The Montreal Canadiens have acquired Jonathan Drouin and a conditional 2018 sixth-round draft pick from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Mikhail Sergachev and a conditional 2018 second-round selection.
Drouin is coming off a career year, scoring 21 goals and adding 32 assists in 73 games with the Lightning. The 22-year-old pending restricted free agent signed a six-year contract extension with the Canadiens hours after the trade was finalized. The Lightning picked Drouin third overall in the 2013 draft.
Sergachev, drafted ninth overall by the Habs in 2016, played four games with the Canadiens in 2016-17 and shone with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires this past season. The soon-to-be-19-year-old led his team’s defencemen in points with 43 in 50 regular-season games and averaged a point per game en route to a Mastercard Memorial Cup victory in which he was named an all-star.
Midway through the 2015-16 season, Drouin’s agent, Allan Walsh, famously released a statement saying Drouin had requested a trade from the Lightning. The player had been struggling on the ice at the time and was even sent down to the AHL. The forward was suspended indefinitely without pay by the Lightning in January 2016 for failing to report to a Syracuse Crunch game. Cooler heads eventually prevailed and Drouin returned to the Lightning where he began playing the best hockey of his NHL career during the playoffs. He registered 14 points in 17 post-season contests as the Lightning advanced to the Eastern Conference Final.
Drouin could quickly become a fan favourite in Montreal considering his background. The native of Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., starred in the QMJHL with the Halifax Mooseheads where he tallied 77 goals, 165 assists for 242 points in 128 games over three seasons. He won a Mastercard Memorial Cup in 2013.
Tampa Bay will still have some tough choices when finalizing their expansion draft protection list but this move allows them to protect an extra forward while adding a potential future top-pair blueliner in Sergachev. Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman would’ve also been hard pressed to sign Drouin to a lucrative extension and stay under the salary cap considering RFAs Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat are also in need of new deals.
This trade also raises questions concerning the future of Alex Galchenyuk in Montreal. The Canadiens are in the market to bolster their defence and GM Marc Bergevin has a proven track record of being unafraid to pull the trigger on big deals.