Thursday, July 6, 2017

{allcanada} Alex Galchenyuk fine wherever Canadiens decide to play him


Alex Galchenyuk is staying with the Montreal Canadiens, this much we now know. But will he be their top-line center this season, a fourth-line left wing, or somewhere in between?

Galchenyuk, who had been the subject of trade rumors as a restricted free agent, avoided salary arbitration when he agreed to a three-year contract with Montreal on Wednesday. Financial terms were not disclosed, but Sportsnet reported the contract is worth $14.7 million (average annual value $4.9 million).

"Rumors are always going to be rumors, and obviously it was pretty hard to avoid them with obviously social media being so big at this time and everybody all over the place," the 23-year-old said on a conference call from Miami on Thursday. "But I try to stay focused on training and just worry about the things I can control, and I'm really happy that we got the deal done right now."

Where Galchenyuk will fit into Montreal's lineup, whether at left wing or center, is unclear heading into the first full season of coach Claude Julien's second stint as Canadiens coach.

"Actually, the part of the negotiation and the clause I put in the contract is whenever I get asked this question I can walk away from the scrum now," Galchenyuk said. "I'm just kidding, I've been answering this question for so many times that for me, you know, I'm a hockey player and my main thing was to re-sign in Montreal as soon as possible, and I'm very happy with the deal.

"To be in Montreal, I love the team, I love the fans, I love the city, and playing at Bell Centre in front of the fans in Montreal, that's what brings out the passion in me."

Galchenyuk began last season as former coach Michel Therrien's top center and had 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in 25 games before he injured his knee Dec. 4 against the Los Angeles Kings and was sidelined for six weeks. Galchenyuk's production fell off when he returned, and he finished with 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) in 61 games.

Julien, who replaced Therrien on Feb. 14, played Galchenyuk at left wing on the fourth line when Montreal opened the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the New York Rangers.

"I really don't focus on playing center or wing," Galchenyuk said. "We have a great coach that will decide where to put me, and I know what's my skill set and what I can bring to the table. It won't be a big issue where I play."

Though the Canadiens lost right wing Alexander Radulov, who signed as a free agent with the Dallas Stars on Monday, Galchenyuk is looking forward to the opportunity to possibly play with two offseason acquisitions, forwards Jonathan Drouin and Ales Hemsky.

"When we added Drouin, I was really excited and I congratulated him right away," Galchenyuk said. "And if you're adding to the team a player with his skill set, me, as a player, you get excited. Having a chance to play with a skilled forward like that, it's always a plus. And Hemsky, he's been in the League for a while now and the skill set he brings, I've definitely watched some of his highlights throughout the years and the set of hands he has, you know, maybe learn something and bring it to my game, and I think it's going to be great."

Disappointed at missing the playoffs in 2015-16, Galchenyuk was determined to avoid another long offseason. But Montreal's six-game loss to the Rangers left him and his teammates with more time than they wanted to ponder what went wrong, and motivated to do something about it going forward.

"I know I can bring a lot to the team, and me and every other person on the team is putting a lot of pressure on themself," Galchenyuk said. "You know, obviously after a disappointing first-round exit last season, we're all hungry and we all want to get to the top. And I think everybody's working hard and we want to prove a lot of people wrong and we've got to find a way to win, and there's no doubt we've got to bounce back stronger next year."

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