Thursday, June 15, 2017

{allcanada} Jonathan Drouin traded to Canadiens by Lightning, signs six-year contract

Forward Jonathan Drouin signed a six-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens after being traded from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday for defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev.

The Lightning also receive a conditional second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, and the Canadiens receive a conditional sixth-round pick in 2018.

Drouin, a 22-year-old from Ste-Agathe, Quebec, who was the No. 3 pick in the 2013 draft, could have become a restricted free agent July 1. Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed, but TSN reported it is for $33 million (average annual value of $5.5 million).

Sergachev, 18, was the Canadiens' first-round pick (No. 9) in the 2016 draft. He opened the season in the NHL and played three games with Montreal before being returned to Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League. He played in the Canadiens' regular-season finale April 8.

Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman said the draft picks will be exchanged only if Sergachev plays 40 games during the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs combined with the Lightning next season. He added the second-round pick the Canadiens would send to the Lightning is the Washington Capitals' pick in 2018, acquired by Montreal in the June 24 trade that sent center Lars Eller to Washington.

The trade fills a need for each team and helps the Lightning on multiple levels.

Tampa Bay needed a young, puck-moving defenseman, had salary-cap issues that needed to be alleviated, and also faced the prospect of losing a good player for nothing to the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft.

Tampa Bay would've had to protect Drouin in the expansion draft, whether he had signed a new contract or was heading to free agency. Trading him for Sergachev helps solve that problem because Sergachev is on an entry-level contract and does not need to be protected in the expansion draft.

Sergachev is a big (6-foot-3, 215 pounds), mobile defenseman who is gifted offensively. He had 43 points (10 goals, 33 assists) in 50 regular-season games for Windsor this season, then helped lead the Spitfires to the Memorial Cup championship with four points (one goal, three assists) in four games.

The Canadiens came very close to keeping Sergachev at the beginning of the season, but he was often a healthy scratch and the decision was made Oct. 31 to send him back to junior for the season. He had no points and two shots on goal, was plus-1, and averaged 12:07 of ice time in four games.

Montreal was in dire need of more scoring up front, and Drouin has a combination of creativity and speed that's rare in the NHL. The fact he is a Francophone from Quebec certainly doesn't hurt.

Drouin's 53 points (21 goals, 32 assists) would have ranked third on the Canadiens this season, one point behind Alexander Radulov for second place. With Radulov due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, adding Drouin provides some degree of insurance for the Canadiens if general manager Marc Bergevin is unable to come to terms with Radulov.

The question in Montreal remains who will play center, because Bergevin and new coach Claude Julien said at the end of the season they did not believe Alex Galchenyuk was ready for the responsibility that position entails. Drouin played center in junior with Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, but has spent all of his pro career on the wing.

Adding to their depth up front came at a cost for the Canadiens because without Sergachev there is no clear successor for defenseman Andrei Markov, who is an unrestricted free agent. He's expected to return but turns 39 in December.

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