By Brandon Murphy (@2Murphy8)
The Montreal Canadiens have been searching for a No. 1 center for a long time and still haven’t assessed that need. That being said, they did bring in Jonathan Drouin for some much-needed scoring but gave up a valuable future asset to acquire him. Here is my breakdown of the trade.
To Montreal: Jonathan Drouin & conditional 6th-round pick
To Tampa Bay: Mikhail Sergachev & conditional 2nd-round pick
There are a lot of ways to interpret the trade and it is very difficult to assign a winner.
The Montreal Canadiens desperately need a No. 1 center, and Jonathan Drouin obviously isn’t that guy. However, GM Marc Bergevin is still trying to shop Galchenyuk, but the return isn’t very clear, as the Canadiens are rather weak on defense. Drouin does cover one of their desires.
Drouin brings a scoring element that Montreal needs, as they were eliminated from the playoffs after scoring a measly 1.83 goals per game. Drouin, a 3rd overall pick back in 2013, established himself last year after playing 73 games during which he scored 21 goals and posted 53 points. At only 22 years of age, Drouin still has time to develop his game and could potentially be a consistent 70-point guy. He will be getting the bulk of the ice time and power play time with Montreal and won’t be buried behind a healthy Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and others.
However, a lot of questions surround Drouin. How will his attitude fare, how will he handle the media and pressure as a francophone player in Montreal? Shortly after the trade, Drouin signed a 6-year contract worth $33 million, good for an average annual value of $5.5 million.
For Tampa Bay, this deal made too much sense. There was already a good indication that Drouin didn’t really want to play there and his new contract ultimately would have killed the team. In addition to Drouin, the Lightning must re-sign Johnson, Palat, Andrej Sustr and in two years, Kucherov and Brayden Point will be looking for raises. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy and defenseman Victor Hedman also have new contracts that kick in next season. Needless to say, there was no room for Drouin and the expansion draft would have done some damage to the roster as well.
With this deal, Tampa Bay acquires a potential top-2 defenseman, an extra protection spot for the expansion draft and some cap space to re-sign core players. Mikhail Sergachev has a tremendous skill set and was considered by many to be a non-tradeable asset, but a desperate need for scoring forced Bergevin to pull the trigger. Sergachev was drafted 9th overall last year after recording 57 points in 67 games in his first OHL season with the Windsor Spitfires. After playing a short four-game stint in Montreal, Sergachev was sent back to Windsor, where he recorded 43 points in 50 games and eventually went on to win the Memorial Cup against the Erie Otters.
Overall, the trade benefits both teams. Even though Montreal doesn’t get a top center, they pick up a young, dynamic forward with loads of potential and signed him long-term. On the bad side, they had to give up their most promising prospect who could eventually develop into a top-2 defenseman.
There are also conditional picks in this trade, the condition states: If Sergachev doesn’t play 40 regular season or playoff games for the Lightning in the 2017/18 season, then Tampa Bay receives Canadiens 2018 2nd round pick. If he plays 40 games, no draft picks are exchanged. (Per CapFriendly)
Time will tell who won this trade, but so far, the edge goes to Montreal.