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Writing is on the wall that Alex Galchenyuk’s stay in Pittsburgh will be a short one

Are the Pens looking to trade the struggling winger?

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Arizona Coyotes v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

Reports are starting to come out that the Penguins have Alex Galchenyuk on a short leash and are exploring trading him. The Score summarized a Saturday night Elliotte Friedman report on Sportsnet:

After acquiring forward Alex Galchenyuk this offseason, the Pittsburgh Penguins are now looking to trade him, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on Saturday’s “Headlines” segment.

”The Penguins are looking around to see what fits are available for him,” Friedman said. “Galchenyuk is somebody who could be finding a new home.”

Galchenyuk, 25, arrived in Pittsburgh last summer from the Arizona Coyotes in the Phil Kessel trade. He’s appeared in 21 games for the Penguins, posting two goals and 10 points.

Galchenyuk has had a frustrating season. It appeared he had turned a corner on November 25th against Calgary when he scored his first goal in Pittsburgh and also added an assist. A burden was clearly off his shoulders to get that initial goal. However, since then, Galchenyuk has struggled and seen his role lessened. Even despite injuries to wingers Bryan Rust and Patric Hornqvist, Galchenyuk has been used less than 10 minutes in five of the six games since the Calgary game. He has only one point (a goal).

Galchenyuk’s usage bottomed out last night against the Red Wings last night, playing just 8:41 in the game, including just five shifts after taking a tripping penalty early in the second period.

As Pens general manager told Josh Yohe the other day, the Pens don’t even necessarily see Galchenyuk as a part of their playing lineup if they ever do get healthy.

“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,” Rutherford said. “That’s just the way it is, because we have a lot of guys playing well. So, that’s the good news and the bad news.”

That article also has Rutherford dismissing the notion that Galchenyuk was the right fit to play with Evgeni Malkin and noted with a tip from Coyotes’ coach Rick Tocchet on why that may be. Tocchet, of course, is uniquely qualified to analyze the situation being as he coached Galchenyuk last season in Arizona and also worked with Malkin for for three years while as an assistant with the Pens. Tocchet believes Galchenyuk’s natural inclination is to drift to the middle of the ice too much to fit with Malkin, who needs wingers to drive to the net and thereby create space for him to operate.

Whether true or not, the end result is that the Pens don’t seem to have much interest in Galchenyuk playing a top-six role any more. And, really, based off ice time for the past few games, they don’t have much interest in playing him that much in general. Galchenyuk doesn’t kill penalties or add much away from the puck, if he isn’t scoring he isn’t contributing much positively to the team. And he hasn’t scored much in Pittsburgh with just the two goals in 21 games and counting.

That’s not likely to increase much with current usage, which traps him in that vicious circle that it’s tough to produce without a favorable role, but it’s impossible to get more opportunities without producing something.

The end of this cycle figures to come with a trade. Once a player gets in the Sullivan/Rutherford dog house of this, he doesn’t often escape it — especially without a long contract. Galchenyuk doesn’t have that and could be on the move to his fourth NHL team by his 26th birthday next February.