The New Jersey Devils have three main needs that they could potentially address through free agency. These being a top-six winger, a left-handed defenseman, and a backup goaltender. There have already been a few articles in this series that have discussed potential targets for a left-handed defenseman with T.J. Brodie and on the wing with Evgeni Dadonov and Mikael Granlund.
Today we will be looking at Alex Galchenyuk, an unrestricted free agent center from the Minnesota Wild. We will be seeing if he can fit the role of a top-six winger for the Devils.
Alex Galchenyuk was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens with the third-overall pick in the 2012 NHL entry draft. The 26-year-old center, who is entering his ninth NHL season this winter, is looking to rebound from an awful 2019-20 season. He only scored eight goals and 24 total points in 59 games playing for both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Minnesota Wild. Last season was Galchenyuk’s worst statistical season of his career, but that doesn’t mean he can’t rebound. Especially considering what he did in the past with Montreal.
With the Canadiens, Galchenyuk was a decent top-six center, scoring 108 goals and 255 points in 418 games (about a 0.61 point per game). This includes 30 goals and 56 points in 2015-16 and scoring 51 points even as recent as 2017-18. Also worth noting, Galchenyuk has seen a steady decline in his even-strength points. He scored 36 in 2015-16, then it dropped to just 18 in 2018-19 and 17 in 2019-20.
While his counting stats have steadily declined over the past few seasons, his advanced statistics have remained relatively constant. His Corsi For % (CF%), Goals For % (GF%), and Expected Goals % (xG%) have all stayed above 50.00 every year of his career. Even in a down year last year he had a CF% of 52.25, a GF% of 53.79 and a xG% of 55.26.
This year he often did not put the puck in the back of the net or directly assist a goal. However, his team tended to outplay the other team when he was on the ice. This also has been a constant them throughout his career.
Obviously, over the past two seasons, Galchenyuk has not been at the same level he was in Montreal. But, the question with Galchenyuk isn’t can he get back to that level? Rather, can he get back to that level consistently?
Fit on the Roster
As was mentioned, one of the Devils’ three main needs that they could fulfill via free agency is a top-six winger. So based on this need, does Galchenyuk fit well on the Devils roster? The simple answer is, no.
Galchenyuk is primarily a center, but has played some wing during his career with the Penguins this past season and with Montreal. With the Devils, he would play wing because of the logjam of centers. This both currently on the roster and in the system. Even though his advanced stats show that he helps drive possession, that’s not what the Devils need out of a top-six winger. The Devils need a high-volume shooter who can play next to Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier and take advantage of their playmaking ability.
That description is not Galchenyuk’s “M-O”, as he has scored 30 goals once in his career and hasn’t even topped 20 since. There are also more compelling options in the Devils’ system that could fit the role much better such as Jesper Boqvist, Janne Kuokkanen, Nolan Foote, or even potentially the number seven pick in the upcoming draft.
Evolving-Hockey projects that Galchenyuk will sign a one-year, $1,498,000 contract in the offseason. Even at that low price, the Devils should probably take a pass on him.
At this point in his career, Galchenyuk is still a decent middle-six forward who can drive play well. I can easily see him signing with a contender for a cheap one-year deal to be a third-or-fourth line center/winger. But, he just does not fit with what the Devils need this offseason.