The hockey world knew this offseason was going to be a busy one. Leave it to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens to provide the first “wow” moment of the summer.
Earlier today, the Lightning traded winger Jonathan Drouin and a conditional 2018 6th round pick to Montreal. In exchange, the Bolts receive talented defensive prospect Mikhail Sergachev and a conditional 2018 2nd round pick. The teams will exchange those draft picks if Sergachev plays 40 NHL games, regular season or playoffs. If he doesn’t, then those picks will no longer be part of the deal.
The 22-year-old Drouin is coming off a breakout season, tallying 21 goals and 32 assists in 73 games. The third overall pick in 2013 is also an impending restricted free agent in need of a new contract. The Lightning also have $18 million in cap space and still need to sign RFA’s Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. Soon after the trade, the Canadiens signed Drouin to a six-year deal worth $33 million.
During a conference call with the media, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman made one thing clear. This deal was all about filling the Lightning’s need for a difference-maker on the blue line.
“Our big need and big goal is to acquire a puck moving defenseman and we were able to do that,” said Yzerman. “We watched him in juniors. He’s got good size, he’s very strong, he skates very well, he’s got an excellent shot. We were looking for that type of player, and we were able to find that fit. That’s why the trade was made. We think he has a chance to play in all situations in this league and it’s very hard to find players of that caliber.”
Before the Habs returned Sergachev to the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL, the 18-year-old played four games with Montreal in 2016-17. The ninth overall pick in 2016 led all Windsor defenseman with 43 points (10 goals, 33 assists) in 50 games and was a driving force in the Spitfires’ Memorial Cup victory last month.
Yzerman made it a point to mention that this deal didn’t have a lot to do with the expansion draft or the salary cap. Although it’s worth noting the Lightning will not have to protect Sergachev in the expansion draft. He also elaborated that he didn’t have any serious discussions about a new contract for Drouin, other than a brief meeting with Drouin’s agent, Allan Walsh. The trade talks between the Lightning and Canadiens started about a week ago and took off from there.
Sergachev’s acquisition helps the Lightning fill a need for a talented young prospect on the blue line. The Bolts have a glut of lefties on the blue line. Despite this trade, Tampa Bay still needs a right-handed defenseman, particularly a veteran that can step in and help right away. Yzerman hinted the Bolts could be staying active in acquiring more defensive help.
“If there’s another defenseman out there and there’s a fit that makes us better, we would look at it for sure.”