The inevitable has happened. After countless rumors, the Minnesota Wild have finally traded Jason Zucker to the Pittsburgh Penguins. In exchange, the Wild are getting a first-round draft pick, prospect Calen Addison and Alex Galchenyuk.
Galchenyuk, 25, was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens with the No. 3 overall selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Galchenyuk broke out for 30 goals and 56 points in 2015-16, but fell out of favor in Montreal just a couple years later when he failed to adapt as a center and began playing on the wing.
He was eventually traded to the Arizona Coyotes for Max Domi, where he faced a similar issue. The Coyotes seemed to believe Galchenyuk would be able to help solve their issues at center, but he wound up shifting between wing and center once again.
Galchenyuk was moved once again last June — this time to the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, with his new team, Galchenyuk just couldn’t quite find his footing. On the contrary, it seems the Wisconsin native wore out his welcome in the Steel City. Through 45 games, he’s posted just five goals and 17 points on the season.
To learn more about Galchenyuk’s time in Pittsburgh, we reached out to PensBurgh’s Jimmy Rixner for insight:
This is a tough one to reconcile. Galchenyuk is a player of many contradictions. He’s very talented and got drafted No. 2 overall in 2012 for a reason. But that is obviously fading quickly at this point and more a relic of the past than anything else. His stint in Pittsburgh never really got off on the right foot — Galchenyuk was brought in as the main piece of the trade puzzle for a disgruntled Phil Kessel. The Pens knew they traded an 82-point player last year for probably what they hoped would be a 40 to 50-point player to get more salary flexibility and a new mix without Kessel on the team.
The hope was Galchenyuk could play on a line with Evgeni Malkin, get favorable zone starts and produce points. But again, as contradictions go, Galchenyuk told of brushing up on his Russian to keep up with Malkin, though he has the heritage, he was born in Milwaukee and raised mostly socially as a first generation American. Not that it’s a big deal, but it just goes to show not much on the surface actually is what it seems with Galchenyuk. Galchenyuk would tweak his groin in training camp, try to play through it only to injure it further on opening night and miss some time.
From there, it was only downhill. Galchenyuk played his way off the Malkin line and into the coaching doghouse by not producing enough. The effort was there, coaches and media were always quick to point out. It wasn’t a matter of him phoning it in or not trying, but on the ice he couldn’t find a fit. He’s more of a “drift to the middle of the ice, dangle and try to shoot” type of player than a “straight-line get to the net winger”. This is likely because Galchenyuk is a natural center, but hasn’t played center in the NHL for many years. His best success (2015-16 in Montreal) came with a hot streak late in the year centering Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher in a scoring role. But coaches didn’t trust him there, and he hasn’t played much center since.
So that’s about where he is — a pending unrestricted free agent who hasn’t found a niche, despite many chances on many different teams. Could he be a decent second-line winger that could put up points and help a power play? I don’t see why not. Yet, obviously recent results in Pittsburgh combined with a mediocre season in Arizona suggest he just isn’t enough of an impact player at the NHL level. In a way, I still think he’s a decent “buy low” type of target. I hope he does well in Minnesota and they might be able to re-sign him for a fairly team-friendly short deal so he can prove that he can find a spot in the league. That would probably be a best-case scenario. More likely, he probably isn’t moving the needle much and Minnesota might not have further plans for him, but this is probably his last best chance, and he surely has to know that.
It’s fair to be concerned about Galchenyuk’s track record. He’s now on his fourth team in less than three full seasons, which is a bit of a red flag. However, Galchenyuk is still relatively young and may be able to find the right fit in Minnesota. Bill Guerin clearly seems to be a fan. After all, this is the second year in a row that he (or the team employing him) made a trade for Galchenyuk.
Perhaps there’s more to this move than meets the eye.