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Canadiens make another summer blockbuster, send Galchenyuk to Coyotes for Domi

One year ago today, Montreal shipped Mikhail Sergachev to Tampa Bay for Jonathan Drouin. And GM Marc Bergevin was back at it again Friday, moving Alex Galchenyuk to the Coyotes in exchange for Max Domi.

If Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin keeps making these blockbuster trades in June, one of them is going to finally work out for him someday.

Two years ago, Bergevin shocked the hockey world by dealing P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber in a deal that has been disastrous, in part because of Weber getting injured. And one year ago today, Bergevin dealt prospect defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Jonathan Drouin. Sergachev went on to put up a fine rookie season and was an early contender for the Calder Trophy, while Drouin had a decent year, but was not the answer to the Canadiens gaping hole at center ice. Early returns show that one to be another clunker.

Speaking of those problems at center ice, Bergevin was back at it again on Friday, dealing sometimes-center-sometimes-winger Alex Galchenyuk to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for left winger Max Domi. And like all trades where one struggling player is dealt for another one, this one is not without its element of risk either.

But it was a risk the Canadiens had to take. There’s a chance that, having escaped from the spotlight of playing for Montreal, Galchenyuk will blossom as a player and become the force that he was projected to become when he was taken third overall in the 2012 entry draft. Galchenyuk’s name – as well as Domi’s for that matter – has been around the draft rumor mill for quite some time and it was clear things were not working out well for him in Montreal.

Some blame the organization for that and there is merit to that argument. He was drafted as a center, but has played the vast majority of his career as a right winger and the times he was moved to center were relatively brief, with him being on a short leash. On the other hand, it was clear that almost every time he played center, he struggled mightily with the defensive side of the game. And it’s hard to make the argument that the Canadiens have given up on him, since he’s had six seasons to prove his worth to the organization. There have been moments of brilliance, most prominently when he scored 30 goals three seasons ago, and for all his warts, Galchenyuk has averaged 50 points each of the past three seasons.

But there were few players in the NHL that required a change of scenery more than Galchenyuk. Things were, generally speaking, miserable for him there, with his personal and professional life open to comment and intense scrutiny. Perhaps Galchenyuk goes to Arizona and proves to be exactly what he was in Montreal – a decent offensive producer who goes through lulls and low productivity. Or perhaps freed of the shackles of being in one of the most white-hot markets in the NHL for scrutiny, he develops into a point-per-game player meshing with the Coyotes promising young stars and makes Arizona GM John Chayka, who has been on an impressive run of late, look like a genius.

And there’s also the possibility that this deal ends up being good for both teams. In Domi, the Canadiens are getting a speedy winger who plays with a high degree of feistiness and has the ability to create offense. He did it in his rookie year before dipping the past two seasons, scoring only nine goals each of the past two years after scoring 18 in his rookie season.

There were times, last year especially, when there were questions about Domi’s motivation and compete level. It certainly wasn’t there on a consistent enough basis for the Coyotes’ liking, which is a major reason why he is being moved.

But here’s the thing with Domi. While Galchenyuk might not be suited for the scrutiny and pressure that comes with playing for the Canadiens, it actually might just be what Domi needs to get his career back on track. Remember, Domi grew up in Toronto with his father playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs and being one of the most popular players of his era. He saw all that comes with being an NHLer in Canada’s biggest city up close and likely got a few tips from his father on how to handle it. In junior hockey, he eschewed the chance to play in Kingston to go to London, which is arguably the highest-profile organization in Canadian junior hockey. Expectations there are always high and Domi delivered, scoring 102 points in his last season and helping the powerhouse Knights to two Ontario League championships.

Domi is the kind of kid who is comfortable around people and has gained enough knowledge and savvy from his father to be able to handle the fishbowl that Montreal can be. He’ll likely sign a long-term deal in the near future and don’t be surprised if he takes French lessons so he can communicate with the fan base in both languages. If the pressure of playing in Montreal can motivate him enough, a Bergevin trade might just end up working for the Canadiens.

And there’s little chance the Canadiens are done. They need to bolster their blueline and there’s speculation that they chase Jack Johnson in free agency. There’s the Max Pacioretty situation to address, which could be resolved with a sign-and-trade, and, of course, the search for a No. 1 center continues. This trade doesn’t address that, but it does kick start what should be a fascinating off-season for the Canadiens.

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