Lightning trades Jonathan Drouin to Montreal
The Lightning traded Jonathan Drouin.
The return is touted defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev and a 2018 conditional second-round pick. Sergachev, 18, has played in four NHL games, spending last season with OHL's Windsor Spitfires. The left-shot had 10 goals and 33 assists in 50 games. He was the ninth overall pick in last year's draft.
GM Steve Yzerman said talks with Montreal started last week. He made it clear the main reason for trade was filling the biggest need of acquiring a young puck-moving defenseman. TSN analyst and scout Craig Button believes Sergachev can be a "top pair" defenseman. Yzerman said it's their hope Sergachev opens the season in the lineup;, if not he has a year of junior eligibility.
"He's got good size, very strong, he skates very well," Yzerman said. "He's got an excellent shot, moves the puck well. We're hoping he can continue to be that player as he turns pro. We think he has the chance to to play all situations in this league.
"It's very difficult to find players of that caliber."
Button said it was a good deal for both teams. Montreal got much-needed scoring punch in Drouin, who signed a six-year, $33 million extension with his hometown team Thursday. Tampa Bay received what it hopes will be help in its biggest area of need, the blueline.
"I think he's a top-pair defenseman," said Button, a former NHL GM and TSN's Director of Scouting. "He can play all the situations in the game - 5-on-5, power play, penalty killing, and important minutes. And he's got all the elements. He can skate, he can shoot the puck and pass the puck.
"I think this is a real strong move. I know fans, they're upset because they don't have a real good grasp of the unknown. But this is a real good player, a really good player."
But so is Drouin, 22. He might be one of the league's most dynamic young players, coming off a breakout 21-goal season. Hall of Famer Phil Esposito believes Drouin is the best passer he's seen other than Wayne Gretzky. Scotty Bowman said Drouin can be a point per game player.
"There's risk involved in every trade," Yzerman said. "Jonathan is an extremely talented young man. I expect he's going to have a long and successful career. I wish him good luck."
Drouin is a restricted free agent this summer, and the Lightning was going to have trouble signing Drouin, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat with $18 milllion in cap space; Yzerman said they didn't really start contract talks with Drouin other than a brief conversation with agent Allan Walsh a few weeks ago; Drouin's $5.5 milllion annual average would be fourth on the Lightning, behind Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Ryan Callahan.
There have been talks with Johnson and Palat's camp, but nothing is imminent. Yzerman said this trade doesn't preclude him from trying to acquire another defenseman this summer.
Sergachev won't have to be protected in the expansion draft, which helps, and this move frees up another forward spot for the team's protected list (so likely Alex Killorn and Vladislav Namestnikov can be protected). But Yzerman said cap and expansion weren't the main motives in this move, it was getting a quality defenseman. And Button believes Sergachev can play in the NHL next season. Sergachev appeared in four NHL games with Montreal last season.
"He's a stud," Button said. "There are times you watch him play and go, 'Who is this guy?'"
The Lightning should find out soon.
We wrote last month why the Lightning could consider trading Drouin.
More to come.