Five Fantasies to Fix the Habs – The Drouin Fantasy

Segue Issue 22-05

February 9, 2022

I’m a few articles deep in a series called Five Fantasies to Fix the Habs. In the first three fantasies I covered Ben Chiarot, Artturi Lehkonen and Brendan Gallagher. Then news broke that Jeff Petry was on the market and I inserted an unexpected fantasy. Those articles (and many others) can be found at habather.wordpress.com.

This week, my eyes are on Jonathan Drouin.

Just a reminder that I’m calling them fantasies for a reason. I’m neither a GM nor an agent, so player valuation is not my forte. I will rely on suggestions made by analysts and pundits to pin down the value of various players. Then I’ll make a fantasy proposal that I think will contribute to fixing the Habs.

In creating these fantasies I’m considering two things. First, what are the biggest needs for the Habs? In my view they should be targeting a centre prospect with top-6 potential, a right-handed defenceman with top-4 potential, or a pure goal scorer. Second, which teams need what the Habs are offering the most, and would have the assets to make the best offer?

Without further ado, let’s get to Jo.

The valuation…

On January 25th, The Fourth Period’s Dave Pagnotta dropped an article about Habs players who are attracting interest. He referenced the unrestricted free agents and noted that Chiarot and Brett Kulak are both expected to be dealt before the deadline. Pagnotta added that a couple of players who are under team control – Lehkonen comes as no surprise, but he raised some eyebrows when he dropped Drouin’s name.

According to Pagnotta, “the Nashville Predators are among the teams believed to be linked to Drouin.” He didn’t address what Drouin could fetch on the market. You can access the entire article here.

https://www.thefourthperiod.com/jan-2022/lehkonen-drouin-attracting-interest

For this series, I have multiple times referenced the December 17th article by Marc Antoine Godin of The Athletic titled “Scouts Confidential: What value might Canadiens players with term left have on the trade market?” It’s an excellent article and if you subscribe to The Athletic you can read it here.

https://theathletic.com/3021164/2021/12/17/scouts-confidential-what-value-might-canadiens-players-with-term-left-have-on-the-trade-market/?source=user_shared_article

Scouts spoke to Marc Antoine about Drouin, who will soon turn 27 and has one year committed beyond this at an AAV of $5.5M. Opinions were varied. One scout said the Habs could get a 4th round pick if they retain 50% of his salary. That’s nonsensical, and if that’s the return you keep Jo and let him play out his deal.

Another scout suggested that a team with picks in the first and early second rounds would be willing to move the 2nd and a prospect if they think Drouin can help them. Yet another scout saw Drouin as a draft-floor trade to a team with a stable defence group.

I’m going to add one more voice to the valuation. While doing his recent road show, Kent Hughes advised that some players may be moved for a return that may be disappointing for fans, but the deal would serve a purpose in clearing cap space and roster spots. I wonder if this is where Drouin fits.

The fantasy…

I’m setting the valuation at a 2nd round pick (or prospect chosen at that level of the draft) and a 5th or lesser prospect.

Option 1 – Nashville Predators

I’ll start with the one team Pagnotta said was interested in Drouin. They have the cap space for him, adding him would not hurt their long-term cap structure, and we know they are looking for depth scoring. Drouin gets a new start out of the spotlight where no one cares about a guy named Sergachev. No need to overthink this one.

Option 2 – Ottawa Senators

Pundits have been saying in recent weeks that traditional sellers, like the Canadiens and the Sens, may be interested in hockey trades as opposed to limiting themselves to selling. There have also been rumours of discussions between the two teams.

Ottawa is one of those teams Godin’s scout mentioned, having both their first-round pick and two seconds. They will also likely sell some parts at the deadline for additional picks. The Sens have struggled to keep veterans with term around, and Drouin may be appealing because he has another year left on his deal. If it works out, they can extend him. If it does not, they can move him next deadline.

Option 3 – Columbus Blue Jackets

Like the Sens, the Blue Jackets have cap space, multiple picks (including two first rounders) and will be sellers. They also have trouble attracting free agents and retaining their own players. Max Domi will almost certainly be moved at the trade deadline, and Patrik Laine is an uncertainty for the future, leaving Columbus shallow on the left wing. If Drouin is a fit, they can extend him. If not, they can move him next deadline.

If taking this lane, the appeal for the Habs is immediate help in net that would allow them to send Cayden Primeau to Laval. It’s a “today” kind of deal. The fly in the ointment is that Drouin is currently among the injured, which may not be a deal breaker for a team outside playoff position. If they could make it work, Montreal will have decisions to make in net once Carey Price and Jake Allen return to health. Korpisalo’s presence may make those decisions easier.

The wake-up call…

Finding realistic trade proposals for Jonathan Drouin was not easy. Swallowing the lukewarm return is tough when you consider what Marc Bergevin gave up acquiring him. To be fair, there is no rush to move Drouin and if there is an expectation that he will boost his value at some point between now and trade deadline 2023, it may be best to wait. Of course, we have to remember what Hughes said – some deals may be made just to create flexibility.

Is there a better fantasy partner? Feel free to drop your ideas in the comments and we can chat!

Published by Lori Bennett

Hockey is my hobby. I love a respectful hockey chat or debate, but it stops being fun if we're jerks.

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