Alex Galchenyuk never found his footing with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but can he rebound in the midst of a very bad year for him?
Jason Zucker was finally traded by the Minnesota Wild on Monday night to the Pittsburgh Penguins for forward Alex Galchenyuk, a 2020 conditional first-round pick and prospect defenseman Calen Addison. Zucker will step into a prominent spot for the Penguins, on a line with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.
Galchenyuk ideally would have occupied that premium spot had he succeeded in a Penguins uniform this season after coming aboard from the Arizona Coyotes in the Phil Kessel trade last summer. But he suffered a groin injury in camp, tried to play through it and never got on track. He was eventually dropped down the lineup, and has just 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 45 games so far this season.
As trade options surely surfaced, and with his expiring contract as an easy trade chip, Galchenyuk played less than six minutes in three of his last four games for the Penguins.
That said, there are no issues coming out of Pittsburgh regarding Galchenyuk’s attitude or effort. He was just ultimately a bad fit.
Galchenyuk was drafted No. 3 overall in the 2012 draft by the Montreal Canadiens. His best season came in 2015-16, when had 30 goals and 26 assists, as he centered a line featuring Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher and had success. He topped 50 points again in 2017-18 with Montreal (19 goals and 32 assists), albeit with a minus-31, then was traded to Arizona for Max Domi the following offseason. In his lone season for the Coyotes, he had 41 points (19 goals, 22 assists) with a minus-19 rating.
The former Penguin needed a change of scenery, and a move back to primarily playing center could also be helpful. The Wild have room to try him out in the middle over their final 27 games, and if nothing else he should get ample ice time in Minnesota as he looks to re-establish a semblance of value heading toward free agency. Minnesota head coach Bruce Boudreau may put Galchenyuk on a primary power play unit instantly, as he has nine power play goals in three of the last four full seasons with two of his five goals so far this season coming on the man advantage.
Galchenyuk is now going to be on his fourth team in the last three seasons. But he’s still young, with his 26th birthday coming on Wednesday, so his career is not dead yet. And despite how great the situation looked at first, getting out of Pittsburgh was the best thing for him and the team got better as a result.
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