In the first of what I hope are many blockbuster trades over the next couple of days, the Tampa Bay Lightning are sending forward Jonathan Drouin and a conditional sixth-round 2018 draft pick to the Montreal Canadiens for defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev and a conditional 2018 second-round pick. We don’t yet know what those conditions are (Update: Here they are), but never mind them—this is a big player-for-player deal.
Drouin, who turned 22 in March, scored 21 goals and 53 points in 73 games for the Lightning this year. He’s very good right now, and still young enough that he probably hasn’t had his true “breakout” season yet. He’s an RFA, but it looks like Montreal’s already started talks on an extension. (Update No. 2: That deal is done. Six years, $5.5M per.) Habs fans should be thrilled they’re getting this:
The Lightning will receive 18-year-old Mikhail Sergachev, the ninth overall pick in last summer’s draft. A two-way defenseman who’s been dominant at just about every level he’s played, Sergachev is expected by just about every observed to be a force for a long time.
Usually when two good players are swapped, it’s because of needs. And that’s the case in Tampa, and not just because they’re a little lacking on the blueline. The expansion draft to stock the Vegas Golden Knights will be held on June 21, with protection lists due June 17. Each team can only protect seven forwards, and must protect those with no-movement clauses, and the forward-heavy Lightning were in a little bit of a pickle. The Washington Post rounded up beat writers to hold a mock expansion draft, and the Lightning were likely going to lose 24-year-old Vladislav Namestnikov. Now they don’t have to protect Drouin and can keep Namestnikov, and they won’t have to protect Sergachev because he has only played in four NHL games.
There are plenty of jokes to be made about the Habs coveting French-Canadian players and being allergic to young defensemen, but this feels like a win for both teams given their situations. That’s just for now, of course. Both Drouin and Sergachev are young enough that things could very realistically not go as planned for someone. And that’s the real fun part about big trades.