Alex Galchenyuk’s slow start and demotion to the fourth line has put him at the center of trade rumors. But will the Canadiens move him? The Rangers are one team hunting for another center.
The Montreal Canadiens' 1-3-0 start to this season can be blamed on their popgun offense. Heading in Saturday night's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Habs managed just four goals in regulation and overtime. Their only game winner came via shootout against Buffalo in their season opener.
Winger Alex Galchenyuk is among the notables struggling during that stretch. A 30-goal scorer in 2015-16, the 23-year-old has yet to crack the score sheet. His ice time's been cut and he's skating on the fourth line during practice. Galchenyuk's early-season difficulties caught the attention of TSN's Darren Dreger. He suggests the winger might benefit from a change of scenery.
Dreger notes Galchenyuk's name appeared in trade rumors early in the off-season. During the NHL Draft weekend in June, there was some talk linking him to Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene. That conjecture disappeared after the Habs re-signed him on July 5 to a three-year contract.
Appearing Thursday on Toronto's TSN 1050, Dreger's colleague Pierre LeBrun cast doubt on the possibility of the Canadiens shopping Galchenyuk. He sees the winger's demotion to the fourth line as coach Claude Julien attempting to motivate the listless forward and improve his two-way play. LeBrun also believes Galchenyuk's trade value is low right now, meaning the Habs wouldn't get a quality asset in return. As Matt Larkin observed, playing him on the fourth line won't improve his trade value.
Galchenyuk's among the Canadiens' few natural scorers. At some point, he should work his way back onto their top-two forward lines. Still, seeing Galchenyuk's name surface so early in the trade rumor mill could give rise to speculation that he might not finish his three-year contract in Montreal. Another inconsistent effort this season could test the patience of Habs management.
The Canadiens are shopping a player, but it's not Galchenyuk. On Wednesday, Sportsnet's Eric Engels cited a source saying the club attempted to trade veteran defenseman Mark Streit. The 39-year-old Streit began his NHL career with the Canadiens and won a Stanley Cup last season with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was signed this summer to a one-year contract worth $700K in base salary with an additional $300k in bonuses. Streit was expected to replace bolster the Habs' power play. However, he saw limited ice time in just two games.
Finding no takers in the trade market, the Canadiens on Thursday placed Streit on waivers. NBC Sports' James O'Brien cites reports suggesting the veteran blueliner could retire and head to Switzerland.
RANGERS LOOKING FOR HELP DOWN THE MIDDLE
The New York Rangers' experiment with Filip Chytil as their third-line center ended earlier this week when they demoted the 18-year-old rookie to their AHL affiliate in Hartford. As coach Alain Vigneault juggles his lineup hoping to fill the gap, general manager Jeff Gorton could be eyeing the trade market.
During training camp, it was reported Gorton wasn't ruling out pursuing a top-nine center via trade. The Chytil demotion will likely stoke that speculation.
The New York Post's Larry Brooks believes San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton could be a perfect fit. He said Thornton and the Rangers had “several productive conversations” in late-June before the 38-year-old decided to sign with the Sharks for another season. Brooks admits several factors must fall into place for Thornton to end up in New York this season. The biggest is whether he'll waive his no-movement clause. Other components include the Sharks' willingness to move the veteran playmaker, the Rangers' placement in the standings and how they'll absorb the remainder of his $8-million salary.
If the Sharks are out of playoff contention before the Feb. 26 trade deadline and if the Rangers are in the postseason hunt, perhaps a Thornton-to-New York deal takes place. During the last two NHL lockouts, he and Rangers winger Rick Nash were teammates in Switzerland and played well together.
At this stage, a Broadway reunion of Thornton and Nash seems like wishful thinking. Still, it's something worth keeping an eye on as the season unfolds.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.