After acquiring Jonathan Drouin in return for defensive prospect Mikhail Sergachev on Thursday, few believed Marc Bergevin was finished. While the Montreal Canadiens inked Drouin to a long-term extension, rumours heated up around the end of Alex Galchenyuk’s tenure in Montreal.
Just opinion on my part, but if anything, I think this Drouin trade could make it more likely that Alex Galchenyuk will be traded.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 15, 2017
While the talk of the summer to this point has been that Bergevin and his team would like to replace Galchenyuk with someone they could feel more comfortable with at centre, that belief seems to have shifted.
With Drouin under contract and Sergachev out the door, it looks as though the Habs brass may be shopping for help on the blue line.
Also, it appears Alex Galchenyuk is very, very likely to get traded. Strong possibilities for a defenceman to come back the other way.— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) June 15, 2017
Of course, there should be some doubt about whether that is truly the best option. While Nathan Beaulieu has been the subject of many trade rumours, the Habs’ defence remains fairly crowded; so much so that it’s unlikely Sergachev would have been a regular cast member this season.
True, Andrei Markov isn’t getting any younger, and Shea Weber isn’t the most versatile player on the back end. Jeff Petry, Jordie Benn, and Alexei Emelin remain under contract, while Jakub Jerabek is inbound from the KHL. It may not be the league’s premier defensive lineup, but lacking one hardly hampered the Pittsburgh Penguins from repeating as Stanley Cup Champions.
Should Galchenyuk be traded for a Sergachev replacement, it would seem to be a step backwards for Bergevin, who would surely feel the pressure from ownership if he acquired a prospect on defence after making win-now deals almost exclusively for the past year.
With that in mind, if Galchenyuk is used as bait for a defenceman it will need to be for one proven at the NHL level. Additionally, it should be one capable of moving the puck up the ice to start the attack. Markov and Petry may be effective in this regard, but few others on the Habs blue line are.
The trouble is that thus far, the Habs haven’t really been linked with any elite puck-movers, and a shot-blocker is hardly as pressing a need.
Bob McKenzie reported on Thursday that Jonas Brodin may be on the move, and that he could be the type of defenceman Bergevin is after. While in the appropriate age range, Brodin offers little that the Habs do not have, at least short-term, in other defenders.
While he excels at suppressing shots, Brodin struggles when it comes to generating any sort of offence and is not a top-end player in that regard. Three defencemen registered more points than Brodin on the Minnesota Wild last season — a club that scored more goals than any team other than the Penguins.
Brodin is simply not the type of player the Habs should be content with receiving in return for a forward who has produced at a first-line level without first-line minutes. The Habs could benefit from adding a shot-suppressor to be sure, but those types of players can be found elsewhere, and their value is not equal to what Galchenyuk brings to a hockey club. A lack of one-dimensional defenders is not what’s standing between the Habs and a playoff victory.
Other defencemen believed to be available around the league include Travis Hamonic, Matt Dumba, and Sami Vatanen, all of whom are right-hand shots. Though the Habs may be heavy on left-handed defencemen, it's hard to imagine a scenario where right-handers Weber and Petry aren’t featured in the top four, meaning someone would need to line up out of position.
Bergevin could obviously target someone who isn’t necessarily on the block, but still faces the major issue that comes with swapping Galchenyuk for a defenceman: If it isn’t someone who improves your goal differential more than keeping Galchenyuk would, it’s likely to be a mistake.
The type of first-class, minute-eating, all-around defender the Canadiens should be looking for if Galchenyuk is the casualty may not really be available on the market. Even if one could be had, to trade Galchenyuk now would be to trade him with his value at the lowest (Bergevin did himself no favours there after criticizing the young pivot’s performance at the end of the season) making it unlikely the return would be one Habs fans could get excited over.
It’s hard to say what the Canadiens lineup will look like in the coming weeks. Trades, free agency, and the expansion draft will all affect that. However, with a roster thin on top-end centremen and the future of Alexander Radulov in doubt, it seems that offence is the biggest need in Montreal. Losing Sergachev as a prospect doesn’t change that for a team who should be looking to win right now, before Weber ages and Carey Price’s contract expires.
There’s little doubt that the Habs defence corps could be improved, but it’s certainly not a bigger need than the one they face at centre ice. If Galchenyuk is moved for a defender, it’s likely the team will be hurting for a 30-goal-scorer who knows how to play up the middle.
Why not keep the one they have?