Thursday, 15 June 2017

TRADE: Lightning Send Drouin, Conditional Sixth to Canadiens for Sergachev, Conditional Second

Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman has spoken at length this offseason about his desire to improve and solidify the team's blue line heading into the 2017-18 season.  He likely didn't do that today.  What he did do, however, was obtain one of the league's top defensive prospects, one who figures to be a mainstay on the Tampa blue line within the next couple years.  The Lightning today traded potential-star forward Jonathan Drouin to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for 2016 9th overall pick, Mikhail Sergachev:
Only moments after the trade was announced, the Canadiens inked Drouin to a six-year deal worth $5.5M per season.  Sergachev, who still has another year of junior eligibility, remains on his entry-level contract:
The trade sent shockwaves through the hockey world, to say the least.  It was expected that the Lightning would do something this offseason, but this specific deal with the Canadiens wasn't on anybody's radar.  It's a move that comes with significant risk and offsetting potential rewards for both sides, so naturally the intrigue level is high.

While not firmly established in the NHL, Jonathan Drouin is a known commodity.  Avid viewers know what he can do on the ice, and the thought of no longer seeing those slick moves in Bolts blue is certainly a little bit painful.  The risk for the Lightning is that he turns into a consistent 50-plus-point player who haunts them in the division for years to come, smiling at Jon Cooper each and every single time he puts the puck behind a Lightning netminder.  This, coupled with the fact that Sergachev at this stage is a relative unknown who may or may not pan out, means that Steve Yzerman has taken a gamble.

On the other hand, the potential rewards for Tampa Bay are significant.  Sergachev, a six-foot-three rearguard with the Windsor Spitfires, has had nothing but positive things written about him in scouting reports over the last few seasons.  Nearly all are in agreement that he projects as a top pairing defender, with many saying that he was the best D to be called to the stage at last year's entry draft.  Players like that don't go on trees; they're sought after for a reason.  It's not unfathomable to think that the Canadiens might come to regret moving him.

Risk, reward.

From a logistical standpoint, the trade today makes more than a little bit of sense from Tampa's perspective.  The contract Drouin immediately signed with the Canadiens (referenced above) was likely to be unaffordable for a Tampa team that still needs to sign Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat this offseason, and moving a forward today frees up an expansion draft spot such that a player like Vladislav Namestnikov can be protected.  And, of course, there are lingering feelings out there that Drouin didn't really want to stay in Tampa after last year's mess, anyways.  Getting a cost-controlled, potential top-pairing guy certainly helps to ease the pain on a number of those fronts.

The big question mark now (no, it's not whether Jon Cooper will actually play this talented young player...) is what comes next.  The opening paragraph of this blog referenced the fact that the Lightning's NHL roster likely didn't get any better today; in fact, you can make a very real argument that it got worse.  Yzerman still needs to do something to improve the fortunes of a team that trotted out Andrej Sustr and Jason Garrison for far too many minutes last season.  Sergachev is a player to look forward to, but it's difficult to bet that at barely 19 years of age he's ready to fill that gap.  Tampa needs insurance in one form or another.  And, if Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times is to be believed, they're working on it right now:
The only thing left to do is sit back, grab some freshly made popcorn, and wait for Steve Yzerman to do his thing.

As always, thanks for reading.

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