Well, Tampa Bay General Manager Steve Yzerman wasted no time in making moves to improve the future of his organization. On Thursday, Yzerman sent budding star forward left-wing Jonathan Drouin and a conditional 6th round draft pick to Montreal for last year’s number ten overall draft pick, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, and a conditional 2nd round draft pick. Drouin then signed a six-year extension with the Habs for $33 million. This trade benefits both teams. Here's why.
First, Tampa Bay had a stockpile of very good young forwards, and with a few of Tampa’s defensemen on the wrong side of 30 (Braydon Coburn-31, Jason Garrison-32), Sergachev will have a few years in Syracuse to mature, and provide Tampa with another long-term stud defenseman who will get a first-class lesson from Norris Trophy finalist, Victor Hedman.
Yzerman did an excellent job in shedding salary by trading goalie Ben Bishop to Los Angeles and Val Filppula to Philadelphia, while freeing up close to $13 million in cap space. Tampa not only had Drouin as a (RFA) Restricted Free Agent, but also Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson. Color me impressed with the way Steve Yzerman has juggled salaries of a boatload of not only good, but almost great players, all under the age of 27. This team is stacked for the long haul, and only one year removed from back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals appearances. The Lighting will soon be lifting the Cup once again.
Tampa will be getting a healthy Steven Stamkos back, and pray he plays 82 games. His running mates have been Alex Kilorn and Drouin, while the triplets, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palet and Tyler Johnson, will be back together, all of whom have gone deep into the playoffs.
Jonathan Drouin is only 22 years old, and he posted career highs in points (53), power-play points (26) and shots on goal (183 in 73 games), while exceeding his 11th round draft pick average in Yahoo leagues. Returning to Quebec is a homecoming for the former Halifax Moosehead, and his offensive prowess will certainly boost Montreal’s power play (13th out of 30 teams).
The Canadiens, on the other hand, are in win-now mode with all-world goalie Carey Price being 30 years old, and an Unrestricted Free-Agent at the end of the season. They made it clear as day when GM Mark Bergevin shipped the young defensive stud to Nashville for hulking, cannon shot Shea Weber. Montreal’s problem, however, was putting the puck into the net, and hopefully the addition of Drouin will give the Habs that added punch. Drouin will most likely be used on the second line because Max Pacioretty is the top line left winger and leading scorer. But I’m positive that Head Coach Claude Julian will get all the big guns on the top power play unit, and the Habs' real issue is giving these stud wingers a quality center to run with them. Alexander Radulov is an (UFA) Unrestricted Free Agent on July 1, though Bergevin has been quoted as saying he has every intention of re-signing Radulov, yet another quality presence up the middle who will keep teams from stacking stud stoppers against Montreal’s top-line.
None of the Canadiens centers were fantasy relevant last season. Alex Galchenyuk was dinged up and only dressed for 61 games while Philip Danault, Thomas Plekanec and Andrew Shaw were all underwhelming with very sporadic play. I’ll give Danault a pass, as he was a rookie last year, but Shaw and Plekanec need to earn those millions and not float around playing sketchy defense. Hockey is a 200-foot game and back checking, blocking shots, and disrupting passing lanes is just as important as scoring goals. Montreal needs those two to do plenty more of each.
Is Jonathan Drouin ready this year to make the huge production jump that Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele made from his second to third season, going from 49 points in his rookie year to 61 in the second to a blistering 82 points last season? Drouin will have plenty of tools on hand to make the same kind of production jump, and this trade should not affect his ADP come draft time. Drouin’s stock may rise even higher depending on who the Habs protect for next week’s expansion draft, and who they possibly add on July 1, the opening day of free-agency.
You can always reach me @PolkaPat for anything fantasy and be sure to read more of my thoughts at Fighting Chance Sports.