The Canadien Perspective On Bolts Shipping Drouin

VIA SportsNet: (CLICK LINK FOR VIDEO) The Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning have completed the first blockbuster trade of the 2017 off-season with Montreal acquiring Jonathan Drouin and a conditional sixth-round draft pick in 2018 and sending top prospect Mikhail Sergachev and a conditional second-round draft pick in 2018 to Tampa Bay.

The reported conditions on the draft picks are that if Sergachev  plays 40 or more games in the NHL next season, there are no picks  exchanged at all.

The implications of the trade are pretty clear. The Canadiens are in  ‘win now’ mode and needed to beef up their scoring ability, specifically  in terms of playmaking, and sacrificed the future of their blue line  (for the second straight summer) to do so. 

Long term, there’s no doubt that losing Sergachev will be tough on  the Canadiens. Their defence core is old, with three of their  prospective top-four at or over the age of 30 by October (if they’re  able to keep Jordie Benn), but their window to win is now, so the future  is less of a concern. 

Tampa Bay, on the other hand, gets a cost controlled, young asset  with loads of potential at an area of need, getting them out of salary  cap and expansion draft trouble in the process.

Because Sergachev is a prospect, though, even if he’s a great one,  this looks like a bigger win for the Canadiens early. Drouin has become a  difference maker as an NHL scorer over the past two seasons, and  addresses a specific area of need for the Canadiens. 

Montreal struggled to score goals this past season, but it wasn’t due  to lack of scoring chance creation or shot generation — they were quite  good at both, especially at even strength. What the Canadiens struggled  to do was create pre-shot movement on their attempts from the slot and  shots off the rush. 

The Canadiens’ forwards ranked 24th in the NHL in successful passes  to the slot per 20 minutes at even strength, with their average forward  completing just 0.8 per 20, with only one forward in the top-90 in  successful passes to the slot (Radulov) and only four in the top-270  among forwards (Pacioretty, Galchenyuk, and Danault joining in). To make  matters worse, they were also 30th in the NHL in pass to slot  completion rate at 31.7 per cent, meaning when they did attempt to  create offense, they were constantly turning the puck over.

Drouin gives them a legitimate threat in terms of playmaking and  scoring up front that they desperately needed, and that will look even  better if the Canadiens can convince themselves to keep Alex Galchenyuk  and try him at center again.

Despite his increased shot rate this year, Drouin isn’t a big-time  sniper by any stretch, preferring to shoot from the perimeter more often  than not. However, he is an elite-level playmaker, ranking in the  top-20 in scoring chances created for his teammates at even strength and  on the power play.

He immediately becomes the Canadiens’ second-best playmaker should  they manage to keep Radulov, and even if they aren’t, Drouin is a  capable replacement with upside and age on his side. 

Where this trade really could help the Canadiens is if they decide  not to move on from Galchenyuk for the time being, and re-try the  experiment at center ice with Drouin on his left. That would give him a  winger who can keep up with his attacking-off-the-rush style of play,  and bring out his elite shot with a high-end playmaker at his side.

The Canadiens moving Subban and Sergachev in back-to-back summers has  certainly poked major holes in the future of their blue line, but this  time they brought in something they desperately needed.

The question going forward is whether the Canadiens really beefed up  their forwards, or if they end up treading water by losing one or both  of Galchenyuk and Radulov.

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