Get Back on the Bus: Galchenyuk Should Play Junior This Year

by Jacob Saltiel

It’s nice here and all…
from Backhand Shelf at

Regardless of Galchenyuk’s performance in training camp, he should not play for the Montreal Canadiens this year. This has nothing to do with whether or not he’s talented enough to play at this level or if there’s space on the team for him.

Gaston Therrien of writes:

“IL Y A UNE PLACE À MONTRÉAL POUR ALEX GALCHENYUK – Maintenant, c’est à lui de la perdre. À partir du moment où la direction du Canadien a décidé de tasser Scott Gomez, on a pratiquement fait une place pour le plus récent choix de première ronde de l’organisation.”

or, in English:

“THERE’S ROOM IN MONTREAL FOR ALEX GALCHENYUK: At this point, it’s his to lose. From the moment Canadiens’ management dumped Scott Gomez, they practically created a spot on the team for the organization’s most recent 1st round pick.”

That’s all well and good, but there is the  matter of service time and free agency to consider. The only justification for keeping Galchenyuk in the lineup this year is if Bergevin seriously believes that he will make the difference between lifting the Cup and not.

How’s that? you may ask. Burning a year on Galchenyuk’s rookie contract when the team is not close to contending for a championship* is short-sighted.

But, but… He’s got great stickhandling and shooting!  Gaston Therrien reports as much in the same article:

“Galchenyuk démontre de la rapidité, un bon contrôle de rondelle et une certaine implication physique. Il ne semble pas nerveux et s’adapte assez bien à toutes sortes de situations.”


“Galchenyuk’s demonstrated quickness, good puck control, and a physical dimension. He doesn’t seem nervous and has adapted well enough to all sorts of situations.”

Great! Excellent! Which is exactly why the Canadiens should aim to keep control of those skills for as long as possible.

This is a shortened season, and one in which the chances of injury might be higher to a slightly compressed schedule. As G. Therrien notes: “il ne faut pas oublier que [Galchenyuk] n’a presque pas joué depuis un an” or, “it should not be forgotten that [Galchenyuk] almost missed an entire year”. Let’s say Galchenyuk sticks with the big club beyond the rookie-trial limit**, if he gets injured or struggles badly, the team will still have lost a year of control, bringing him one year closer to restricted free agency and unrestricted free agency.

Now, you may not find that significant, but then look at the Subban contract situation right now and ask yourself if it might be good to hang onto those cheap, entry-level years as long as possible. If a player succeeds in his first contract, the new CBA does nothing to limit their ability to cash in Drew Doughty-style for their second contract.

Ask yourself again if for 48 games in a madcap season if it’s worth it. If Bergevin keeps Galchenyuk on the team this year, then he has confidence in this team to win it all. Alternatively, stashing Galchenyuk in the minors, where he can continue to dominate the OHL, probably won’t hamper his development. More importantly, when the Canadiens clear Gomez and one of Kaberle or Bourque from their salary cap this summer, they’ll be able to add more talent or complementary pieces in free agency.

Depending on how the Subban negotiations finally conclude, there may not even be space in the team’s salary cap this year to accomodate Galchenyuk. Currently, the Canadiens are at 61.8/70.2 of the cap without Subban. If Subban’s next contract carries a cap hit of, say, $4m/yr, the Habs will be at 65.8/70.2. Galchenyuk’s rookie salary can vary anywhere from $1m to close to $4m, depending on how he performs. If he plays well, he might cost around $2.5m, pushing the Habs to 68.3/70.2 on the cap. This could hamstring Bergevin’s ability to make in-season trades, and more importantly pay his call-ups from Hamilton when injuries hit. Last year the Devils couldn’t dress enough players for some games because of this form of cap mismanagement. Is that really worth it?

Would you rather gamble with Galchenyuk this season, or start him on the Habs next year, potentially surrounded with more talented players in a year? With the right additions in free agency and the advancement of other prospects, the Habs might actually contend next season.

That’s the season fans should hope to see him in the red, white, and blue.


*Contention means winning the Stanley Cup, not making the playoffs. Getting in as an 8-seed to get trampled by the Penguins, Rangers, or anyone else from the Atlantic division should not be an organizational goal. Yes, the Kings won as an 8-seed last year, but their situation is not similar to the Canadiens.

**6 Games this year.


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