Canadiens and Injured Drouin Attached at Hip for Better or Worse

Montreal Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin’s tenure with the Habs so far could have gone smoother for sure. For better or worse, there’s more to come, though.

Drouin Done for 2021-22

Now, in comparison, Drouin’s 2021-22 season is done, with him having undergone wrist surgery. He’s expected to return for the start of training camp next season, which will be his last under contract, after which he’ll be 28 years old.

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

In theory, this should be Drouin’s prime. Add in the fact he’s playing for his next contract, and Drouin is on track for a good 2022-23… just with the Canadiens, in spite of the fact there have been numerous calls for him to be traded. Unlike, say, Jeff Petry, he’s not going to be moved next summer for the simple reason he’s injured.

Furthermore, is there a team likely to even take a flier on Drouin at some point next season, without him having proven himself as completely healed (or without the Habs accepting drastically less than market value in exchange for his services)?

Drouin Still Has a Lot to Offer (Someone)

Maybe not right away, but eventually, yes. There’s a good chance Drouin builds on his relatively decent bounce-back campaign. Drouin obviously left the team last season to deal with personal issues and questions were all-encompassing, regarding his ability to keep playing hockey after he scored just two goals and 23 points in 44 games.

However, for large stretches this season, he’s been one of the Habs’ most consistent offensive contributors, on pace for just under 15 goals and 50 points over a complete 82-game season. That’s admittedly not saying all that much, all things considered. However, he could realistically play himself into the conversation of potential trade targets for a contender come next deadline, if the Habs aren’t able to stay in the playoff picture.

Jonathan Drouin, Montreal Canadiens
Jonathan Drouin – (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Who knows? There’s been stark improvement under interim head coach Martin St. Louis and the Canadiens have turned it around immediately following dreadful campaigns in the past, with the outgoing Ben Chiarot suggesting as much after having been traded. And to Drouin’s credit, he is a proven playoff performer. So, there are circumstances under which it’s conceivable Drouin stays past this point next season.

Drouin vs. Sergachev Revisited

True, the undeniable fact of the matter is Drouin’s been a disappointment overall during his now-five seasons with the Canadiens. However a large part of the disappointment stems from the fact he was traded for Mikhail Sergachev, who arguably would have fit in perfectly beside Shea Weber to replace Andrei Markov as the team’s top left-handed defenseman.

Lightning Defenceman Mikhail Sergachev
Ex-Montreal Canadiens defenseman Mikhail Sergachev – (Photograph by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

That ship has sailed at this point, though. Weber’s now “retired,” coincidentally according to Drouin, himself. And the left side on defense is projected to be incredibly strong in just a few years, as Habs management (general manager Kent Hughes, executive vice president of hockey operations Jeff Gorton) rebuilds the team into a contender, however long it takes.

Related: Canadiens Defense Takes Further Shape with Harris Signing

Needless to say, this is at least a slightly different organization than the one Drouin joined. While the center position is a question mark once again, it’s become abundantly clear Drouin is not the answer, there. That was actually clear by like Day 12, despite the Habs having tried to fit a square peg in a round hole.

Hughes Should Keep Drouin for Foreseeable Future

In a vacuum, Drouin’s just what he was with the Tampa Bay Lightning: a top-six winger, but one who, in spite of many a popular opinion, isn’t on that bad of a contract. And, following the departures of Tyler Toffoli and Artturi Lehkonen, it’s not like the Habs have a surplus in that department. He could still be of use.

It was admittedly a misguided decision on ex-GM Marc Bergevin’s part to acquire Drouin in the first place. Ironically though, it would be a misguided decision on Hughes’ part to trade him before he absolutely needs to. In that sense, Drouin’s injury is almost a blessing in disguise, effectively forcing the Canadiens to keep him in the fold for the time being.

The bottom line is Drouin can still realistically pleasantly surprise next season. Come to think of it, it is admittedly kind of like the opposite of Bergevin saying about Alex Galchenyuk, the player he was supposed to replace down the middle, “I’ve seen Alex every day… and I’m sure as we speak today Alex is not able to play that position every day.”

On the other, Galchenyuk did last six seasons with the Canadiens before the Habs parted with him, just like Drouin will have if he doesn’t stay with the Habs past 2022-23. So, yeah, it just might be a fool’s errand to assume Drouin is more than we’ve seen up to this point, but why not hold out hope? Who does it hurt, especially under current circumstances?

Kent Hughes, Montreal Canadiens GM
Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes – (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Drouin’s trade value has never been especially high. Even when the Canadiens acquired him. It’s even lower now. In that respect, the Canadiens would have had little to lose keeping him on board as long as possible, even if a trade were realistic. It’s not. And they have a lot more to gain as a result.