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Montreal Canadiens

LeBrun thinks Canadiens plan to be patient with Galchenyuk

(David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire)

With no points in his first four games and a fourth-line spot already secured in Claude Julien’s dog house, Alex Galchenyuk continues to draw the ire of Montreal Canadiens fans.

The 23-year-old forward had been heavily rumored to be included in trade talks in June, and it sounds like a deal may have nearly been consummated before general manager Marc Bergevin changed his mind.

Pierre LeBrun revealed the tidbit during a Thursday afternoon appearance on Toronto’s TSN 1050.

“Galchenyuk has been incredibly disappointing, and this really perplexes me because I think the Habs thought, ‘You know what? We’ll take the center position away from him so that doesn’t burden him, and he can go back to the wing and just create.’ And it hasn’t happened at all.

“And go back for a second. Leafs fans who are listening don’t follow the Habs every day, they may forget this. But the first two months of the season last year, Alex Galchenyuk was their best offensive player. I mean, when he went down with a knee injury I remember tweeting – and other people tweeting – ‘Oh boy, this might sink the Habs.’

“Can you imagine? What if Alex Galchenyuk doesn’t play Saturday – do you think that would sink the Habs either way? But that was the feeling at that moment when he got hurt last year, that’s how well he was playing offensively. We’ve never seen it since. Part of it is when he came back from his knee injury I think he wasn’t quite right and never had his skating stride. But that doesn’t really explain what’s happening now when he’s fully healthy.

“And I don’t know if being demoted to the fourth line for the last playoff game last year and starting camp with the GM saying that he’s not going to play center again – I don’t know what it’s done where he doesn’t believe in himself right now. I don’t know. But I think he lacks confidence. I think they need to build that up.

“And I think the Canadiens plan to be patient with him. I know everyone is saying, ‘Just trade him. Let him have a fresh start.’ Well, the Oilers did that too with a guy named Justin Schultz because his confidence was shattered at one point in his career and the Oilers just said, ‘You know what? It’s never going to happen here for him.’ So they gave him away for three pucks and a hockey stick to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he’s now a $5 million player.

“So it’s not ideal to trade a guy when he has no value, or he’s at his lowest value. I think they nearly traded him this summer. I think the Devils were in some pretty heavy talks with the Canadiens. The Habs I think pulled him back because they were like, ‘He’s worth more than this.’ And I don’t know what they would have got from the Devils. And right now, his value is even lower after a poor start.

“So I think one day they will trade him, but what they want to do is bring his value back by having Alex Galchenyuk return himself, by being the guy that they think he can be. And right now he’s just not that at all.”

The Canadiens signed Galchenyuk, a restricted free agent at the time, to a three-year, $14.7 million contract on July 5.

His cap hit is $4.9 million, and he does not have any trade protection in his pact.

To give you a sense of what the potential asking price range may have been at the time, Darren Dreger had this mention of “multiple pieces” back on June 19.

“I think they’ve got to address their issues at center ice,” noted Dreger at the time. “I don’t know that they’ve done that with Jonathan Drouin, although some believe that he may be a centerman. In fact, someone close to him described him as a natural center. But when I asked Bergevin about that, he said, ‘Time will tell.’ So that means they’re going to be patient. They’re just more interested in the scoring threat that he brings period.

“And they need some help on defense. So there’s two pretty big pieces. A centerman and a defenseman. How do you go out and acquire that player. I mean, much of the speculation has been based around Alex Galchenyuk. Those who have expressed interest in Galchenyuk say that Bergevin, in fact, does want multiple pieces. That could explain why that transaction hasn’t happened to this point. But not saying he won’t get it. A lot of things can happen between now and the weekend. Certainly there’s an appetite for that on Friday in the first round on the draft floor in Chicago.

“But there’s a lot of work to be done. Bergevin has done some good things. But he’s got a lot more work to do.”

There was so much trade heat and speculation around Galchenyuk at that period in time that TSN had him listed in the No. 2 hole on their Trade Bait Board.

Neither Duchene nor Galchenyuk has been moved, naturally.

It wasn’t actually until June 26 that we got the first hint Galchenyuk would likely be staying with the Canadiens, for the time being at least, when Elliotte Friedman indicated, “I get the sense he’s staying.”

Source: TSN 1050

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