A couple of weeks back we talked about Kevin Connauton’s time in Arizona and it seemed to look back at the other players that the Arizona Coyotes traded. Alex Galchenyuk may have spent less time in the desert then Connauton but he was an important player during his time here.
The Coyotes acquired Galchenyuk from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Max Domi on June 15, 2018. Galchenyuk was good with the Canadiens, including the 2015-16 season which saw him score 30 goals, but he seemed unhappy being moved to wing and his goals were starting to dip. Domi also seemed to have lost his goal scoring touch, and he was coming off his second straight season in Arizona where he scored only nine goals. Both players seemed like they could do with a change of scenery and a new system.
Galchenyuk came to Arizona with the expectation he would get a shot at playing center again. Being moved to wing in Montreal seemed to bother him, and the Coyotes have been looking for a first line center forever so it seemed like the perfect match.
Unfortunately Galchenyuk would miss training camp and the start of the season with a lower-body injury and he took a bit of time to get up to speed when he was able to suit up. Arizona definitely missed him during that stretch, and in three of their first four games they were shutout. He did start as a center but before long the team would move him to wing in effort to minimize any defensive lapses.
With Galchenyuk moved to the wing the Coyotes were again on the hunt for a number one center. And after playing 20 games Arizona decided that former third overall pick Dylan Strome wasn’t going to be that center. The Coyotes would trade Strome to the Chicago Blackhawks for Nick Schmaltz, immediately pairing Schmaltz with Clayton Keller as the de facto first line center.
Galchenyuk didn’t live up to expectations in Arizona, but that isn’t to say he was terrible. In 72 games he would finish third on the team with 41 points, and was tied for first with 19 goals. Like most of the team his offense was inconsistent, but he was brought in specifically to be a goalscorer, the team depended on him to lead the offense. At the end of the day he wasn’t able to be that consistent driver of offense.
General Manager John Chayka and the Coyotes organization would decide to move on from Galchneyuk, and he would again be linked to a first-round pick leaving Arizona. Galchenyuk would get sent to the Pittsburgh Penguins with former 23rd overall pick Pierre-Olivier Joseph for Phil Kessel, Dane Birks, and a fourth-round pick in 2021. Kessel will hopefully be able to provide the consistent goal scoring that Galchenyuk wasn’t able to bring, and in Pittsburgh Galchenyuk won’t have the pressure of being “the guy”.
It’s possible that years from now Coyotes fans will look back and think they gave up on Galchenyuk too early. Kessel is definitely the better player now, but Galchenyuk is younger and does possess a lot of skill. With two coaches moving him to wing it seems unlikely he will be an NHL center next season, but he has the opportunity thrive in a different system playing with different players. His time in Arizona may have been short but he left a big impact on the franchise both in who the Coyotes traded to get him, and who they got in return for him.
Also with only a year left on his contract, who's to say he won't return?