The Young Exchange

One of the busiest GMs in the past few years made another big move last week. Marc Bergevin is starting to get a reputation that’s letting everyone know that he isn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a trade, regardless of who’s involved. Acquiring an extremely talented Quebecer, who was a former 3rd overall pick can seem like the perfect fit for a lacking offence.

On the other side, Steve Yzerman has proven that he is as effective in the press box as he was on the ice. Managing to build a team with one of the best group of young players and prospects in the league, while at the same time being serious contenders for the Cup is no easy task. Getting an elite level prospect defenceman in return just adds to the great potential his team has now and in the future.

I’ve decided to share my opinion on the Drouin – Sergachev trade as it is an interesting one for both teams. I assure you I did my best to stay unbiased and look at this purely from a general hockey fan’s POV. Pros and cons list seems the most fitting to compare these two gifted players.

 

PROS

Jonathan Drouin, Canadiens:

As a highly skilled player, Drouin has the potential to become the Habs best forward. Young, speedy, incredible puck handling skills and hockey sense are all things that can describe the 22-year-old hometown boy. An advantage he has is that he is able to play all three forward positions as proven in his Tampa days. Despite his short career, he has already blessed us with multiple highlight reel goals, and surely there is more to come.

I can see him slotting in nicely with Paccioretty, since he was the creator of many of Kucherov’s goals last year. As a gifted playmaker, he could be the missing half of the dynamic duo the Habs have been searching for. More importantly, he could be the reason the Captain finally hits the 40-goal plateau.

The Habs’ powerplay was good last year with the addition of the Weber cannon. Adding Johnny D to any powerplay unit in the league instantly makes it better. He’s a born PP player. Last time they had a forward who could quarterback their man advantage special team as well as he can, was back in the days of one of my favorite players, Alexei Kovalev. Those were the years when they would consistently finish within the league’s best in powerplay ranking and I believe the addition of Drouin could bring them back to that powerplay efficiency. Since they are in a “win-now” mind state, this trade makes sense as they are receiving an established NHL player for a rookie.

 

Mikhail Sergachev, Lightning:

Another highly skilled player, Sergachev is arguably in the top 3 best prospect defencemen currently not in the NHL (Chabot and Juolevi complete my 3). I watched him closely in this year’s Memorial Cup, where he lead his team to the title of the best Junior team in Canada, while also being named the tournaments best defenceman. He is an unbelievable skater. Powerful and smooth strides have separated him from the pack his entire career. Having an elite hockey sense and a laser of a shot doesn’t hurt either.

I believe this trade was initialized by Yzerman, as it was well known he was shopping Drouin around for some time now. Part of it may be due to the elephant in the room that was created when he left the team and refused to play. They may have put it to sleep for the past season, but I’m sure it was still quite present and both parties were looking for the right opportunity to truly move on. The second reason is due to the expansion draft. Acquiring Sergachev permits them to protect an extra player, since he is still in his entry level contract. Without this, there were talks of them losing either Killorn or Namestnikov, both key forwards which made Drouin expendable. Lastly, not having to resign him gives them some cap space to keep Johnson, Palat and Sustr who are restricted free agents, among others.

The craziest thing to me is the fact that the guy has barely even popped his NHL cherry and can already be considered one of the best active Russian defencemen. With an aging D-core and a young forward group, making that exchange makes a lot of sense for the Bolts. Having many fellow Russians on the team, as well as great defensive mentors of Hedman, Stralman and Coburn should make it easy for him to fit right in.

 

CONS

Jonathan Drouin, Canadiens:

It’s hard to find many bad things to say about such a high-end talent who is bound to become a fan favourite. People have been ripping his attitude problems but I believe he’s matured passed that. Worth noting that being so close to home changes everything, and mommy will be able to supervise.

The two cons that I have about this trade from the Habs perspective is not about the player itself, but the situation. Habs had a weak prospect pool with Sergachev, but with him gone, it’s close to brutal. Hudon, Juulsen, Scherbak and McCarron as your “bright” future should be quite worrying. I cringe to think what will happen once Weber, Paccio and Price start declining.

The other con is while they may have gotten a much-needed elite forward, they still have no #1 center. Like I said previously, Drouin can play center but I don’t believe that’s what they got him for. I’m sure we’ll see him there a couple times in the upcoming season, but I don’t think he is responsible enough defensively to play that position full-time. His high-end skill and speed may be more suitable on the wing, leaving that center gap wide open. You would think it may have been wise to use Sergachev to get a true elite center.

 

Mikhail Sergachev, Lightning:

There’s an obvious risk involved when trading a player who was your 3rd overall pick with a destined all-star career for one who’s played only 4 NHL games. Sergachev is projected to be a #1 Dman on most teams (might be tough to surpass the third best D in the league, Hedman) and needs to live up to his expectations for this trade to be an even one.

The Bolts are also trying to be a win-now team, and losing a forward of Drouin’s caliber can cause a setback. Since Sergachev is not guaranteed to play for them this year, and is still a solid 4 years away from reaching his full potential, the trade can be perceived as a step backwards for the upcoming seasons.

While all signs are reassuring and I’m sure the management did their due diligence, if Sergachev somehow doesn’t live up to his high expectations, Bergevin will look pretty darn good.

 

NOTES

  • Lightning receive a 2nd round pick and Habs get a 6th rounder in the 2018 Draft if Sergachev plays more than 40 games this season (playoffs included). Losing Garrison to Vegas might increase his chances of cracking the lineup. While I don’t believe Yzerman will rush him into the league and ruin his development for a pick, it could be a nice bonus if ever he is comfortable enough to play. If he doesn’t, it is a one for one trade.

 

  • Drouin is coming off a career year with 53 points in 73 games. He is only 22 years old and is still about 3 years away from his prime. Scary to think how much better he can become.

 

  • Sergachev won the OHL defenceman of the year as a rookie and was nominated again this past season. He is an OHL and Memorial Cup champion, with a WJC bronze medal. Quite an impressive resume for an 18-year-old.

 

  • Signing Drouin for 6 years at $5.5M is a good price in my opinion. He could very well be worth $7M+ in 3 years if he produces as expected.

 

  • I would like to see a Paccio – Galchenyuk – Drouin trio. As a puck possession line, it should restrict their time in the defensive zone and limiting Galchenyuk’s liabilities. He just needs to work on his draws and it could quickly become a dominant line. This is if he isn’t traded first, of course.

 

  • If Sergachev becomes who he is expected to become, Hedman and Sergachev could quite possibly be the best duo of defencemen in the league.

 

  • Knowing that there was a similar deal on the table for Shattenkirk which fell through due to contract negotiations, Bolts fans should be very happy with this alternative. While Shatty may help them win more now, I believe he is overrated and Sergachev should be better in the long run. Got to give credit to Yzerman for being patient and waiting until Drouin’s value went up again, instead of getting rid of him when he requested a trade. Probably wouldn’t have been able to score a player of Sergachev’s caliber at that time.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Like most trades, only time will tell who the true winner is. Habs filled an immediate need and the Bolts a future one. When discussing an exchange, we must look how it affects the franchise as a whole, not simply the players involved.

I look at the Sergachev addition as more than simply an elite prospect defenseman. I see it as the protection of Namesnikov and Killorn, and the possibility to resign 2/3 of the Triplets who have been indispensable the past few seasons. I see it as clearing the air in the dressing room, and solidifying their top 4 LD positions for the next decade.

Looking at the Drouin acquisition, it can be perceived as finally finding that all-star Quebecer that they’ve wanted for so long. I see him as a fan favourite, an anchor on their top line and PP. All for an affordable price.

Despite losing a top end forward, if Serachev develops as expected Tampa Bay has become a better overall team with this trade for the reasons mentioned above. The Habs have filled a desperate need, but weakened their future in the process by getting rid of their top prospect. Bergevin called him “untouchable” and still let him go to make this happen. With the high probability that Radulov won’t be back for another year, Drouin can be seen as someone who filled his gap, without truly making them a better team overall then they were last year. For that reason, I am giving the Bolts the slight edge in this trade. The potential 2nd round pick is a bonus that can just make it better. However, once again, if ever Sergachev doesn’t live up to his name, which is a #1 D caliber player, the Habs get the edge.

Only time will tell. Let’s enjoy the show.

 

#Sergaswapped

All stats taken from NHL.com

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