger force along the wings for Montreal. However, the Canadiens must put him in a situation to succeed. He is indeed already winning the heart of Hab fans by posting bilingual Instagram posts. The thing is, he is ideal to have for a coach, and this is where this trade stems from. The fact that the Canadiens were able to get something as valuable as Max Domi shows that they had been waiting a while to trade Galchenyuk and no offer was good enough until now.
Case in point, the Canadiens have tried to shop him for over a year now, and teams that were interested backed off when the rehab news broke out. How do you get fair value for such a player? The Canadiens had deep discussions with the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils last summer. Those trade talks were finished the moment the negative news regarding Galchenyuk broke out. The proposed player from New Jersey was supposedly Adam Henrique, but then the Devils ended discussions. That would have been a marginally better trade than this current one. However, I think Domi is a much better asset to have since he is restricted free-agent for another four years.
Canadiens get their top guy
It was rather evident that Galchenyuk would have left the Canadiens at the end of his current three-year deal. He was set to be an unrestricted free-agent and the Canadiens, who had lost Alexander Radulov for nothing last summer, could not afford another such blunder. In as such, Domi is a very good return if you consider what he and Galchenyuk can do. In our estimation, Galchenyuk will become that streaky 2C/2LW. He does not have the speed nor the defensive acumen required to ever be that top-line player. However, Arizona will love him in that 2c spot if he is able to find his game again.
Flipside, Max Domi allows the Canadiens some flexibility on the cap (save $1.9 million), some control over his future as an asset, and the real possibility of him exploding offensively. He has been rather snake-bitten over the last 2 years, putting up a shooting percentage of less than 8% each year. If he were to try and shoot more, Domi’s goal totals would instantly rise to 15-20, similarly to his rookie year. Domi will bring the grit, leadership, speed, and determination that the Canadiens lacked, and his arrival should signal the end of Max Pacioretty in Montreal.