The Montreal Canadiens acquired prized winger Jonathan Drouin from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday and proceeded to sign him to a six-year, $33 million extension. The deal carries a $5.5 million cap hit.
This is a huge move for a Montreal team desperate for top-six talent. The Habs will lose defensive prospect Mikhail Sergachev and a conditional 2nd-round pick (Tampa also will send a conditional 6th-rounder to Montreal), but that’s a minimal loss considering Drouin’s ability and room for growth. Most expected it would take a much more significant package to land Drouin, and many general managers will be disappointed by today’s news.
Tampa Bay was somewhat forced to move one of the team’s young stars for a few reasons. For one thing, players like Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat are due extensions this offseason, as was Drouin. Also, the team has eight core forwards that need to be protected in the upcoming expansion draft but only seven slots. Had Drouin remained in Tampa Bay, it’s likely one of Alex Killorn or Vladislav Namestnikov would have been exposed. Now that the transaction has been made, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman won’t have to worry about that. Yzerman also is getting a top-notch defensive prospect who will help to improve Tampa’s shaky defense moving forward.
Drouin, 22, was the third overall selection in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and was set to become a restricted free agent July 1. Sergachev, 18, was taken ninth overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The conditions on the draft picks relate to whether or not Sergachev plays 40 games (regular-season and playoffs combined) with the Lightning next season, according to Yzerman.
Though some would say Tampa could have gotten a better package elsewhere, this deal alleviates several concerns for Yzerman, including potential cap constraints, protection list issues and having limited defensive resources in the system.
For Montreal, Drouin’s creativity, confidence and game-changing skill will be tremendous assets to the team’s struggling offense. Drouin scored 21 goals and 53 points last season and still has plenty of potential to improve as a scoring threat and all-around player. This move also gives Montreal options regarding soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Alexander Radulov. The ideal scenario would see both in Habs jerseys next year, but Drouin will provide a huge boost to the top-six on his own.
One issue this move raises, however, is how Montreal will proceed without depth at center. Both Yzerman and head coach Claude Julien are iffy on Alex Galchenyuk’s ability and readiness to take the reins in that regard, and Tomas Plekanec is in the final year of a deal that carries a $6 million cap hit and very well could be exposed in a few days. Perhaps Drouin will have a chance to play center, though he’s better suited as a winger given his size. The trade also puts more pressure on Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin to bolster the team’s defense this offseason.
This could be the first of a series of major trades in the next few days as general managers gear up for the expansion draft.
Lightning have traded Drouin to Montreal. Here come the trades.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) June 15, 2017
Check out HFL’s 2017 Offseason NHL Trade Tracker, 2017 Offseason NHL Free Agent Signings Tracker and 2017 Offseason NHL Buyout Tracker for further updates. Also, check out our Vegas Expansion series for the Metropolitan Division, Atlantic Division, Central Division and Pacific Division.
Featured Image Credit: David Boily-La Presse