HARD HITS: Canadiens take risk in dealing away Galchenyuk to Coyotes for Domi

When the deal between the Canadiens and Coyotes came down on Friday, it coincided with the one-year anniversary of Montreal trading top defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev to the Lightning in exchange for forward Jonathan Drouin. Drouin’s underperformance in his first year as a Hab didn’t go well. He was a minus-28 with 46 points (13-33-46) in a miserable season that saw Montreal finish near the bottom. Signed through 2023 to a cap average of $5.5 million, Drouin must improve.

In his rookie year, Sergachev impressed for Tampa finishing second among all first-year defensemen in scoring with 40 points (9-31-40). The difference is he’s 19 and cheaper on a entry level contract.

So, how to analyze the latest trade involving the Canadiens and much maligned GM Marc Bergevin? This time, he cut salary by sending former first round pick Alex Galchenyuk to Arizona for Max Domi. Only separated by a year in age, each were taken in the first round. The difference being that the 24-year old Galchenyuk has already played six years with a cap charge of $4.9 million in each of the next two seasons. He can then become a unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2021. A forward who prefers to play center, he’ll get that opportunity with the Coyotes alongside Clayton Keller. If he can become more consistent, he could attain new personal bests in goals, assists and points.

For Domi, it’s a chance for a fresh start in a pressure packed media market. No stranger to playing for Team Canada at the IIHF Under-20 World Junior Championships, the 23-year old Canadian from Winnipeg is a passionate player who plays a classic North American game. Though only listed at 5-10, 195, Domi is the type of forward who’s not afraid to get in the face of opponents. Just ask veteran Ryan Kesler, who suffered a one punch knockout in a fight last season. Following a promising rookie campaign in ’15-16 in which he posted career highs in goals (18) and points (52), his production suffered the past two seasons. He’ll want to improve on the nine goals he scored in a injury riddled ’16-17 and full 82 games in ’17-18. He did tally a career best 36 assists for the Coyotes in his final year. The third most on the team.

Montreal is saving approximately $1.8 million in salary after signing Domi to a two-year deal with an AAV of $3.15 million thru 2020. If he performs well, maybe they decide to give him a long-term contract, buying up some free agent years.

It’s obvious the Canadiens are going in a different direction. Galchenyuk didn’t fit what vet coach Claude Julien wanted. Despite being a minus-31 on what was a awful team, the ex-Hab ranked second in team scoring with 51 points (19-32-51) in 82 games. He didn’t agree with how he was used. Consistency was an issue. We’ll see how he does on what should be a much improved Coyotes.

Montreal is likely to also be saying goodbye to captain Max Pacioretty. The proven finisher enters the final year of a contract that pays him $5 million in ’18-19 with a AAV of $4.5 million. He’ll be 30 on Nov. 20. Expect his name to be floated around at next week’s NHL Draft and on July 1 free agent frenzy day.

The Canadiens have the third overall pick in the upcoming Draft. Filip Zadina is expected to be available if they keep it. So should Brady Tkachuk.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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