The Lightning should trade Jonathan Drouin.
Not because he's a bad kid, because he's not. And not because he isn't a good player, because he is.
It just feels like trading Drouin might be the best move for the future of the Lightning, both long-term and short.
No one is suggesting that the Lightning should just trade Drouin for the sake of trading him. This isn't addition by subtraction.
The deal must make sense and if, at the end of this summer, Drouin is still in a Lightning uniform, there would be nothing wrong with that.
But if the Lightning can get a good return and save a few bucks to pass around to Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat then moving Drouin makes sense.
If the Minnesota Wild called Lightning GM Steve Yzerman today and offered a package that included defensemen Matt Dumba or Marco Sandella, he would have to think about it. If some other team put a big-time defenseman on the block, the Lightning should pick up the phone and dangle Drouin.
The Lightning needs a real good defenseman and Drouin might be the bait. To get something good, you have to give up something good.
Then again, elite defenseman are rare and even Drouin might not be enough to acquire one.
There are other issues. The cost of winning is a high. Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman have already gotten huge raises. Nikita Kucherov will soon be due to get his. Johnson and Palat, assuming they are staying, will get a pay hike. Eventually, goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy will get big bucks.
And someday, someone will have to back up a truck-load of money on Drouin's doorstep.
When you start doing the math, it doesn't seem possible that there's enough money to go around. You can't keep everybody. In this game of musical chairs, someone is going to be left without a seat. That player might be Drouin.
Then, there's The Controversy.
Drouin's career in Tampa Bay hasn't been peaceful. It's still not easy to forget that Drouin once left the organization because he was demoted. He and Lightning coach Jon Cooper don't always see eye-to-eye.
Drouin wants to go-go-go and Cooper wants Drouin to at least acknowledge that there are two nets on the ice.
They say all the right things, but it still feels as if their relationship is strained.
Can they co-exist? Probably. Can we guarantee everything has been patched up for good? That's less certain.
Drouin has special skills. Someday, he might be a point a game player. He might be that kind of player already.
But the Lightning has plenty of offense. Kucherov might be one of the top five offensive players in hockey. Stamkos, assuming he can stay healthy, remains a pure goal scorer. There's Johnson and Palat and rising star Brayden Point.
Scoring isn't the issue. Defense and the salary cap are.
You might be able to address both problems with one solution.
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