The Montreal Canadiens headed into this off-season with one big to-do on their list: sign 21-year-old Alex Galchenyuk to a new deal. GM Marc Bergevin completed his biggest off-season task Thursday evening, signing Galchenyuk to a two-year, $5.6 million deal. Now all that’s left to wonder is if, or when, Galchenyuk will become a center.
There won’t be any contract drama between Alex Galchenyuk and the Montreal Canadiens when the 2015-16 season begins.
Montreal announced Thursday evening that the club has re-signed Galchenyuk, 21, to a two-year deal. Terms of the deal were not disclosed by the club, but TVA’s Renaud Lavoie reported Galchenyuk will make $5.6 million over the course of the deal — $2.5 million in 2015-16 and $3.1 million in 2016-17.
Heading into this off-season, Galchenyuk was one of the Canadiens players who most needed to be taken care of in terms of signing a new deal. The contract, which is a great bridge deal for the Canadiens, gives Montreal some flexibility heading into the 2015-16 season as they’ll have roughly $2.9 million in cap space to work with.
“We are very pleased to have reached a two-year agreement with Alex Galchenyuk,” GM Marc Bergevin said in a release. “Alex is a young forward constantly improving and who has contributed to the success of the Club since joining the NHL three seasons ago. Despite his young age, he has gained valuable experience through 193 regular-season games and 22 playoff contests. He shows maturity and fits in well within our young players development philosophy. Alex is an integral part of our core of forwards and we are confident in his ability to continue to improve his game.”
This past season, Galchenyuk had a career year, scoring 20 goals for the first time in his three NHL seasons and notching 46 points, the highest total of his young career. After coming off of a disappointing 13-goal, 31-point season in 2013-14 — his points-per-game total slipped by almost one-tenth of a point from 2012-13 — Galchenyuk’s improved play gives hope that, as Bergevin said, the center-turned-winger will continue to improve and potentially become a clear-cut first-line player.
The concern for the Canadiens now is whether or not they can convert Galchenyuk, who was drafted as a center but has been playing as a left winger for much of the past three seasons, into an NHL pivot. Montreal has filled out their top-six wing spots with players such as Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher and Alexander Semin, but the Canadiens’ depth down the middle is somewhat lacking after first-line center Tomas Plekanec.
Behind Plekanec, the Canadiens use David Desharnais, Lars Eller and Torrey Mitchell as their pivots. While not a knock against any of those players, each of whom are NHL talents and have been the group to lead the current Canadiens team into the post-season for the past two seasons, it doesn't look like Cup-caliber depth. For that reason, fans of the club have been on the side attempting to bolster their depth not through a trade, but by moving Galchenyuk back to his natural position. Even if Galchenyuk was on board with the plan, however, Bergevin might be a bit harder to convince.
"Will Alex Galchenyuk be a full-time centerman? Only time will tell,” Bergevin said at his end of season press conference. ”Chucky is not there yet...He might never be a centerman. He might be, he could be.”
If Galchenyuk isn’t converted back to center, it will leave the Canadiens searching for a more permanent option down the middle than what they currently have. Montreal fans will likely continue to question how a talent of Galchenyuk’s ilk hasn’t been utilized at his natural position, but for now the question about Galchenyuk is his defensive responsibility. Rest assured, however, that while it might not be this season and it might not be next, eventually Galchenyuk will get his shot back down the middle once Bergevin and bench boss Michel Therrien feel he’s ready.