It’s no secret that the Buffalo Sabres are in search of a forward to help improve their team. Last night, on Hockey Night in Canada, Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman mentioned the Sabres as a team that he believes has interest in Pittsburgh Penguins forward Alex Galchenyuk.
"Galchenyuk is someone who could be finding a new home.”— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 8, 2019
The NHL trade deadline is still more than two months away, but there appears to be a decent chance @penguins forward Alex Galchenyuk won’t have to wait that long to be shipped to a new team.https://t.co/j71YSdrHmT
“I do think Buffalo was one of the teams that looked at him...I’m sure there’s more, but Galchenyuk is someone who could be finding a new home,” said Friedman.
Friedman also referenced a piece from Josh Yohe of The Athletic in which the Penguins general manager, Jim Rutherford, mentions that Galchenyuk may not have a spot in the lineup when the club is healthy again.
Here’s the excerpt from Yohe’s article where Rutherford stated how it may be difficult for him to stay in the lineup:
“The fact of the matter is, when we’re totally healthy, he’s going to have to work very hard just to get in the top 12...”
The Penguins need a defenseman to improve their blue line and the Sabres are up to their ears in defenders. The two names that we’ve heard recently mentioned as being available for the Sabres are Marco Scandella and Colin Miller. Scandella is playing well but will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer. Miller has been in the press box more often than on the ice over the last few weeks. The Sabres acquired the puck-moving defender in the summer, but it has been an odd situation for close to a month now.
Both teams don’t have a lot of cap space. According to Cap Friendly, the Sabres have roughly $2.5 million in space with their LTIR reserve. The Penguins have a little over $1.6 million in cap room. A deal of Galchenyuk ($4.9 million cap hit) for Miller ($3.875 million cap hit) or Scandella ($4 million cap hit) makes sense on the surface. In terms of the team needs and working within the cap situation of both clubs.
Rutherford and Botterill are still close from their time together in the Penguins organization. The two sides have had communication over the last few weeks, in fact, a source indicated to me a few weeks ago that the Sabres and Penguins were making progress on a deal. However, an injury brought that progress to a halt for the time being.
Galchenyuk’s Potential Impact
If the Sabres were to acquire Galchenyuk, he’s a name that fans will recognize. He scored 30 goals back in the 2015-16 season with the Montreal Canadiens, but since then he hasn’t scored 20 goals in a season. If he’s moved again this season, it’ll be his fourth team in three seasons. The Penguins acquired the former third overall pick in the summer from the Arizona Coyotes as part of the Phil Kessel swap. Before that, he was traded to the Coyotes in the deal that sent Max Domi to the Canadiens.
It has been a tough few years for the 25-year-old forward. He’s had a lot of struggles at even strength and has been a negative on-ice impact over that stretch. According to Evolving Hockey’s RAPM model, over the last three seasons (2016-2019) combined, Galchenyuk has been the second-worst forward to play at least 1,000 minutes in shot quality differential (xG), sixth-worst in shot share (CF), and eighth-worst in goal differential (GF) at 5 on 5.
Through 20 games this season, his on-ice impacts have continued to be poor. He’s only scored in two games this season and as Yohe pointed out in his piece I referenced above, he’s been a big disappointment for the Penguins.
He’s a forward that picks up a chunk of his production on the man advantage. The Sabres power play has struggled, to say the least, over the past month. Thus he could be a piece to improve that area of the team. At 5 on 5 though, he’s at best a third-line winger. It’s unlikely that he would be an impact forward for the Sabres. His overall game at even strength has a lot of similar tendencies to that of Jimmy Vesey.
Beggars can’t be choosers in the Sabres case. They need help to improve their group at forward and may be reserved to hoping a player like Galchenyuk can turn it on in a contract year.
As both the Sabres and Penguins begin to get healthy, we’ll see if something comes of this.