Who Is Jonathan Drouin?

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Contrarily to what some want you to believe, trading in today’s National Hockey League is far from easy. As a matter of fact, since the implementation of the hard salary cap back in 2005, the number of trades completed have dropped more than half of what they were prior to it. It’s easy to understand why. Teams obviously have to look at the fiscal impact on their team, and they also have to plan ahead, looking at whose contracts will need to be renewed in the foreseeable future. Hockey is a business more than ever and Habs’ fans had a hard reality of it when team General Manager Marc Bergevin had to let lifetime defenseman Andrei Markov walk away to the KHL late this summer.

Getting some young and productive talent at a reasonable cap hit is what will often make the difference in the mid to long term and Bergevin understands that. When he completed yet again one of the biggest trades of the summer in acquiring 22 year-old Jonathan Drouin, in exchange for blue-chip prospect Mikhail Sergachev, the Canadiens’ GM landed a top-end offensive juggernaut for a player who might (or not) become a stud on defense… but there is no denying that he is the one who received the proven asset versus potential.

Immediately after the trade was announced, Bergevin was on the phone negotiating a shiny new contract with Drouin’s agent, Allan Walsh (yes, him), agreeing to a six year, $33 million contract, ensuring that there was no doubt about the commitment between the team and the newly acquired fan favourite.

Who exactly is Drouin?

Jonathan Drouin was born on March 28, 1995 in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec. Few people remember that as a 17 year-old, he failed to make the roster to start the season with Halifax in the QMJHL despite being the second pick in the entry draft, so he had to return to play AAA midget hockey, until he was called up by Halifax December 9, 2011. Drouin made an immediate impact, getting two assists in his first game, including the primary assist on the winning goal. From that point, Drouin proved to be one of the top players in all of junior hockey. As a matter of fact, Drouin was named player of the year in the CHL. He was then chosen with the third pick overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2013 NHL Draft, two spots behind his Halifax linemate Nathan MacKinnon.

Drouin was among the final cuts in his first training camp with the Lightning and was returned to Halifax for another season, where he finished with 108 points in 46 games in 2013-14 and had 41 points in 16 playoff games. He joined the Lightning in the 2014-15 season, playing in 70 games, and enjoyed a breakthrough in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he had 14 points in 17 games, including four goals in the Eastern Conference Final.

Dispute with Tampa Bay

In a much publicized even, Drouin’s dispute with the Lightning drew a lot of negative attention on himself starting in January 2016. It was no secret that there was a relationship issue between Drouin and Lightning coach Jon Cooper, and one day after being reassigned to the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL, Walsh issued a statement on behalf of his client. The agent revealed that Drouin had made a trade request back in November, but had kept the matter private. Walsh referred to it as an untenable situation and that it was in everyone’s best interest that Drouin be allowed to move on and play hockey.

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While some people claimed that he was a head-case, others said that he was given bad advice from the people around him. Either way, this wasn’t good news for either the Lightning or the player. But Lighting GM Steve Yzerman stuck to his guns and on January 20, 2016, he suspended him indefinitely without pay for a failure to report to the Crunch’s game against the Toronto Marlies. It’s not until March 8, 2016 that Drouin finally reported to Syracuse for the first time since being suspended. On April 4th, the Lightning called up Drouin from the AHL after a nine-game stint, a stretch in which he recorded nine goals and an assist. The young forward wasted no time making his presence felt as he scored the game-winning goal in his first game back with Tampa Bay.

Impact of the trade for the Habs

No one understands better the need for local talent with the Canadiens than Bergevin and team President Geoff Molson, and getting arguably the best young Quebecois in the entire NHL was a very impactful feat in itself. As we have touched on this very blog back in May, there was no doubt that if Drouin was made available, the Habs would be all in… and they were!

As much as people loved P.K. Subban, Jonathan Drouin will have an even bigger impact. He’s a mature young man, well beyond his age, and he speaks the language of his fans in his home province. Before even putting foot on the ice, he has already been utilized by the organization for many public appearances and marketing events, and fans have responded to him in a very positive manner, making him feel welcome. Of course, what he does on the ice is what will matter most, but judging from what he has already shown in the NHL, at such a young age, the future certainly appear to be bright for both the player and the Canadiens’ organization. Training with team captain Max Pacioretty, Drouin seems to have already found a home in Montreal. Until we get to see him work his magic in a Habs’ uniform, let’s enjoy together a few highlights of what he has done and what’s to come for the fans. After watching this, you will join me in wishing that the season started now! Go Habs Go!

 

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If Drouin is Available, Habs Are All In

 

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Here is a quiz for Habs’ fans: Who was the last French Canadian impact offensive forward to suit up for the Montreal Canadiens? No, there hasn’t been many but has been a few since Guy Lafleur, although many fans were either not born yet or were too young to remember when the team had a local product to which they could relate to. The answer? It was during the 1998-99 season that Vincent Damphousse was traded to the San Jose Sharks. Well done to those who knew that.

Damphousse had seasons of 27, 38, 39 and 40 goals while wearing the Red, White and Blue. Pierre Turgeon had 38 goals in the 1995-96 season and just before him, Stéphane Richer was the last French Canadian 50 goals’ scorer with the Habs, the last time in 1989-90.  Since then, the crop has been slim picking for the Canadiens, although it’s not like the fans haven’t been hoping for some local talent to carry the team’s offense. Who can forget when Mike Ribeiro was seen as almost Superman because he reached the 20 goals plateau in 2003-04?  Or the frenzy in 2006 when 19 year old Guillaume Latendresse had a good camp and everyone saw him as the next local power forward?

Yes, times have changed and there are not as many impact Quebecois in the NHL as there used to be. That’s a fact and Hockey Quebec has been scratching its head for several years, trying to address this phenomena. However, some fans and member of the media, particularly those using the language of Shakespeare, are trying to downplay the need for French speaking players on the Canadiens. But as we touched on in length in a previous article, Beyond Politics is a Habs’ Reality.

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Rumours are circulating that the Tampa Bay Lightning might be shopping Drouin and we know that Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin had serious discussions with Steve Yzerman back when Drouin had a dispute with the Lightning. Rumours were that Yzerman wanted Alex Galchenyuk, which at the time was a non-starter for Bergevin. How things change through. Today, it’s unlikely that Yzerman would make that trade even if Bergevin offered Chucky in exchange.

However, if he is truly testing the waters to trade Drouin, Yzerman will have Bergevin call him several times a day and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Canadiens put together the best offer to get the French Canadian talent. What remains to be seen though is if Yzerman will have the cojones to pull such an important trade within his own division, to a team battling directly with them for a playoffs’ spot.

Offer sheet

Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT expect Bergevin to go the offer sheet way, neither for Drouin or for Leon Draisaitl this summer. Too many GMs have had to leave their jobs for their team’s sake after employing that tactic as the NHL is a tight knit group and those putting their counterpart in trouble with offer sheets are blackmailed. Yes, it is legal, but just ask Paul Holmgren what happens when you play dirty tricks…

Drouin, a native of Ste-Agathe, Quebec, is only 22 years of age and he 29 goals and 96 points in 164 regular seasons’ games in the NHL. A versatile forward able to play all three of the forward positions, he finished last season with 21 of those goals. In the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, he had 14 points in 17 games, including four goals in the Eastern Conference Final.

I personally believe that it would be worth slightly overpaying for Drouin as I do believe in having some quality local talent on the Montreal Canadiens. Rest to decide what is considered overpaying but that, I will leave in the capable hands of the General Manager.