One year to the day after the Montreal Canadiens acquired Jonathan Drouin for Mikhail Sergachev, Marc Bergevin made another high-profile deal, acquiring Max Domi from the Arizona Coyotes for Alex Galchenyuk. It’s an odd trade, especially given it was one-for-one, with no additional pieces moved at all.
Therein lies the first issue with this trade. Galchenyuk was arguably the biggest trade chip Marc Bergevin possessed in his arsenal, and all he got in return was a player who scored nine goals — four of them into an empty net — last year. With no additional picks, prospects or any other assets, the Canadiens traded away their biggest piece of leverage for a single roster player who has 18 goals in the last two seasons combined, and that quite frankly is just not good enough.
In terms of possession numbers, Galchenyuk was not a world-beater, but it’s hard to expect him to be when the Canadiens shuffled lines so frequently last season. What is clear in his advanced metrics however is that Galchenyuk produces far more on the offensive side of the puck, even with his defensive flaws.
What’s more, Domi also isn’t lighting it up defensively, while also struggling to produce goals at even strength — or at all in recent seasons. It’s a bit bewildering to ship out a dynamic driving force in the offensive zone for a player who has struggled to reach the moderate heights he set in his rookie season.
If this trade was to acquire someone who can handle the defensive side of the game better, then the Habs likely have swung and missed on that as well.
The heatmaps for five-on-five shots against look almost identical for Domi and Galchenyuk, and while that’s not the be all end all for anything, it’s showing that similar issues may still plague the new additions. If we then expand into their possession numbers at five-on-five, in 1071 minutes (third-most in Arizona), Domi clocked in at a Corsi-for percentage of 48.0%, while Galchenyuk, in 1033 minutes (second most on the Habs) registered a 48.9 CF%. Neither are lighting it up in terms of keeping shots off their goalies, but one player had double the even-strength goal production of the other, and it’s unwise to ignore that fact.
Expanding beyond that, Alex Galchenyuk was devastating on the power play for the Canadiens in recent seasons, especially last year. He was second on the Habs in power-play time and generated 24 total points, including nine goals on the man advantage. Domi, while playing the fourth-most minutes for the Coyotes, had one goal and eight assists, meaning the Canadiens are now in need of someone to replace their biggest power-play weapon not named Shea Weber, and as it stands it doesn’t seem like Domi is that guy.
While the two forwards do share similar shot contributions, and shot assists per 60 minutes, the zone entry and exit statistics favour the player Montreal just traded.
Domi holds his own is possession exits per 60 and overall percentage, but failed to match the entry numbers Galchenyuk had overall. That has been one of the biggest flaws with the Canadiens overall in recent years: they haven’t been able to get the puck in with consistency, and they’ve moved one of their better players who was capable of doing that.
Domi has been listed as winger for the Coyotes, but has played sparingly in the middle, taking 412 total faceoffs for the Coyotes last year. So the Canadiens shipped out a drafted centre that they played at wing (despite a 30-goal season as a centre) for a less-productive winger, who barely plays centre, potentially with the hope he can fix an issue that could have been solved in house.
Domi does have one advantage in that he is a younger player due for a new contract, and a change of scenery could reinvigorate his play back to level of his rookie season.
Domi fits the mould of a player that Bergevin has coveted in recent trades: reclamation projects that can be bought low. It also fits Bergevin’s modus operandi of selling low on players that should be worth far more overall.
The team drove down Galchenyuk’s value by not allowing him to play a position he clearly thrived in, and with the injuries this past season he wasn’t afforded another shot at that spot, which is baffling. For Domi, he too was at his lowest value, but even on paper Galchenyuk should have been able to fetch more than just Domi in a trade, even if it was a small collection of picks or another prospect.
It’s much like the P.K. Subban for Shea Weber deal, in that the GM’s perception of a player may be different than the fans’, and we don’t fully know how John Chayka perceived Galchenyuk and Domi as well. It is clear, however, that the Coyotes’ GM sees value in his new forward, and gave a quote that will rankle many Canadiens fans:
Chayka on Galchenyuk: “He’s has success playing the center position. ... I don’t think we’d make this trade if we didn’t think he had the ability to play center.”— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) June 16, 2018
Chayka sees the potential in Galchenyuk as a centre, something that Bergevin and Claude Julien clearly no longer do, and in the long run that could burn the Habs.
To put it lightly, this trades comes off as highly confusing from the perspective of the Montreal Canadiens. Max Domi has the potential to become a solid overall NHL player, but since his rookie season he has regressed tremendously overall. Alex Galchenyuk, while not without his flaws, is currently the better offensive option on a team that was stuck in neutral all last season. To remove arguably the most dynamic piece of that forward group could set this team back again unless some other major move is headed down the pipe.
Trades aren’t immediately won and lost, but as it stands it sure looks like Bergevin has lost another high-profile deal right now.