The first big trade of the 2018 off-season has dropped and to no surprise, the Arizona Coyotes are right in the middle of it. After making two minor deals on Thursday, Arizona GM John Chayka has made a much bigger trade, acquiring forward Alex Galchenyuk from the Montreal Canadiens. In return, Max Domi is headed to Montreal in a one-for-one swap. Both teams have confirmed the deal.
This trade is very much about both players getting a fresh start. Both Galchenyuk and Domi have been discussed as trade candidates this off-season and now they have been traded for one another. They are also similar in their struggles with both consistency and injury. Galchenyuk, the third overall pick in 2012, has shown flashes of brilliance but has yet to put it all together to reach his ceiling. Galchenyuk has 255 points in 418 NHL games, by no means a disappointing total, and even notched a 30-goal season in 2015-16. However, his scoring has been streaky and when he is not producing offense, his lack of a two-way defense game and difficulties at the face-off dot have become glaring. Under head coach Claude Julien, Galchenyuk struggled to find a defined role and lost play time as a result. On the other side of the deal is Domi, the 12th overall pick in 2013. After a breakout rookie campaign, Domi has been unable to produce at the same level the past two seasons. Altogether, he has 135 points in 222 games, but has failed to hit double-digit goals in each of the past two years and has also lost some of his two-way edge he displayed in year one. Like Galchenyuk, Domi’s issues at the dot and in playing a consistent well-rounded game had caused the Coyotes to question where he fit in their lineup.
The trade is even in many ways. The two players are almost identical in per-game scoring albeit Galchenyuk has done it over more seasons and clearly has a superior goal-scoring touch. Galchenyuk has a higher ceiling as an offensive producer but, while neither plays much of a physical game, Domi has shown a superior two-way ability and has been leaned on to play a bigger role in Arizona that Galchenyuk was ever asked of in Montreal. The deal is actually almost too similar, as both players get a much-need change, but both teams end up with the same type of player with positional questions and consistency issues. There is upside on both ends, but also bust potential for either acquisition. It is very much a gamble for both the Coyotes and Canadiens that their new player will somehow find their game in a way that the old player couldn’t. Both players are obviously talented, but need some work to reach their vast potential.
The only real significant difference in the deal could be a slight reprieve on the salary cap for Montreal. Galchenyuk is signed through 2019-20 at $4.9MM, while Domi is an impending restricted free agent who is unlikely to command that much given his recent struggles. While Galchenyuk will be an unrestricted free agent when his deal expires and could command market value, Domi is under team control for four more years. We will soon find out exactly how much the Canadiens value their new forward, as TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the team is already close on a new contract with Domi, indicating that this trade has been in the works for some time. LeBrun speculates that it will be a bridge deal; a reasonable assumption for a brand new player with some concerns to work through.