Best Potential Landing Spots for Tampa Bay's Jonathan Drouin
Jonathan Drouin and the Tampa Bay Lightning appear to be inexorably headed toward divorce.
It's been two weeks since his trade request became public knowledge, with Bolts general manager Steve Yzerman acknowledging the request in a statement but adding that his "sole intention is to act in the best interest of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey club."
Since then, the rumours have multiplied, but a trade has yet to transpire. Things seem to have heated up lately, though.
On Monday, CTV's Brian Wilde reported that a "strong" unnamed source had confirmed that the slumping Montreal Canadiens were making a "huge push" to get a deal done. This comes on the heels of Friday's report from French-language broadcaster TVA that a deal could be done within 24 hours.
Given the amount of chatter around a potentially imminent trade, it's worth asking which trade destinations make the most sense for Drouin. That's what we'll answer in the slides that follow.
Why it makes sense: Anaheim is that rare team with the combination of a need for offensive talent and the potential trade chips to get Tampa Bay excited about sending away a player of Drouin's caliber.
It's also not like the Ducks are rich on the left side. Newcomer David Perron sits at the top of a depth chart that includes Andrew Cogliano and Patrick Maroon but decidedly lacks a difference-maker. Anaheim has rotated various second-tier options through that position over the years; sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
Who he might play with: Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry make a great deal of sense as potential linemates. Alternatively, Drouin could shore up the second-line duo of Ryan Kesler and .
"We know he's there, but there's a few others out there, too, that haven't requested trades," Murray told Elliott. "Requesting trades on entry level, that's something new for you and I. ... Entry-level players requesting trades. Amazing."
Why it makes sense: The Wild are a legitimate contender, but few teams currently in possession of a playoff spot have struggled more to score goals. Drouin would help, and furthermore there's a logical lineup hole in Minnesota's top-nine forward group. He'd also fit in nicely with a mostly young Wild core.
Who he might play with: It's pretty wide open. Justin Fontaine is the most obvious candidate to bump out of the top nine, which would leave a slot next to Charlie Coyle open. Drouin could move in on left wing, with either Nino Niederreiter or Thomas Vanek taking the right wing slot (while the other played with Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker).
Potential wrinkles: The Wild are a team that might prefer to husband its ammunition for a player with a better chance of having a massive immediate impact. Drouin will be a costly acquisition and the assets used might be better expended on a centre.
Why it makes sense: Montreal is on a brutal run, having won just four of its past 20 games. Earlier this year, the Canadiens were one of the best teams in the league and at their best combine strong goaltending and a capable defence corps with a serviceable group of two-way forwards.
The addition of Drouin might help shake up a struggling group, and he would certainly add some firepower to a less than stellar offensive cast.
Who he might play with: Drouin probably isn't going to slot ahead of Max Pacioretty, particularly given the way Montreal likes to use its top line (in a fairly hard-matched power-vs.-power role). That makes him a more logical fit for second-line duty, possibly with Alex Galchenyuk back at centre.
Potential wrinkles If Drouin lands in Montreal it's going to be interesting to see what the deal looks like. The Habs can offer a pretty decent selection of futures, but there probably isn't a player on the roster (or at least, not one Montreal would move) who is an ideal fit from the Lightning perspective as a centerpiece.
Why it makes sense: The Predators are watching a playoff spot in the West slip from their grasp. The situation is so acute that the club recalled top prospect Kevin Fiala from the AHL this week, plugging him in on the top line immediately with Ryan Johansen and James Neal.
"Desperate times call for desperate measures," was general manager David Poile's explanation to Adam Vignan of the Tennessean.
It goes without saying that Drouin would be a significantly better top-line option than a winger with just six goals over 34 games in his second season in the minors.
Who he might play with: Johansen and Neal are logical collaborators, though head coach Peter Laviolette could also hypothetically match Drouin with second-line pivot Mike Ribeiro.
Potential wrinkles: There's an obvious need on Tampa Bay's roster for a right-shot defender who can move the puck. Nashville had a really good one in Seth Jones but doesn't have depth at the position now and would need to find another way to put together an appealing package.
New Jersey Devils
Why it makes sense: The Devils forward corps is almost entirely lacking in both quality young players and first-rate offensive talent. Drouin would be a significant shot in the arm to a franchise that needs exactly that. Additionally, New Jersey has a pretty decent collection of both forwards and young defencemen; this is a deal where they probably have the assets to pull off a trade that makes sense for both sides.
Who he might play with: The Devils have two centres with any kind of offensive presence (Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac) and two right wings who can say the same (Kyle Palmieri and Lee Stempniak). Mike Cammalleri is the team's only significant left wing, and he's mostly played with Henrique and Stempniak, leaving Zajac and Palmieri as logical linemates for Drouin.
Potential wrinkles: As with Montreal, it's entirely possible that the Devils and Lightning will be competing for the same playoff spot. Only three points separate the two teams right now, and New Jersey might not be interested in helping Tampa Bay sort out its defence if the primary return is a player currently in the AHL.
St. Louis Blues
Why it makes sense: The Blues definitely have the ability to make a deal work. Right-shooting rearguard Kevin Shattenkirk would be a wonderful fit in Tampa Bay and has been almost as subject to trade rumours as Drouin. Alternately, St. Louis could employ Robby Fabbri as a centerpiece to get a deal done; he's a fine young forward from the same draft class as Drouin.
Who he might play with: The Blues have a bunch of good options, and coach Ken Hitchcock has a tendency to shuffle his lines. Having said that, the duo that likely makes the most sense for Drouin is centre Jori Lehtera and star winger Vladimir Tarasenko.
Potential wrinkles: The real question is whether St. Louis wants to pay the price for a forward who is a bit of a gamble this year. St. Louis has 59 points this year, and while iis third in the Central it would be leading two other NHL divisions and is a legitimate contender. Drouin has long-term upside, but there's a risk that he doesn't mesh immediately.