On June 15, 2017, the Tampa Bay Lightning traded Jonathan Drouin to the Montreal Canadians for Mikhail Sergachev. While trade received somewhat mixed reactions when it first happened, the reasoning behind Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman’s decision made logical sense. Not only did Sergachev fill an organizational need, he was safe from the upcoming expansion draft, affording the franchise a little more room to work with their roster.
One year later, we can really start to get a feel for how this trade is shaping up for both teams. While it’s still far too early to say that either side definitively won the trade, the Lightning have to be happy with Sergachev’s his first season in Tampa Bay.
What the Lightning Got in Sergachev
Right off the bat, Sergachev had an impact on the Lightning. Out of training camp, he secured a spot on the opening night roster, where he took on a sheltered role on the second line with veteran defenseman Anton Stralman.
By spending close to three-quarters of a season playing meaningful minutes next to one of the Lightning’s best defenders, Sergachev was able to learn how to play at the NHL level without being exposed as a complete rookie. While he was far from perfect in this role, his bad mistakes were often covered up by the stalwart play of Stralman.
In this sheltered role, Sergachev posted nine goals and 40 points, both franchise highs for a Lightning defensive rookie. The one caveat to these impressive totals, however, is that the majority of these points were scored before the All-Star break. After the break, he only scored one goal and 14 points, both respectable, but underwhelming totals given his hot start to the season.
McDonagh Changed Sergachev’s Postseason Projections
While some of his mid to late season struggles can be attributed to the Lightning just playing worse as a unit in general, Sergachev was also greatly affected by the Ryan McDonagh trade. With McDonagh in the line-up, he was pushed to the third defensive pairing next to Brayden Coburn, reducing his overall ice-time in the process.
Despite this reduced role, though, Sergachev still found success both on-ice and with his overall development. By playing sheltered minutes on the third pairing, he experienced postseason play without having to be thrown entirely into the shark tank that is the NHL playoffs.
What the Lightning Lost in Drouin
The Lightning didn’t get Sergachev for free, of course. To acquire the young blue-liner, they had to part ways with embattled forward Jonathan Drouin, who had a tumultuous tenure in Tampa Bay. While Drouin’s skill ceiling was and still is incredibly high, he never had the opportunity to fully break out with the Lightning.
In his first year in Montreal, Drouin had a true rollercoaster of a season. He started off slow (much like the rest of his team) but by the end of the year, he had solid, if not underwhelming totals. He finished with 13 goals and 46 points, both reduced scoring numbers compared to his previous season in Tampa Bay.
While it is impossible to know what Drouin would have achieved in the Lightning’s stacked offensive line-up this year, one can safely assume that likely would have had an impressive season. The real question is: Would he have made the difference in Tampa Bay’s playoff run..? Maybe, but it’s unlikely that one player, even someone as skilled as Drouin, would have been able to carry the Lightning past their Eastern Conference Finals meltdown.
In Year One, Lightning Won the Trade
It still is too early to declare the Lightning the ultimate winner of this trade. In year one, however, Sergachev has done almost everything the franchise could have hoped for. By playing close to 100 regular and postseason games, he experienced the full gambit that an NHL season has to offer. No, he wasn’t always perfect, but he constantly learned and improved his game.
By the end of the season, you could see Sergachev gaining confidence in his role with the franchise. He started making those beautiful end to end skating plays that one would expect from a veteran player, not a rookie defenseman.
When you consider that he is only 20 years old this year, one can only be excited about his future, especially with a Lightning franchise that desperately needed some young defensive talent to fill in their roster. He has the full toolkit to become an elite player in the NHL, and by the time he turns 25, Sergachev could be seen as a top-tier defenseman alongside the likes of Victor Hedman.