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Lightning trades Jonathan Drouin to Canadiens for defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev

After a tumultuous time with the Lightning, left wing Jonathan Drouin is traded to his hometown Canadiens and signs a six-year, $33 million contract extension.
After a tumultuous time with the Lightning, left wing Jonathan Drouin is traded to his hometown Canadiens and signs a six-year, $33 million contract extension.
Published Jun. 16, 2017

TAMPA

Much has been made about what the Lightning lost Thursday, the team dealing budding star wing Jonathan Drouin to the Canadiens.

But what now becomes the focus is what Tampa Bay is getting back. That will be how this blockbuster is ultimately judged.

The Lightning has long sought to fill its biggest need, bolstering its blue line. And many believe that touted prospect Mikhail Sergachev, 18, coming from Montreal in the deal, can grow into a top-four defenseman.

It won't happen overnight. The Lightning's Victor Hedman, a Norris Trophy finalist this year, said it took him around 200 games to find a comfort zone in the NHL. But Tampa Bay will give Sergachev every chance to open the season in the lineup; otherwise, he'll return to juniors.

Tampa Bay hopes Sergachev will be a key piece with Hedman for many playoff runs to come.

RELATED: Lightning fans won't lose sleep over the Drouin trade, Tom Jones says.

"I think he's a top-pair defenseman," said Craig Button, a former NHL general manager and director of scouting for Canada's TSN TV network. "He can control a game. He can play all the situations — 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 (trade). I know fans, they're upset because they don't have a real good grasp of the unknown. But (Sergachev is) a real good player, a really good player."

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said one benefit of the deal is gaining flexibility for his expansion draft protection list, which now probably could include both forwards Vladislav Namestnikov and Alex Killorn. There's also the salary cap reality.

Yzerman said he didn't really start contract talks with Drouin, who could have been a restricted free agent July 1 but promptly signed a six-year, $33 million extension Thursday with his hometown Canadiens. Unlike two years ago, when Drouin requested a trade from Tampa Bay, he didn't want to go to another team.

"The relationship between Tampa and (Drouin) was good," agent Allan Walsh told the Tampa Bay Times. "(Drouin) would have been very happy to sign a new deal in Tampa."

RELATED: Trading Drouin could haunt the Lightning, Martin Fennelly says.

Drouin's new $5.5 million annual cap hit would be the fourth highest on the Lightning. That would have been a tough number for Yzerman to afford with $18 million in cap space left (and Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, who can be restricted free agents, left to sign).

But more than money, and gaining a 2018 pick, Yzerman said this deal was primarily about Sergachev. The 6-foot-2 left-shot defenseman is a strong puck mover with scoring ability; he had 43 points in 50 games for Windsor in the junior Ontario League last season. Yzerman said the Russian is the complete package of size, strength, skating and skill. Sergachev has played in just four NHL games, all last season.

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"We're hoping that he can continue to be that type of player as he turns pro and do that in the NHL," Yzerman said. "We think he has a chance to play in all situations in this league, and it's very difficult to find players of that caliber. In this instance, a prospect of that caliber, they're difficult to acquire."

RELATED: What Lightning fans say about the Drouin trade.

So is Drouin. Drouin, whom the Lightning drafted No. 3 overall in 2013, is coming off a breakout 21-goal season. Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman thinks he can be a point-per-game player. He's one of the most dynamic young players in the game, someone Lightning captain Steven Stamkos once dubbed a "big part of our core."

Drouin said in his Montreal news conference that he was sad to leave Tampa. But he dubbed it surreal to be on his hometown team: "I'm going to thrive on that pressure." He was caught offguard when learning about the trade on the way to the golf course.

"He was initially shocked," Walsh said. "He certainly wasn't expecting anything (Thursday). He always knew it was possible based on all the rumors that were out there and Tampa's need for a defenseman. But he was stunned. After consideration, the fact it was Montreal and his hometown, to be at home around his family, it's an amazing thing. It's a childhood dream come true."

RELATED: What the hockey world is saying about the Drouin trade.

Yzerman said risks are involved in every trade and believes Drouin will have a long, successful career. The Lightning hopes Sergachev does, too.

"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.

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