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Trading Alex Galchenyuk would be a treacherous task for Marc Bergevin

He was a hot commodity last summer, but the path to trading the 24-year-old forward is littered with pitfalls.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

A general manager once infamously said “trades are hard,” and there are several ways to interpret that phrase. Big trades themselves are always going to happen; they did before, and they have after that comment. As to the difficulty of making a good transaction, sometimes those trades are wins for both teams involved, and other times it’s a lopsided victory for one side only.

Marc Bergevin is faced with the unenviable task of trying to dig his team out of a hole, albeit one he played his part in helping to dig. While Max Pacioretty has been a name mentioned ad nauseam as a piece to help the Montreal Canadiens climb out of it, there’s another forward who was the subject of trade rumors last off-season as well.

That of course is Alex Galchenyuk, who was part of massive trade speculation last off-season. Thus far this off-season, the buzz isn’t nearly the same, mostly due to the focus being shifted to the Habs captain, but there is still a major market for the 24-year-old forward.

I say “forward” because whether to label him as a centre or winger is a debate that’s raged for years. Regardless of which position he’s playing, the facts are very simple: Galchenyuk is entering the prime of his career, he just topped 50 points for the second time, and is arguably the most skilled forward on Montreal’s roster.

So why exactly would Bergevin want to trade away a valuable asset like Galchenyuk, when it’s clear he provides plenty of offence for Montreal? It’s because Galchenyuk may have the highest trade value of any player on the roster.

With a contract under $5 million dollars for two more years, many teams would love to add his talents to load up for a Stanley Cup run. Bergevin has made it clear if he’s trading one of his biggest chips, he wants a top-three defenceman, or a top-six centre in return. (One could argue that he would be trading away a top six centre in the deal, but that’s an argument I won't delve into.)

It’s an extremely treacherous market for Bergevin to navigate, because based on the rumours and rumblings from last summer, that top-three defenceman was Marco Scandella, who wouldn’t have done much to help a beleaguered Canadiens defence.

Going into this summer the situation might be more difficult for the Habs GM, as he is only trading from a position of weakness. Teams know Montreal is desperately seeking a trade for defensive help, meaning they hold all the cards in negotiations and can add more onto their asking price besides Galchenyuk. So not only could Montreal lose arguably their biggest trade asset, and one of their top forwards, they could stand to lose prospects, picks or more.

That spells disaster for the Canadiens, who need to hold onto as many picks, young players, and prospects as they can going forward so they can ease into their inevitable retooling in the future.

Stepping away from the speculation of what Galchenyuk could be traded for, it’s important to realize that trading away a major piece of your team isn’t something to be undertaken lightly. On a team that finished at the bottom of the standings, Galchenyuk posted the second-best season of his career while playing everywhere from the fourth line to the top line with a mishmash of linemates. Adding some stability to the lineup would likely bring out the best in the young American, who is capable of 30-goal seasons when given consistent linemates and deployments.

Pairing him with Jonathan Drouin yielded great performances from the duo, and if they’re willing to give him another chance down the middle, his tandem with Max Pacioretty was unstoppable not long ago.

It's not fair to expect the best from a player if he’s constantly being shifted to different roles and lines for various reasons. It’s fine to change things up if they are not working, but giving some lines a chance to gel for more than a game or two before splitting them up should be the plan going forward.

This upcoming season will see the introduction of a new voice behind the bench in Dominique Ducharme, who was hired earlier in the spring. Ducharme has proven many times that he knows how to get the best out of young talented players. Whether it's his Memorial Cup title, or two World Juniors gold medals he won while coaching Team Canada, he knows how to win. Giving him time to work with Galchenyuk, and his former star Drouin, would likely help bring out that next level both players are capable of.

There is a lot working against Marc Bergevin if he decides to trade Alex Galchenyuk this off-season. He isn’t dealing from a position of strength given he’s made it clear he desperately wants to improve certain areas. He’ll likely be moving a player who hasn’t hit his full potential due heavily to injuries, inconsistent deployments, and other coaching factors.

It’s also not going to be easy to replace a player who was second on the team in scoring last season. Charles Hudon and Nikita Scherbak are extremely talented prospects, but both have yet to find their game at the NHL level enough to replace Galchenyuk’s production in the lineup.

It is possible Bergevin can pull off a good trade centred around Galchenyuk, but there will be a minefield around him as he tries to work his way to that potential deal.