Galchenyuk is the player the Canadiens would have the most difficulty replacing on a long-term basis other than goaltender Carey Price.
If No. 1 defenseman Shea Weber had to miss time due to injury, fellow right-shooting defenseman Jeff Petry could move up the depth chart. Losing Weber would hurt, but at least there is someone on the roster who could fill that role.
If it were captain Max Pacioretty or right wing Alexander Radulov or right wing Brendan Gallagher, the Canadiens would again lose some offense, but they have young players who could be plugged in for short-term relief.
The Canadiens have no attractive options to replace Galchenyuk.
Galchenyuk is scheduled to have further tests on his injury when the Canadiens return to Montreal following their game Tuesday at the St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET; FS-MW, SNE, RDS, NHL.TV), but the word “indefinitely” is sure to strike fear in Canadiens fans, not to mention coaches and management.
Behind Galchenyuk at center on the Canadiens depth chart are Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais and Torrey Mitchell, none of them an adequate replacement for someone who has been one of the most dynamic and consistent offensive players in the NHL this season.
Galchenyuk has at least a point in 18 of 25 games, and only once has gone two straight games (Oct. 24 and 26) without a point all season.
He leads the Canadiens with nine goals and 23 points, which had him tied for 11th in the NHL entering Monday. He is averaging 16:10 of ice time per game, the lowest amount among the top-40 scorers in the NHL. The only player who comes close is Galchenyuk’s linemate Radulov, who was tied for 21st with 21 points playing an average of 16:13 per game.
In terms of points per 60 minutes of ice time in all situations, Galchenyuk is sixth among players who have played a minimum of 10 games at 3.41, behind only Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers, Nikita Kucherov of the Lightning and Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues.
Galchenyuk is a difficult player to replace, made that much more difficult because of the lack of production from Plekanec and Desharnais this season.
Plekanec, 34, has averaged 0.65 points per game over a very consistent career that is in its 12th season. This season he is averaging 0.28 points per game with a goal and six assists in 25 games. Dating back to Dec. 1 of last season, Plekanec has played 82 regular-season games and has eight goals and 29 assists (37 points).
Desharnais has three goals and six assists in 24 games, helped by a two-assist performance against the Kings on Sunday. Much like Plekanec, Desharnais is coming off a difficult season and is not a viable option to take up the minutes given to Galchenyuk.
Among prospects, center Michael McCarron is currently injured, as is Charles Hudon, who plays on the wing, but is a natural center who played the position until junior hockey.
Coach Michel Therrien might consider moving Radulov over to center considering he has been the top playmaker on the Canadiens this season and has impressed with his strong defensive game, particularly when it comes to backchecking and breaking up opposing rush opportunities.
No coach wants to move a productive forward to a new position unless it is absolutely necessary. In this case, Therrien might not have a choice.