When the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Alex Galchenyuk in a trade involving Phil Kessel last offseason, the team was hoping he’d mesh with the top-six and produce in a similar way that Kessel did. Over halfway through the season, things haven’t gone according to plan.
Galchenyuk has just 4 goals and 15 points in 36 games this season and has been demoted to a bottom-six role. After averaging about 14 minutes of ice time through 15 games to start the season, he’s down to just 11:22 of average ice time over his last 21 contests. Now, his time in Pittsburgh may be running out altogether.
There have been some rumors that Galchenyuk is on the trading block for about a month now. On Monday, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun shed some more light on the situation:
It’s just not worked out for Alex Galchenyuk in Pittsburgh and teams around the league are hearing from the Penguins that they’re very much open to trading him, as I reported last Thursday night on TSN’s “Insider Trading.”‘LeBrun: Kings open to dealing Martinez, Senators staying patient with Pageau and more trade rumblings,’ The Athletic, 01/13/2020
The asking price is believed to be either a draft pick or a bottom-six forward. He’s UFA July 1 and carries a $4.9-million cap hit.
LeBrun went on to say that Galchenyuk was “very much available.” While it’s clear that the 25-year-old might be on his way out, there’s still one last option for him to get things going.
Crosby May be Galchenyuk’s Last Chance
Sidney Crosby has missed 28 games after undergoing hernia surgery but could return as soon as Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild. After the recent injury to Jake Guentzel, it’s anyone’s guess as to which wingers will slide up to the top line next to Crosby.
Why not give Galchenyuk a shot?
At this stage, there’s no point in stashing Galchenyuk in the bottom-six with limited ice time. Even if the front office is already sold on trading him, his market value certainly isn’t improving right now. An opportunity to figure things out with Crosby as his centerman could either boost that value or turn him into the goal-scoring threat the Penguins were expecting to have all season.
Crosby and Galchenyuk have played just over 17 minutes of 5-on-5 play with each other and it’s produced some decent results. While their Corsi percentage was exactly 50 percent, the pair recorded an impressive 64.14 expected goals-for percentage. It was obviously a small sample size, but it’s worth revisiting given the current situation.
Linking those two with either Patric Hornqvist or Dominik Simon would make the most sense as Crosby has established chemistry with each of them. If Galchenyuk still can’t figure things out with increased ice time and an elite center, it may be the end of his brief tenure in Pittsburgh.
Next 5 Games Could Decide Galchenyuk’s Fate
On the other hand, if Galchenyuk actually clicks with Crosby, it would almost act like a trade deadline acquisition itself. Not only would he immediately improve the top-six by replacing most of Guentzel’s production, but the Penguins would still have room to make another move.
Nick Bjugstad is another Penguins forward that could be shopped around. It’s unclear when he’ll return from injured reserve, but he could be the expendable piece if Galchenyuk proves his worth over the next week.
With five games remaining before the All-Star break, a chance to play with Crosby would essentially be a tryout for Galchenyuk. If he’s still unable to turn things around, the week-and-a-half break would be the perfect time for general manager Jim Rutherford to make a move.
Several teams could be interested in Galchenyuk, either to retool their roster for a playoff race or possibly to lock up an extension before he hits free agency. LeBrun mentioned the Buffalo Sabres as an interested suitor; if that’s the case, would the Penguins be interested in a reunion with former winger Conor Sheary?
The Penguins could also dump Galchenyuk off to a contending team for a mid-round pick. That extra draft capital could be flipped to acquire some top-six help that the Wisconsin native wasn’t able to provide.
Maybe the Penguins simply leave him in the bottom-six and hope he gets hot come playoff time. His trade value is too low right now to get much so he might be better off just fighting through the kinks.
No matter how this situation is resolved, it’s definitely one of the stickier predicaments that Rutherford has found himself since joining the Penguins’ front office. The trade deadline is about six weeks away, which should be plenty of time for the team to sort out its roster for the playoff race.