In yesterday’s Montreal Canadiens’ post, I reviewed the career of Jonathan Drouin – especially focusing on his time in Montreal. For those who didn’t read that post, I noted that his career didn’t start that easily; however, given second chances (sending him back to Halifax as a junior, for example) allowed him to flourish and he got much better.
That said, the same doesn’t seem to be happening with the Canadiens, and I’m wondering if the mood of the team has changed about him. In short, I think they’d like to move him.
But, if that’s the case, to where and for whom?
Canadiens Make Drouin Available
I’m not alone in this assessment. The Sportsnet’s Eric Engels broke the news that Drouin was available. He noted that his source was an Eastern Conference team, but he didn’t say which one. It’s been known for some time that a number of Canadiens’ prospects have progressed to the point where they no longer need seasoning. If that’s the case, they need space in the line-up and that makes someone available. Rumors have it that someone is likely Drouin.
For example, this Tweet on Sept. 24 notes the reason for the trade considerations.
Specifically, Ryan Poehling and Nick Suzuki look ready to take up a more full-time role on the team; and, if they are, it seems wise to give them space to do so. As I noted in my previous Drouin post, the team is engaged in what’s called a “re-set,” so playing its younger players this season makes perfect sense.
I also recalled that, after Drouin was separated from Max Domi last season, his scoring tanked. As a fact, he racked up a point in only three of the Habs’ last 26 games (six points in total over those games). That isn’t nearly good enough for a player who makes $5.5 million per season.
Coming off a poor latter part of the season is an aspect of his game that might hold up a deal. However, for a team that has a Domi-like clone (another player who plays like him), Drouin might be an attraction. Drouin has shown, in the right circumstances, that he can score. He just can’t carry a team.
The other potential holdback is that there’s a perception that Drouin has a bit of an attitude. I have not heard that from a credible source, so that’s only hearsay.
Although the Canadiens have been trying to work him into the line-up in positive ways, his scoring has not jumped in response. It would be too bad if Drouin can’t make it work in his home province; however, if the team could find valuable return, he might be moved.
Who Might Want Drouin?
In a considered article written by Ken MacMillan of Fansided, three potential Drouin trades were explored. However, for purposes of this post, I want to consider only one of them. MacMillan’s third trade scenario included the Winnipeg Jets Patrik Laine and, given that Laine just signed a new two-year deal with the Jets, that seems like old news. However, his suggestion for the Minnesota Wild’s Jason Zucker makes some sense for a number of reasons.
Basically, MacMillan laid out a trade that was one-for-one (Drouin for Zucker straight up). Then MacMillan goes on to make some good points about the two players and each team’s different needs.
MacMillan noted that, although the Canadiens really don’t need another winger, Zucker represents a different kind of winger than Drouin. Drouin doesn’t like to mix it up that much, and Zucker has a more physical presence on the ice. That’s something the Canadiens now lack since the Canadiens’ general manager Marc Bergevin sent Andrew Shaw and a seventh-round pick (in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft) to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a second-round and a seventh-round pick (2020) and a third-round pick (2021). Basically, Bergevin made the move to create salary-cap space, but he lost some of the team’s grit when Shaw left.
The Canadiens could benefit from more grit and punch, and Zucker could deliver it. MacMillan noted that the Wild might go for such a trade because they’re seeking to go younger whenever they can – swapping 27-year old Mikael Granlund for 22-year old Kevin Fiala, for example. Furthermore, because Zucker knows the Wild were trying to move him (once to the Calgary Flames and once to the Pittsburgh Penguins), he might be willing to leave for to the Canadiens.
The other thing about Jason Zucker that the Canadiens (or any other team) might want to consider is that he’s a great citizen, in the tradition of Carey Price. This summer, for example, Zucker and his wife Carly were honored by the NHL for their work at the Masonic Children’s Hospital. From my perspective, you can’t have too many good people on your roster.
The Bottom Line
This deal would provide a fresh start for two talented players, and given Zucker’s flexibility to play either wing I could see him playing on either wing and on any line. His style of game would be a huge boost to the Habs throughout the season and if they ever make the playoffs.
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