It was a controversial move at the time.
In June of 2018, the Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes swapped a pair of promising young forwards, with Habs GM Marc Bergevin sending Alex Galchenyuk to the desert in exchange for Max Domi.
It’s turned out to be one of his very best moves.
The Canadiens had taken Galchenyuk with the third-overall pick of the 2012 draft, while the Coyotes selected Domi 12th in 2013. Domi had an impressive rookie season as a 20-year-old with Arizona in 2015-16, scoring 18 goals and 52 points. His production dropped after that, though, scoring just nine goals in each of the following two seasons.
Meanwhile, 2015-16 was also a great year for Galchenyuk, who posted career highs with 30 goals and 56 points as a 21-year-old in his fourth NHL season. It looked like he might be becoming the dynamic offensive player the Habs thought he could be when they used a top-three pick on him.
However, Galchenyuk failed to even score 20 goals in either of the following two seasons, and whether it was Michel Therrien and Claude Julien behind the bench, both seemed to think he wasn’t cutting it as a centre.
Controversial trade pays off
It seemed to be a case of each team providing a change of scenery for a talented young player whose development seemed to have stalled or even gone backwards. At the time, most of the reaction was not positive to Montreal’s end of the deal. However, 16 months later, the trade has been a clear win for the Habs.
Domi was a revelation in his first year in Montreal, scoring 28 goals and a team-leading 72 points. His passionate and energetic play quickly endeared himself to Habs fans.
He’s off to a hot start to this season, too, with 10 points (3-7-10) through his first 11 games, tied with Brendan Gallagher and Jonathan Drouin for the club lead. His skating and playmaking abilities have been huge for the Habs’ offence, and he’s handled the move to centre better than anyone could have reasonably hoped he would, faceoff struggles aside.
As for Galchenyuk, he scored just 19 goals and 41 points in 72 games for the Coyotes last season. He’s now playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins after being involved in an offseason trade for Phil Kessel. Galchenyuk recorded two assists in his first three games for the Penguins, but hasn’t played since October 8 due to a lower-body injury.
He’s in the final year of a contract that carries a $4.9-million cap hit and will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, meaning he may very well be on the move to yet another team.
Domi is also on an expiring deal and will be in for a hefty raise from his current $3.15-million annual average salary that has been a massive bargain for the Habs, but he’ll only be a restricted free agent. Domi has been very vocal about how much he loves playing in Montreal and it seems safe to assume there will be mutual interest in a long-term contract to keep him with the Canadiens for many years to come.
Bergevin’s best deal
The Domi-Galchenyuk swap is one of the best moves Marc Bergevin has made since taking over as general manager in 2012.
Other strong moves on Bergevin’s resume include the acquisition of Jeff Petry from the Edmonton Oilers in 2015 in exchange for second and fourth-round draft picks, and his acquisition of Phillip Danault and a second-round pick from the Chicago Blackhawks in 2016 in exchange for Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann.
The Danault trade is still Bergevin’s best move because of how little he gave up for him. Weise and Fleischmann were both depth players on expiring contracts. Weise is actually back in the Canadiens organization now, playing for the AHL Laval Rocket. Fleischmann attended training camp with the Minnesota Wild on a professional tryout the following season and retired after failing to make the team. Just getting the second-round pick wouldn’t have been a terrible return. Getting Danault as well was a coup.
There’s no question, though, that the Domi trade has turned out to be a great move for the Canadiens. If it isn’t the very best trade Bergevin’s made, it’s certainly right up there.