Even though he has yet to play one game for the Montreal Canadiens, expectations for talented Habs prospect C Alex Galchenyuk are already high. But hey, this is Montreal; if you strap skates on twelve cockroaches, a crowd is guaranteed to come out and watch.
With new Montreal GM Eric Bergevin informing C Scott Gomez that his services will no longer be required, on the surface, it would seem this reduces the clutter at center and paves the way for Galchenyuk to earn a roster spot. However, for the same reason that Gomez was sent home (team financial concerns), it is highly unlikely that Galchenyuk will be on the team for the entire shortened 48 game season.
Gomez was given his walking papers because the Habs did not want to take the risk of having Gomez injured this season. This would mean the team would not be able to buy out the final year of Gomez’ contract after this season.
As per the recently ratified collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA, each team is permitted two contract buyouts which will not be applied against the salary cap. Of course, as stated, if a player is injured, the team will not be permitted to buy out his contract. Gomez getting injured and the Canadiens getting stuck with the final year of his hefty contract was too much of a risk for a potential middle of the pack team to take.
Galchenyuk’s situation is much different, of course, but the same economic realities will factor into the decision as to whether or not he remains with the big club. And if the team’s decision on Gomez can be used as a barometer, chances are Galchenyuk will be sent back to the Sarnia Sting farm team to finish off the season and further hone his skills.
After being drafted in the first round (#3 overall) by the Habs in the 2012 draft, Galchenyuk signed a three year entry level contract with the team. If Galchenyuk plays more than six games during this shortened season with the Habs, then the the team will take a hit of $3.3 million against the salary cap.
Since the Habs are a bit of a long shot to challenge for the Stanley Cup this season, it would make little economic sense to keep Galchenyuk on the team, regardless if he is ready for the big time or not. With blueliner P.K. Subban still unsigned and Gomez still under contract this season, the Canadiens can use every last available million.
As it was painfully reinforced over the four month lockout, NHL hockey is first and foremost a business, with the game running a distant second. Due to the same business reasons which went into making Gomez’ unceremonious exit from Montreal a reality, fans will have to wait at least one more year prior to witnessing Galchenyuk’s arrival.
That’s okay. After an excruciating and non-sensical four month lockout, fans are accustomed to waiting. For a while there, even a game with cockroaches was starting to look appealing.