One of the most polarizing stories of 2015-16 thus far has undoubtedly been the Jonathan Drouin saga in Tampa Bay.
Originally drafted third-overall by the Lightning in 2013, Drouin has had a fairly tumultuous run with the organization since that seemingly joyous day. The relationship was fairly rocky from the start, as Drouin was sent back to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League following the draft, as former teammate and first-overall pick Nathan MacKinnon remained at the NHL level.
After posting 29 goals and 108 points in only 46 games for the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads, Drouin finally earned his NHL call-up last season, posting 32 points in 70 games for the Lightning.
But that progress came to an abrupt halt this season. After being sent back down to the AHL, tensions between the two parties escalated and resulted in Drouin requesting a trade from the organization. At the end of January, and the situation finally boiled over – Drouin was suspended by the club on January 20th after sitting out a game for the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch. He and the Lightning now remain at a standstill until general manager Steve Yzerman finally moves ahead with a deal to send Drouin out of town.
It seems such a deal might be coming soon.
Yzerman recently indicated that he would prefer to move Drouin soon, and would want to bring in powerplay help via the potential trade, to assist Tampa Bay during the playoffs.
“I definitely prefer to deal him sooner than later, it would be better for everyone,” Yzerman told Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times earlier this week. “We all have needs. If I could do something to help our power play, I’d like to do that. And that’s going to be difficult to do.”
With that in mind, there’s one previously mentioned option that is beginning to look more and more likely – a swap between the Lightning and the St. Louis Blues, which could send defender Kevin Shattenkirk to Tampa Bay in exchange for Drouin.
From the Lightning’s perspective, the deal would make perfect sense. Since 2011, only 18 players in the entire NHL have scored more total powerplay points than Shattenkirk. Not only do his 97 man-advantage points over that span top notable names like Ryan Getzlaf, Daniel Sedin, and Jamie Benn – they in fact rank as the third-most powerplay points posted by any defenseman in the league, bested only by former Norris Trophy-winners Erik Karlsson and P.K. Subban.
The Lightning currently have Anton Stralman as the only defender on their first powerplay unit, with Victor Hedman serving that role for the second unit. The two have posted nine and 11 powerplay points, respectively, this season — Shattenkirk, on the other hand, has racked up 19 powerplay points himself, equalling the duo’s combined total on his own. Shattenkirk’s 31 total points would top all Lightning defenders other than Hedman, the team’s clear number-one on the blue-line.
For the Blues, getting Drouin would have two benefits. Firstly, it would allow the team to bolster their strong young forwards core – one that currently includes Tarasenko, Schwartz, and Robby Fabbri. Adding Drouin to that group would give St. Louis a potentially dominant offensive core moving forward – which is especially important considering the fact that three of the Blues’ current top-five scorers are either 30 years old or older (Alexander Steen, David Backes, and Paul Stastny).
As well, bringing Drouin in could also help shore up the Blues’ forwards group this season, as the club has dealt with some notable injuries in 2015-16. Chief among these is the present absence of Steen, who ranks second on the team in scoring but has now been moved to the injured reserve.
Drouin’s potential to help the club this season is debatable – he hasn’t exactly lit it up at the NHL level just yet – but his talent is undeniable. A change of scenery and an audition with some new linemates could certainly spark something in the former QMJHL MVP and CHL Player of the Year.
Given the fact that Shattenkirk is much much more valuable at the NHL level right now, a one-for-one deal may not make sense. However, a few supplementary pieces could easily be added in alongside these two to balance out this discrepancy, allowing a deal to move forward.
The organizations themselves may agree, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman previously speculated that such a trade may have been discussed by the Blues and Lightning.
With only three days remaining until the February 29th trade deadline, the time is ticking down for a potential deal to get signed. As both the Lightning and Blues currently hold playoff spots – Tampa Bay ranks second in the Atlantic Division while St. Louis ranks third in the Central – chances are both teams could look to beef up their rosters as they prepare for a postseason run. All indications point to Drouin being a part of one these deals, and it seems Shattenkirk could be just the return Yzerman has been holding out for.