Is it Time Montreal Canadiens to Trade Jonathan Drouin?

It isn’t a secret that Jonathan Drouin would benefit from a change of scenery. It is also no secret that entering the last year of his contract, he is likely to be on the trade block this summer. The debate is if it would be possible for general manager (GM), Kent Hughes to net the Montreal Canadiens a return worth losing what Drouin can provide.

Hughes has dozens of issues he must address before they ice a lineup for October. The draft, trade calls, a search for free agents; any move that involves trading Drouin would give further insight into Hughes’ plans.

Canadiens’ Needs

First, the Canadiens need size, skill, and speed at every position, including in the prospect pool, and few players or assets are considered core pieces. With that in mind, is trading someone with Drouin’s skill level being entertained by new management based on the type of team they want to assemble? Hughes’ vision for the Canadiens includes speed and skill, which Drouin has.

In a perfect world, we’d be an offensive-minded club. I envision a team that plays fast, and plays fast with the puck that’s a possession hockey team. But I also understand that you have to build a team around the players you have, and that’ll be part of the process as we move ahead. We’re going to create a modern organization that players want to be a part of.”

Kent Hughes

While Drouin does seem to fit this style, his age and contract must be considered. The 27-year-old left-winger is entering the final season of his six-year, $5.5 million deal. Trading him would mean losing a proven top-six player who is from the area, speaks the language, and is involved in positive projects in the community as an ambassador for the Children’s Hospital in Montreal. While it is plausible he would be re-signed on a more team-friendly deal, and despite all the positives he brings to the table, it seems like a good time to move on from him as they continue to focus on youth and clearing up salary cap space as well.

Return for Drouin

What could the return possibly be? Drouin has suffered through yet another injury-plagued season. However, his point production, if projected over a full 82 games, is still over 50 points yet again. When healthy, Drouin is one of the most skilled forwards on the team. The problem is that he is playing in a market that demands far more of him than what he can provide. 

Montreal Canadiens Jonathan Drouin
Montreal Canadiens Jonathan Drouin (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)

Hughes will likely turn to rival GMs to acquire more youth. Futures, picks and prospects would be welcomed, however, the Canadiens have selected 38 prospects in the last three drafts and hold 14 picks in the 2022 Draft. It’s not time to amass quantity, it’s time to focus on quality. With Drouin in recovery from another wrist injury, it will be more difficult to get a maximum return. However, if packaged correctly, Hughes could get an asset who can make an impact.

Minnesota Wild

Hughes’ first trade was with an old friend, Bill Guerin, GM of the Minnesota Wild. That deal saw goaltender Andrew Hammond go to Montreal in exchange for Brendan Baddock. Perhaps it would be a good time to go back to that well and try to make a move that could help both sides again.

Related: Montreal Canadiens and the Jonathan Drouin Situation

The Wild are facing salary cap constraints starting in 2022-23 caused by the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts costing them $12.7 million. Also, they have several other players who have contracts expiring and won’t have the money to be able to sign them all, especially Kevin Fiala, who will be a restricted free agent (RFA) this summer. 

Fiala is coming off a career season, hitting career-highs in goals (33), assists (52), and points (85). He did, however, have an arguably poor showing in the playoffs where he played uncharacteristically undisciplined hockey and was burned defensively a few times. That being said, he is still in line to get a raise on his one-year $5.1 million deal.

Kevin Fiala Minnesota Wild
Kevin Fiala, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

A deal sending Fiala’s RFA rights to Montreal in return for Drouin could help both clubs. Minnesota retains an offensive player and cap certainty for one more year, and Drouin gets a fresh start far from the glare of the Montreal spotlight. The Canadiens could add an offensively gifted playmaking winger who, while undersized, does play the skilled, speedy style that Hughes has stated he wants from his future lineup. The cap hit will be a concern as more contracts need to be moved out to make space for Fiala’s new deal, which could be in the range of $7 million per season.

New York Islanders

One player that could be of interest is Anthony Beauvillier. The 24-year-old left-winger has three years remaining on his $4.1 million per season deal, which would give him time to graft himself onto a roster. Also, his age is more in line with the younger core group led by the 22-year-old Nick Suzuki.

Beauvillier is a good two-way winger with offensive skills. He plays well in tight spaces, can play with pace, and does well on the forecheck. Those abilities would make him a good candidate to play in the top-six almost anywhere, but for Montreal, he would fit with Suzuki and Cole Caufield.

New York Islanders Anthony Beauvillier Washington Capitals Matt Niskanen
New York Islanders Anthony Beauvillier skates with the puck away from Washington Capitals Matt Niskanen. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Like most of his teammates, Beauvillier had a difficult season. The New York Islanders might be willing to part ways with him as they are going in a new direction after hiring Lane Lambert as their new head coach and need to retool. The Canadiens would need to add to the deal as Drouin isn’t a big improvement on their part. They do have needs on defence, specifically left-handed puck-moving defencemen, something the Canadiens have in their system. Retaining some salary, perhaps $1 million, then adding a second-round pick and a puck-mover in Mathias Norlinder may allow Hughes to convince New York to send the young veteran to his hometown team.

With Drouin, a blockbuster summer move could happen. Yet with Hughes at the helm, and his penchant for making patient, calculated decisions early in his tenure as the Canadiens’ GM, it is likely fans won’t see Drouin traded until the 2023 Trade Deadline. However, with the draft in Montreal, added to the mountain of picks and prospects in the system, and the fact the team is rebuilding and can move established players out should make this offseason one that will define the Canadiens and Drouin moving forward.

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