After signing Evgenii Dadonov on October 15, Senators General Manager Pierre Dorion admitted he was still on the look-out to add one more forward. Thursday, the GM took a flyer on former thirty-goal man Alex Galchenyuk – inking him to a one-year, $1.05 million contract.
“Alex’s signing represents another good addition for us at forward. He’s versatile in that he can play both left wing and centre. He’s gifted offensively, has been a solid power-play contributor, and is a proven goal scorer in this league,” noted Dorion in a team media release.
The club is hopeful Galchenyuk can return to form or close to the form of that 2015-16 30-goal season with the Canadiens. Since then, the 26-year old has posted campaigns of 17,19, 19, and eight in an injury-plagued 2019-20 which saw him dealt by the Penguins to the Wild prior to the trade deadline.
Galchenyuk too is hopeful, another change of scenery will do him good, “Obviously, after a long discussion with my agent (Pat Brisson), I looked at teams and some options, and there’s no surprise I have a lot to prove to myself, to other people. It felt like Ottawa was the right fit. Just can’t wait to get there and start working,” said from his Arizona home via Zoom Friday afternoon.
“I’m so over what happened whatever was negative. I left that behind me. I’ve learned what I felt I needed to learn from my time in Pittsburgh, and even my time in Minnesota – try to bring those experiences that I’ve had to Ottawa.”
While we can’t surmise what may have occurred in Pittsburgh and Minnesota last season, Galchenyuk suffered an injury in the preseason and re-aggravated it right out of the gate. And the native of Milwaukee, WI failed to find any modicum of consistency until the February trade to the Wild.
One thing is for certain, Galchenyuk acknowledged the season may have acted as a turning point in his career – a learning experience if you will.
“I started off, I got hurt – things didn’t work out. It was just a tough year, and sometimes you need those. Sometimes you need a year like this to centre yourself, and to love yourself – really understand what you want to do – what do you want to become – how you want to play. It was a big moment for me to realize that. My head is not even back there to look back and see why didn’t this work out. My focus is on how to make it right in Ottawa to be a really productive player for the team.”
The move to Ottawa marks Galchenyuk’s fifth team in only 28 months. Rumours of outside interference during his time in Montreal followed the eight-year NHL veteran throughout his career.
Canadiens beat reporter Pat Hickey wrote in a Montreal Gazette article days after Galchenyuk’s trade to the Coyotes in exchange for Max Domi in June 2018,
There will be questions about whether the Canadiens’ coaching staff handled Galchenyuk properly. Was he given a fair shot at centre? Did the coaches give him the guidance he needed to become a better defensive player?
But the question that has to be answered is: Was Galchenyuk listening to those who were paid to give him advice?
We know he was listening to his father, Alex Sr. You could see them huddling after every game in the concourse outside the Canadiens’ dressing room, rehashing the game. There were rumblings from the Galchenyuk camp about the way Alex was being used. There were questions about why he wasn’t at centre, why he was getting less ice time than other players.
There were even questions about why he wasn’t on the ice at the end of close games. Given his defensive shortcomings, this should have been a no-brainer, but the Galchenyuk clan saw a conspiracy that deprived Alex of opportunities to score empty-net goals. When Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty each scored 30 goals in the 2015-16 season, Pacioretty scored four empty-net goals while Galchenyuk had none.
To his credit, the 2012 third overall Entry Draft selection lifted the veil and recognized his past.
“I think as a human being, we all learn stuff about ourselves. It’s just not everybody is openly talking about it. When you grow, you mature, you learn as a player, as a human what you can do to do better, what do you need to do towards finding success,” Galchenyuk explained via Zoom.
“I felt I had a certain level of success early in my career, and things started going the other way. I picked myself back up. And I not just want to get back to the game that I had, I want elevate that. I know I have that. I’m working towards the truth. I know what kind of player I want to be. I’ve been working daily too, trying to back that up.”
Whether he plays left wing or centre remains to be seen, but Galchenyuk, like Dadonov preceding him, realizes it’s part of his job with the club is assist the Senators’ youngsters.
“Absolutely, I have played almost 600 games (549) already. It’s going to be my ninth year. I’m only 26. I’ve experienced big games internationally. I realize how important the older guys are to the team and their leadership. I see how things were done in Pittsburgh, how they talk to the younger guys – what they do on and off the ice. It was inspiring and encouraging. And it’s something I want to bring to the table also.”
The signing of Galchenyuk may not have been popular among Senators’ fans. It’s going to make it that much tougher for some of the youngsters Galchenyuk was speaking of to find ice-time. His addition means players such as Vitali Abramov, Rudolfs Balcers, Logan Brown, Filip Chlapik, Alex Formenton, possibly Josh Norris will fight for two-three roster openings.
However, it’s currently unknown how NHL rosters will be handled during this period of COVID-19. There’s a strong possibility of increased roster size and/or teams may carry a taxi squad of several players similar to that Major League Baseball recently went through.
But if Galchenyuk can produce at the level he did during his days with the Canadiens, fans most fan’s concerns will quickly turn to smiles – something the newcomer wants to put on their faces.
“I’ve been skating a lot. I’ve been working on my game, getting stronger and faster on the ice. I’m keeping my mind fresh. I’m really focused on joining my new teammates. I can’t wait to get back in Canada. It’s going to be a huge year. I’m excited for this opportunity. The team looks like it has a great group of guys and coaching staff. I can’t wait to put smiles on people’s faces.”
“I just want to stop talking about it all and just go and produce and help the team win. That’s what I want to do.”