It seems most play-off years a rookie or newish player will be thrust into the spotlight at the right time and this year that player looks to be, Jonathan Drouin. The Tampa Bay lighting made relatively short work of a team they lost to last year when they had superstar forward Steven Stamkos in the line-up. What’s the difference? Obviously the team is playing better together and Drouin is proving to be a driver for that success. A very interesting situation considering the player asked for a trade this past season, and GM Steve Yzerman was apparently interested in accommodating him.
Back in Edmonton there is a similar theme with at least one high-profile forward likely leaving town. Edmonton Oiler’s General manager Peter Chiarelli will need to move at least one (likely 2) high-profile top six assets to shore up his defence next season. If Yzerman decides to move Drouin in the off-season, a situation of competing assets, (not unlike when the Oilers were rumoured to have offered RNH for Seth Jones) could arise and it wouldn’t help the Oiler’s bargaining position.
At the present time, there are three players that are likely to be marketed for defensive upgrades in the off-season: Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Jordan Eberle. Of course Taylor Hall could potentially be added to that list but I personally can’t see Chiarelli trading both first and second overall 2010 picks in his GM employment history. So how do our current crop of tradeable assets compare to Drouin? Like most situations, there is a range.
Nail Yakupov: Although Yak is only a couple of years older than Drouin and has better point totals as well as very comparable ppg numbers (.46 to .44 for Drouin), you have to give the edge to Drouin. His hockey sense is better, he skates better, his junior numbers were better, and he can play both wing and centre.
Head to head edge: It should be closer than it is, but if we were in a competing trade and offering, Yak, the other GM would take Drouin unless it was a plus plus on our end.
Ryan Nugent Hopkins: The Nuge is an established top six center who is dedicated to his craft and has focussed on playing both ends with equal prowess. The problem is, at this point he is coming off a bad year and is being pegged by most as a 50 – 60 point player, which puts him in the second-line center spot. Drouin however has not played enough pro to establish what his potential is, and in the games he’s seen at the NHL level, Drouin still carries first line center potential, maybe even than the Nuge.
Head to head edge: If Drouin has a strong second series, he could be considered the more favourable asset, in a trade due to his low salary and upside.
Jordan Eberle: Eberle does one thing but he does it very well: score goals. So Eberle is currently the best on the team (being pushed by McDavid) at putting the puck in the net. Unfortunately that’s really all he does and when franchises are building playoff teams they need their top six players to contribute at both ends of the ice, as well as check effectively. nonetheless, scoring goals is the hardest thing to do in the NHL and Ebs is among the best.
Head to head edge: I would think that Eberle has the edge in offensive upside but Drouin has greater flexibility because he can play centre as well as wing. In Drouin’s favour, his contract is much lighter, and that will make a difference in today’s cap world.
What makes Drouin so attractive as a prospect is his potential. The NHL already knows (or feels they do) the top end of the Oilers core group, while Drouin has considerable more upside at a lower price. In the NHL, potential is the alluring opiate that drives every scout into a frenzy and every GM’s toe to tapping. And to be sure, every member of the organization is looking for that sweet cherry high that happens when they land that player who changes the team, especially if the price is right.
What will Stevie Y do?
It’s difficult to say what Drouin and the Lightning will do in the off-season. When asked about his long-term future with the club, Drouin’s answer was somewhat cryptic: In a story that appeared in CBC Sports Drouin commented on returning the lighting organization:
“We’ve talked about the decision to come back here. I think that we’re going to fix this in the summer and see how it goes from there.”
Soooo, does “fix it in the summer” mean he’s going to be moved in the summer? Or something else?
If Drouin was on the open market he would make for tough competition for what Chiarelli needs to accomplish, especially if both teams were making a pitch making a pitch for a comparable asset.
But despite the rhetoric between both sides I’m hoping Yzerman has the situation well-managed. He’s done all the right things. Been patient, avoided a war of words in the media, and put Drouin in position to succeed and feel part of the team again. I’m guessing he would rather keep Drouin than trade him. And lets hope so, one the trade rumours had Drouin heading to Anaheim for a young D-man . . . now that wouldn’t be good for the oil.