Would reuniting Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon be worth the price?

Comparing Alex Galchenyuk and Nathan MacKinnon’s careers thus far, and a possible proposal

The first big trade of the NHL offseason went down Wednesday afternoon when the Montreal Canadiens parted ways with top prospect Mikhail Sergachev for high-skill winger Jonathan Drouin.

Now that Drouin is a Canadien, is it possible he can be reunited with his former Halifax Mooseheads centreman Nathan MacKinnon?

Galchenyuk on the way out?

Instant analysis from hockey insiders such as Ray Ferraro, Bob McKenzie and Pierre McGuire suggested that Habs are likely to trade Alex Galchenyuk now more-than-ever due to the Canadiens adding another left wing to the organizational depth chart.

There has written many articles suggesting Galchenyuk is a more productive centre than winger but Marc Bergevin said at his end of season press conference that Galchenyuk is currently a winger.

In the case that Bergevin and co. are ready to move Galchenyuk for help at centre they should not hold their cards back and target the heavily rumoured - and openly shopped - Matt Duchene, but instead his Colorado Avalanche teammate and 2013 first-overall pick Nathan MacKinnon.

Can Galchenyuk fetch MacKinnon?

Galchenyuk-for-MacKinnon straight up may sound like an underpayment on the Habs part but what do the stats say?

In almost identical 5v5 minutes played in their career, Galchenyuk holds a very slight edge in all categories except CF%RelTM. Galchenyuk’s relative corsi this season was -3.5 which put him below a positive number for his career. Despite this, he still finished with a higher CF% than MacKinnon whose relative number is more indicative of his team’s weak depth.

This shows that MacKinnon is consistently one of the better forwards on the Avalanche, but it’s hard to compare the two.

Not a lot changes in all situations. Galchenyuk still holds just a slight edge in all categories but his GF% does jump a little bit probably due to the fact he doesn’t play on the penalty kill whereas MacKinnon does.

The pair is seemingly identical and one can argue Galchenyuk’s stronger team has helped him perform slightly better than MacKinnon so it may be better to look at how each is trending in their careers.

Thanks to Own the Puck’s HERO charts, we can compare both players side by side.

The bar graphs tell that Galchenyuk is a better goal scorer at 5v5 despite lesser minutes and MacKinnon does a better job generating shots and suppressing shots per 60 minutes, while slightly ahead in primary assists.

However, if you look at the line graphs you see one player trending up and the other apparently at a stalemate.

Galchenyuk’s points per 60 minutes at 5v5 is still stronger than MacKinnon and likely to rise if he is given more minutes but MacKinnon’s shot impact per 60 – a culmination of shots generated and shots suppressed – is trending upwards at a steady pace. In fact, if that trend continues it would indicate that MacKinnon’s small dip in primary points per 60 should be more of an anomaly due to bad luck than a reflection of his ability.

Should the Habs make an offer?

Galchenyuk is a proven scorer at the NHL level and has done so at an almost elite pace from the centre position. He would only be expected to reach higher point totals with more minutes, and with the addition of Drouin, more depth in the forward pool.

If the Montreal Canadiens really do not believe Galchenyuk is a legitimate centre, they need to fill that hole on the roster.

MacKinnon has not proven to have strong possession numbers or to be a better scorer than Galchenyuk in his young career but his upward trend is real. Galchenyuk is also a bit slower and the Canadiens like to play a fast-paced game more suitable to MacKinnon’s speed.

Not to mention the fact that MacKinnon and Drouin, the newest Hab, have had a lot of success playing together at the Junior level.

Galchenyuk is only one year older than MacKinnon and with the way their careers have played out thus far a one-for-one swap would be a completely lateral, and reasonably fair move... on paper.

However, neither the Canadiens or the Avalanche would see it this way. The NHL is not (and should not be) run on paper alone.

MacKinnon’s name and perceived ceiling have a lot more pull than Galchenyuk so the Canadiens would have to add more pieces to get any deal involving these two done. His value is much higher than Galchenyuk’s. On top of that, MacKinnon has put up most of his numbers at centre, where as Galchenyuk’s future at the spot is questioned.

It was rumoured the Avalanche were looking for an NHL-ready defenceman, a prospect and a first round pick for Matt Duchene at the deadline. Since MacKinnon is six years younger than Duchene it is reasonable to believe that they would want each of those pieces added to a Galchenyuk for MacKinnon swap.

However, because Galchenyuk is a proven scorer at the NHL level, the Canadiens may be able to give lower-tier pieces than previously expected.

Would a four-for-one deal featuring Galchenyuk and MacKinnon be enticing enough for Colorado to allow Montreal to reunite MacKinnon and Drouin? Or, given their almost identical career output to date, would it be worth adding what would need to be added if you are Marc Bergevin? Let us know in the comments!

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