Should and can the Montreal Canadiens trade winger Jonathan Drouin?
On a recent segment with TSN 690, TSN Insider Darren Dreger spoke about how he believed Hughes would like to trade Drouin in an ideal world, but he would likely lose any deal for the skilled winger given the current circumstances.
With the NHL Trade Deadline fast approaching, it would be a mistake for Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes to move Jonathan Drouin right now. The Montreal Canadiens will have to make decisions on many veteran players, Drouin included, over the next two weeks, but moving a player like Drouin at this stage would be a significant loss of potential value for the club. Selling low on him now would be wasting an asset that could bring much more to the club in a trade down the line.
Drouin, when healthy, is clearly able to be one of the best wingers on the Montreal Canadiens, but his past injury issues still occupy the memories of NHL executives across the league. The Canadiens need to win their trades if they are to succeed in this roster transformation, and being tactful when it comes to assets such as Drouin will likely pay off.
With Hughes mentioning in the past that he’s in the business of selling high and buying low, trading Drouin at this junction before new head coach Martin St. Louis has had time to work with him, is most certainly selling low. It would be foolish to simply dump Drouin as an asset simply because he’s been unlucky with injuries or due to public perception.
Before his wrist injury suffered in late January, Jonathan Drouin was having himself a solid bounce-back season, given the circumstances of the Montreal Canadiens this season. In 32 games, the skilled winger put up 20 points in 32 games, which is over a 50-point pace. Before he was injured, Drouin had the best points-per-game ratio of the entire team, even more so than Nick Suzuki or Josh Anderson. Could you imagine what his production would look like under St. Louis right now?
With St. Louis allowing for a more dynamic approach to their offensive creativity, Drouin should be afforded the opportunity to prove his worth under this new offensive mindset. The Hall of Famer would likely be able to utilize Drouin to his strengths, both on the powerplay and at even strength, while maximizing his impact on the team.
If the Canadiens can help Drouin return to the level of play that made him so dangerous for the Tampa Bay Lightning, it will significantly diminish fears regarding his consistency. In turn, his improved play will provide Montreal with more leverage in NHL trade talks leading to the offseason or the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline.
Timing is Key
Drouin has been on injured reserve for the last six weeks, making it very difficult for the Canadiens to get any value for Drouin on the NHL trade front. The Canadiens announced that he is close to a return, but that is still too soon to help rebuild the skilled veteran’s NHL trade value on the market. A more patient approach to this case will serve the Canadiens well, as they would be able to have far more suitors in the summer, especially if Drouin finishes the season nicely.
Another point to look at is Drouin’s $5.5M Cap hit, which might be a tough pill for many teams to swallow, given the injury history. This further plays into the timing and should be considered when deciding what to do with him.
With Drouin having an extra year on his contract, the Canadiens can be patient in increasing his value leading up to this summer. Should they not find a partner in the summer, the Canadiens can simply work on maximizing Drouin’s offensive deployment leading up to the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline. By then, the Canadiens will be able to retain up to 50% of Drouin’s Cap hit, reducing it to a maximum of $2.75M, making him much more attractive an asset to contending teams.
In the end, the more games Drouin can get into, the likelier he will be to provide Montreal with better leverage with which to move him down the road.