The Alex Galchenyuk Negotiations: Another Contract Saga in Montreal?

When it was announced that Alex Galchenyuk fired his agent, it came as a bit of a surprise. Galchenyuk is coming off of his entry-level deal and contract negotiations are on hold until he finds a new agent. Unlike teammate Brendan Gallagher, Galchenyuk’s negotiations will not be easy. Between lower production and higher expectations than Gallagher, Galchenyuk has little leverage going into his next contract.  After a less than stellar review of his season during Marc Bergevin’s year-end press conference, Galchenyuk’s situation has been a constant source of debate.

Alex Galchenyuk (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)
Alex Galchenyuk (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)

Alex Galchenyuk’s Negotiations

Franchise cornerstones Carey Price, PK Subban and Max Pacioretty all received bridge contracts as their second deals and Bergevin will likely do the same with Galchenyuk. But with all the sudden rumours about Galchenyuk being unhappy with his ice time, Galchenyuk’s negotiations could be interesting. He still has a lot to prove as a player but it seems like the organization doesn’t even know sometimes what they have in Galchenyuk as he seems to go from important player to an unknown commodity.

Bergevin infamously took a hard line with Subban’s negotiations both times, hesitating to call him a core player and tried to lowball him during his second deal. Over the course of his bridge deal, Subban established himself as a number one defenceman and won a Norris Trophy and an Olympic gold medal. Finally, Bergevin had to pay up and Subban was given a very generous contract but questions still linger at times about Subban’s relationship with management.

Galchenyuk hasn’t developed at a rapid pace nor is he heavily relied upon like Subban is. Subban was put into an important role early on in his NHL career out of necessity. In Galchenyuk’s case, the team could afford to be patient. He has been treated with kid gloves to the point where it doesn’t make sense. It’s one thing to nurture a special offensive talent like Galchenyuk, but the wait has been painfully long. Galchenyuk hasn’t produced prolifically on the wing but managed 20 goals this past season, though inconsistency is still a bit of an issue at times.

Young Players vs. Montreal Management

There has been discussion about Galchenyuk’s relationship with Michel Therrien and whether or not the Habs’ head coach is hurting the youngster’s development. Therrien has been stubborn in making sure young players play defensive hockey. However, there is question whether his suffocating style is hurting some of the team’s young players. Galchenyuk did well at centre in his short stint, but once the offense slowed, he was back at wing for the season.

Nathan Beaulieu was known as a smooth-skating defenceman with offensive chops coming out of junior but was given little power play time and was often stapled to the bench after one mistake this year. Prospect Sven Andrighetto is offensively gifted but was bumped down to the fourth line, an ill fitting role for a smaller player with offensive talent before being sent back to the minors.

Therrien seems to love Jacob de la Rose as he is a defensively sound forward. However, he looked overwhelmed at times and still played decent minutes. Therrien is loyal to his veteran players but to the detriment of the team. Andrei Markov played too many minutes over the course of the season, to the point he looked exhausted during the playoffs. Alexei Emelin struggled in his own end but wasn’t benched despite consistently making mistakes. Dale Weise was given multiple tries in the top six but some of the team’s young prospects who were called up barely sniffed an offensive role, despite their skills likely translating better to a scoring role.

Bergevin’s Legacy

Part of Bergevin’s legacy as Montreal’s GM will come down to how Galchenyuk evolves as a player. He was the first pick in the Bergevin era with the virtual promise that the search for a franchise number one centre was over with the drafting of Galchenyuk at third overall. Fast forward three years later, the team seems unsure of his future. It’s one thing if Galchenyuk doesn’t emerge as a number one centre because he isn’t good enough. It’s another thing entirely if he doesn’t even get the chance. Galchenyuk’s negotiations can either be done painlessly or they have the potential to rival the Subban saga.