Glendale, AZ. – Forgive us to break one of the cardinal rules for sports analysis, but we judge one of NHL's biggest summer merchants only seven months after it was made.
Based on several factors – the age difference between the players involved, their contractual status (one being an unlimited free agent before the other), the money paid to both, and the difference in production between them to date – the deal that sent Alex Galchenyuk away from Montreal Canadiens and brought Max Domi back from the Arizona Coyotes on June 16, a victory for Canadians.
The 23-year-old Domi blossoms in the center of Montreal and the 24-year-old Galchenyuk is referred to the wing after his first 17 games with Arizona make it a clean one and we can not see it changing over time.
Yes, we have considered that Galchenyuk, who has 11 points in 23 matches, suffered an injury in training camp that required a minor procedure and forced him to the sidelines until the eighth game this season; that he produced eight points in his first nine games in the middle; that it is still early in his office with the coyotes; and that Domi, producing at an unprecedented rate in its first full year in the center of NHL, could contribute to a price correction.
But none of it changes the fact that the 23-year-old Domi has appeared in 35 games – managing 14 goals and 19 assists – what Galchenyuk could not prove in his six seasons with the Canadians.
Not only did Coyotes general manager John Chayka imagine that when he pulled the trigger on this deal, he thought he was acquiring a player who could help his team more in the center than he gave up.
"Our specialty of it is [Galchenyuk] has the ability and we think he has natural tendencies that are suitable for it, "said Chayka in immediate succession." We feel just based on our research and what we have seen that he has the capacity to to do it. I do not think we would make this deal if we did not think he had the ability to play the center. "
We sure know if Chayka still feels like this when he talks about the media on Thursday. Whatever he says, it will not change our view.
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We think Galchenyuk has an elite shot, elite hands and elite playmaking skills, but his attention to detail or lack thereof and his level of consciousness without the puck fall short for him to be consistently invoked as a center.
Canadien's general manager Marc Bergevin felt like this and publicly expressed it on numerous occasions during the two years that led to his decision to finally participate with the player he compiled third in 2012. The former Canadians coach Michel Therrien felt this way until he was removed from his position in February 2017. And the current Canadian coach Claude Julien agreed, from the day he took over from Therrien to the day Galchenyuk was traded at Coyotes.
It seems that Coyote coach Rick Tocchet is now also on the same side considering what he said about Galchenyuk on December 1, when he moved him away from the center after a stint that saw him produce zero goals and only three assists in 13 games.
"I think moving to the wing will make the feet move," said Tocchet. "I do not think he has the feet to move because he has looked and wondered," Where do I go? "When you think where to go, what's the first thing you do? You slow down, you do not expect, you do not respond.
"Brad Richardson knows my system and most nights Richie knows where he is going and he looks fast because he responds quickly. Derek Stepan knows my system and knows where to go. As an offensive player, Alex wants to leave A to Z sometimes instead of going through the progression. "
Tocchet's system was not too complicated for Nick Schmaltz to learn to be busy after being traded from Chicago Blackhawks to Coyotes for Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini on November 25th.
Schmaltz has since produced three goals and three helper and seemed very comfortable without the puck in his nine games in the center of Arizona while Galchenyuk, hammered by another injury that held him out of December 3 games, slowly returns to his game on the wing.
"I think once [Galchenyuk] start making it go here or there, I think it will start to relax him a bit, "Tocchet said after his team's 3-1 loss for New York Islanders Tuesday." Right now I'll hold him on wing, but he could move back [to centre]. "
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As for Domi, his progress in the middle of the ice has changed Canada's skin surface to the point that Julien would not consider moving him back for some reason.
"I do not know that the wing was a natural position for him," Julien told a week ago.
Bergevin was a little more careful to call Domi a center less than 24 hours after acquiring.
Canadiens GM felt confident enough Domi would excel in a hockey market to make the deal. He liked that Domi was more than a year younger than Galchenyuk, and that he would be under control as a restricted free agent for two years longer. He was pleased to give him a two-year contract with an annual cap hit that was close to $ 2 million cheaper than Galchenyuk's. And he felt that there was little more untapped potential in Domi – with him coming over 222 matches into his career against Galchenyuk leaves with 418 games under his belt.
Bergevin hoped Domi could temporarily punch a hole in the middle temporarily, but he did not expect to have found anything in Domi, which he looked after since he took over as GM six years ago.
"As the center man, it's hard work, but Max Down Low is fast at loose pucks, and he competes hard," Bergevin said on December 8. "He is hard back and he puts a lot of backward pressure. He will win and he will make a difference."
All Chayka could say in an email to Sportsnet last week that Galchenyuk is "A dynamic offensive player with a score's mentality that complements our existing core" adds: "We look forward to growing with our young core of players here. "
What was rejected – Chayka refused several requests (from us and several other Montreal-based journalists) to solve the problem of Galchenyuk's viability at the center – talking about the amount of how the trade has played out so far.
That both Chayka and Galchenyuk wanted to wait until the last minute to discuss it (they are scheduled to talk a few hours before Canadians and Coyotes meet for their first game since the trade was made) is revealing in itself.
This deal has not painted them as favorable to a light as they expected it would be the day it was made and the risk that it will never weave as both players move forward in their current positions.