Habs Not Out of Woods Yet with Galchenyuk Deal

The Montreal Canadiens have just won half the battle by getting Alex Galchenyuk under contract. The deal, which is reported as being for $4.9 million per year for three seasons, is cost-effective, which is yet another boon to the organization. It comes on the heels of Galchenyuk filing for arbitration. That’s been avoided now.

Bergevin Gets It Done

Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin
Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin – (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)

General manager Marc Bergevin did an admittedly good job keeping the cost down, when Jonathan Drouin, who’s one year younger than Galchenyuk and was exiting his entry-level contract, had been given an average of $5.5 million per season up until 2022-23.

Considering Bergevin infamously made a bridge contract a point of contention with P.K. Subban, it was a bit surprising to see him jump to pay a largely still unproven winger so much. Of course, Subban did break the bank with his next deal. So, it may have been a calculated decision to break from tradition due to Drouin’s potential. Galchenyuk, himself, is just coming off a two-year contract that paid him an average of $2.8 million.

In hindsight, that deal worked to perfection in the sense that, in Year 1, Galchenyuk realized his offensive potential, or at least showed a glimpse of it, by scoring 30 goals. In Year 2, he stumbled to the finish line, leading into negotiations, which, ultimately, may have helped keep his demands down, to the point that he had reportedly been open to a one-year deal.

Because of the talent he showed in 2015-16, that would not have been wise for the Canadiens. If this past season turned out to be the disappointing fluke most considered it to be and he lights it up next one, he would have held most of all the cards, even still as a restricted free agent.

Galchenyuk an Undisputed Talent

While Bergevin was openly critical of Galchenyuk at his post-mortem press conference, behind closed doors it would be hard for anyone of sane frame of mind to dispute his talent.

That’s even taking into account his well-documented struggles to stay at center. Seeing as the Habs are firmly in win-now territory, Bergevin and head coach Claude Julien cannot afford to hold him back and have little choice but to give him every opportunity to succeed, meaning a one-year deal could have realistically come back to bite the Canadiens.

What’s most distressing is, from a production standpoint, that arguably means playing him down the middle. Drouin is a winger, Tomas Plekanec is on the decline and Phillip Danault, while a defensive revelation, is no contending team’s ideal No. 1 center. So, Galchenyuk may also be the team’s best shot at a legitimate top-line pivot. That is the position he was drafted to play after all.

Alex Galchenyuk
Alex Galchenyuk – Photo: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Even though a one-year deal would have seriously hurt the organization financially, the Habs aren’t out of the woods yet. Galchenyuk is two years away from free agency. In essence, the Canadiens just bought one of those years with this deal, arguably at a significant discount. Galchenyuk will still be just 26 years old by the end of it.

In other words, the Drouin deal could end up looking mighty appetizing by then, that’s if staying is even an option for Galchenyuk who may no longer feel welcome by the organization. Assuming (hoping) this isn’t a sign-and-trade scenario, that’s the other half of the battle… convincing the prototypical big No. 1 center, who will hypothetically be firmly in his prime by that time, to stay.

He may not have reason to.