One of the NHL's other 30 teams made a decision to get a head start on player swapping Thursday, however, as the Tampa Bay Lightning dealt left winger Jonathan Drouin and a conditional sixth-round draft pick to the Montreal Canadiens for defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and a conditional second-rounder.
The trade ends a rocky four-year tenure in Tampa for Drouin, who clashed with head coach Jon Cooper and was suspended by the club at one point last season following a trade request. In 117 games for the Windsor Spitfires, Sergachev has an even 100 points after being drafted by the Canadiens as the No. 9 pick in the 2016 draft. With Montreal seeking scoring punch up front, Drouin, a Quebec native, is a ideal fit for the Canadiens.
"It was believed that Montreal had some interest in (Drouin) about a year ago when he went through his holdout with the Tampa Bay Lightning, that he was a guy Montreal looked at", reflected Friedman.
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A year and a half later, Jonathan Drouin got his wish, via the first blockbuster move of the NHL's offseason.
Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) reacts after scoring against the Detroit Red Wings during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Tampa, Fla., on March 30, 2017. The 22-year-old set career highs last season with 21 goals, 32 assists and 53 points and has 95 points in 164 career games. Instead, they're trading a restricted-free agent for a top young prospect who could play a major role as early as next season. "Whether that's this year or two years from now, time will tell".
"It's just really surreal", Drouin said at a news conference in Montreal. "Ultimately Jonathan's an extremely talented young man". Teams have to submit a list of protected players by 5 p.m. on Saturday, and dealing Drouin allows the Lightning to protect one additional forward, likely center Vladislav Namestnikov, while receiving a player already exempt from the draft because of his lack of professional hockey experience.
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