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GARRIOCH: Winger Alex Galchenyuk looking forward to fresh start with the Ottawa Senators


Alex Galchenyuk needed a wakeup call and he got one last season.

Now, he’s put it behind him and he’s looking ahead.

Speaking to the media Friday for the first time since he signed one-year, $1.05 million deal with the Ottawa Senators Wednesday as an unrestricted free agent, the 26-year-old forward talked about the fact that he’s bound and determined to get back to being a consistent performer.

Ottawa general manager Pierre Dorion and coach D.J. Smith decided to take a chance on Galchenyuk because they feel he can help in the right circumstances. A No. 3 overall pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2012, he had 30 goals and 56 points in 2015-16 campaign but hasn’t come close to that kind of production since.

He knows some people questioning why the Senators signed him and he’s prepared to answer his critics by being a contributor. He was saying all the right things Friday afternoon.

“There’s no surprise I have a lot to prove to myself and to a lot of people,” said Galchenyuk in a Zoom call. “It felt like Ottawa was the right fit and I just can’t wait to get there and start working.

“I’m definitely hungrier than ever and motivated. It’s been great training already. I feel great and my body feels great. There’s been a lot of time off and I’ve used that time well to get better with my foot speed, my explosiveness and just my consistency. I know what I need to do to get that.”

Since being dealt to the Arizona Coyotes by the Habs before the 2018-19  season, Galchenyuk has had a hard time finding a home. He had 19 goals and 41 points in 72 games with the Coyotes. One year later, he was moved to the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of the trade that sent winger Phil Kessel to the desert.

After suffering an injury early in the 2019-20 campaign, Galchenyuk scored only five goals and had 17 points in 45 games with Pittsburgh. He didn’t fit in and moved to the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 10 as part of a deal for Jason Zucker.

He said he has “grown” and “matured” from the experience of last season and that’s why he feels it will pay off when he suits up with the Senators.

“I went through a really tough year, of course, but I learned a lot … a lot about myself and myself as a hockey player and what I need to do,” Galchenyuk said. “I’m really excited that I’ve fixed that part of my game and I’m excited to display it.”

Because he’s got a great shot, the expectations are that Galchenyuk will contribute offensively, but Smith and his staff will demand he plays both sides of the puck. The Senators were impressed with what they heard from Galchenyuk and agent Pat Brisson before the deal was signed.

“I felt I had success early in my career and then things started going the other way,” Galchenyuk said. “I had to pick myself back up, not just to get back to the game that I had, but I want to elevate that. I know I have that and I’m working towards it. I know what kind of player I am and what I want to be and I’m working daily to back it up.”

The reality has set in for Galchenyuk that he has to earn everything he gets in the NHL and that’s why he’s worked hard on all aspects of his game.

“I’ve just been building my body by setting the right foundation physically and mentally,” Galchenyuk said. “I’m trying to transfer all the work onto the ice. I’ve been skating a lot and trying to get stronger and faster off the ice. I’ve been trying to keep my mind fresh

“I’m really focused and motivated. It’s a huge year. I’m excited for this opportunity and I’m really looking forward to joining my teammates. It seems like a great group of guys and the coaching staff. It’s going to be great to be back in Canada. After all this, hopefully (the off-season) will be done soon and we can put some smiles back on the faces of the people in Canada.”

The centre situation has to be settled so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Galchenyuk has the chance to be in the middle for Ottawa when camp opens. As noted, he can also play on the wing so it will be up to Smith to determine where he fits best.

Galchenyuk could be a centre for top draft pick Tim Stuetzle or possibly a winger for Josh Norris or Connor Brown. There are all kinds of options for him and he couldn’t say enough about how determined he is to get his career back on track.

“Sometimes you need a tough year to decide what you want to become and how you want to play,” said Galchenyuk, who has 135 goals and 320 points in 549 NHL games, “It was a big moment for me to realize that. My head’s not even back there to look back and see why (things) didn’t work out. My focus on making it right with Ottawa and being a really productive player.”

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Twitter: @sungarrioch

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