Why the Lightning needs to be 'really careful' if dealing Drouin
Wing Jonathan Drouin wants out of Tampa Bay, just three years removed from being the No. 3 overall pick in 2013.
But does the Lightning grant Drouin his wish? GM Steve Yzerman is under no obligation to trade Drouin just because he publicly asked for one, the 20-year-old wing under contract for several seasons. Drouin is in route to AHL Syracuse, so he's scheduled to report to Crunch practice Tuesday. Yzerman said he'll "solely" do what's best for the club.
But there's still a chance Drouin gets dealt. And if the Lightning decides to part ways with Drouin, that's another difficult dilemma.
"It's a dangerous game for both sides," said NBCSN's Pierre McGuir. "Because this is a really, really talented player. Sometimes organizations, they become frustrated and they move a player before they should."
McGuire has one name that should provide a cautionary tale: Markus Naslund.
McGuire was a special assignment scout for the Penguins when they drafted Naslund 16th overall in 1991. Naslund was a gifted left wing with special puckhandling skills, but on a very deep Penguins forward group (Mario Lemieux & Co.). Sound familiar? McGuire said, for whatever reason, the new management group that came in didn't like Naslund as a player, and after three seasons, he was dealt to Vancouver for forward Alek Stojanov.
"The rest is history," McGuire said. "Just a one-sided deal, it was scary."
Naslund went on to have a great career in Vancouver, being named captain, a three-time All-Star, setting franchise records in goals and points, finishing with 346 goals. Stojanov? Drafted eight spots ahead of Naslund in 1991, Stojanov was, for the most part, a career minor-leaguer, retiring by age 29 after scoring two goals in 107 career NHL games.
This isn't saying Drouin, 20, will turn into Naslund. But the Lightning doesn't know the true value, or potential, of Drouin, making it difficult to give him up. Drouin has six goals and 34 assists in just 89 career NHL games.
"You've got to be really careful as an organization in insulating a young player that you had enough confidence in to take third overall in a really solid draft," McGuire said. "You've got to be really careful in terms of crushing that player's spirit and confidence.
"Those guys take a little bit longer sometimes to come around, and I think Jonathan will be able to do that. You don't want to make a panic move on a player that has shown so much potential and he still has so much potential."
Is it too late for Drouin and the Lightning's relationship to be salvaged? Maybe. Drouin clearly feels he hasn't been utlized properly by coach Jon Cooper, with a fresh start likely doing him some good. But isn't Drouin the kind of young, skilled and cheap forward the Lightning will need in coming years depending on how the Steven Stamkos contract situation plays out (and, no, Stamkos hasn't been asked to waive his no-move clause yet).
The Lightning may very well trade Drouin, there's a good chance of it happening. But Yzerman has to find the right deal, and that's very difficult to do without knowing exactly what you're trading.
You don't want to make a trade you'll eventually regret.