The Leafs Should Be All Over Jonathan Drouin

It was a bit of a surprise when Jonathan Drouin, the former 3rd overall pick in 2013, was sent down to Syracuse of the AHL yesterday.  It was an even bigger surprise when it was revealed earlier today that Drouin asked for a trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning in November, with him reportedly still wanting out.

So the question then becomes, would he make sense for the Leafs?  Should the Leafs even want him?  If they do want him, do they have the pieces to get it done?

Spoiler alert: the answer to all three of those questions is a resounding yes.

WHY THE LEAFS SHOULD TRADE FOR DROUIN

  • His upside is huge

True, Drouin’s had a pretty lackluster career in the NHL so far – in 89 career games, he has just 40 points.  What’s more is that of those 40 points, just 6 of them are goals.  But the guy was drafted 3rd overall for a reason.  When he’s on top of his game, he’s a dynamic skater, passer, and puckhandler.  He put up 213 points in his last 95 games for Halifax in the QMJHL.  During his last year in junior, people were making comments like, “It’s as if you dropped Patrick Kane into a game of junior hockey”.  In other words, in spite of his struggles so far in the NHL, Drouin has enough skill to become a star in the NHL.

  • He’s young

This is sort of a “Part B” to my first point.  So yeah, Drouin has huge upside – obviously.  But he hasn’t really figured it out in the NHL yet.  That’s a fair criticism and all, but let’s not forget that it’s only been 2.5 years since he was drafted.  The guy is still only 20 years old.  Needless to say, he’s still developing and his best hockey is ahead of him.

What, that’s it?  Only two arguments in favour of trading for this guy?  Well yeah, his upside is huge and he’s still really young.  What more can you ask for in a hockey player?  The Leafs are a rebuilding team, and adding a player that possesses equal parts upside and youth is exactly the sort of thing they should be getting in on.

Oh yeah, and one more case for trading for him…

  • He’s familiar with Steven Stamkos

When Steven Stamkos signs in Toronto next July (it’s happening), it’ll be big both for Steven and for the Leafs to have Drouin on board already.  A pre-existing friendship, pre-existing chemistry, whatever.  To have a player on the team that can help ease the transition for Stamkos will be huge for both him and for the Leafs.  Why not hit the ground running?

WHY THEY SHOULDN’T TRADE FOR DROUIN

  • Lack of NHL production

As we said already, he’s got just 40 points in 89 NHL games, and just 6 of those points are goals.  That’s cause for at least a little concern.  What if Drouin just can’t reach his upside?  What if he ends up as a bust?  It’s a legitimate possibility.

That said, though, I think the argument is somewhat weak.  Yes, there’s a chance Drouin doesn’t work out.  But like I said, he’s still really young and has a lot of development left to do.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.

  • Character concerns?

Does Jonathan Drouin have character issues?  Frankly, I have no idea.  That’s what some people are saying, largely I think due to the simple fact that Drouin had the nerve to ask for a trade.  Admittedly it’s somewhat concerning that Drouin would ask for a trade this early into his relationship with the Lightning – why not take the high road and try to get through the rough patches?

Still, even if Drouin does have some questions surrounding his character, it’s not enough for me to really be turned off by him.  He’s young, maybe he’s immature, I don’t know.  Maybe he’s a bonafide asshole that will forever destroy any locker room that he’s a part of now and in the future.

It’s a risk I’m willing to take.  I want the Leafs to win the Stanley Cup.  You win the Stanley Cup with elite players.  You’re going to need to take some risks along the way.  There isn’t enough there for me to conclude that Drouin’s potential reward doesn’t outweigh the risk.

TYLER SEGUIN: A CASE STUDY

I’m seeing a lot of parallels between Drouin now and Seguin a couple of years ago.  Seguin had just 22 points in his rookie season for the Boston Bruins after being drafted 2nd overall in 2010.  He was a frequent healthy scratch for Boston in the playoffs.  He got traded from Boston after just three seasons, largely because of supposed character concerns.

…And now look at him.  Seguin is an absolute force in the NHL, one of the league’s most elite players.  84 points in 80 games, 77 points in 71 games, and 50 points in 40 games.  Those are the numbers Seguin has put up in his three seasons in Dallas.  The Bruins seemed to have soured on Seguin a good deal by the time his tenure was done there, but something tells me the Bruins have come to regret trading him away in a deal centered around Loui Eriksson.  Hell, Seguin even gets praised in Dallas for his leadership qualities now.

Maybe highly skilled, immense upside youngsters that haven’t quite figured it out in the big leagues, that sort of, kind of, maybe have character issues, aren’t totally irredeemable.

SO WHAT WOULD IT TAKE?

Let’s suppose the Leafs are interested in Drouin, which is a big assumption in itself.  What would it take to pry Drouin away from Tampa?  What should they be willing to give up?

In the case of Tyler Seguin, it took Loui Eriksson (established, productive top-six forward), Rielly Smith (decent young NHLer), Joe Morrow (B+ level prospect at the time), and Matt Fraser (bottom-six prospect).  The Stars even got Rich Peverley, a decent middle-six forward at the time, as part of the package coming the other way.

The thing is though, Drouin probably wouldn’t cost that much.  For one, as far as we know, Seguin never explicitly asked for a trade from Boston – it was the Bruins that wanted to unload him.  In other words, the Bruins’ hand wasn’t forced like Tampa Bay’s is right now.  Seguin had also established himself as a legitimate top-six forward by the time of the trade – something Drouin really hasn’t done.  And as we just said, the Stars also got Rich Peverley as part of the deal.  Would the Leafs be taking back an additional player from Tampa Bay?  I guess it’s possible, but as far as we know the answer to that question would be no.  So where the normal equivalent might be something like James Van Riemsdyk, Scott Harrington, Kasperi Kapanen, and Sam Carrick, I really don’t think the Leafs would have to give up that much.  Hell, that would be more than the Leafs got for Phil Kessel, someone whose done a lot more in the NHL up until this point than Drouin has.

I don’t want to speculate too much on what specifically a trade for Drouin might look like.  I don’t go on HF Boards anymore for a reason.  All I can say is that it probably costs an established, productive NHL forward (such as say a Van Riemsdyk), with a little something extra on the side (A good young NHLer?  A decent-enough prospect?  Some draft picks?  I don’t know).  What’s important to note here is that it’s a price the Leafs can likely afford to pay, as long as they’re willing to incur the risk.  Would you trade JVR and a little something else for the possibility of acquiring a first-line winger for the next decade?  I sure would.

And I’ll also say this: Drouin probably possesses more upside than any other player in the entire Leafs organization.  Yes, Drouin has more raw skill than the likes of Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and Morgan Rielly.  Would I include any of those 3 in a trade for Drouin?  Probably not, because I doubt you would need to give that up.  But I would be willing to entertain the thought, because that’s how big the upside is with Drouin.  He could be an absolute star.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Leafs should be all over the possibility of bringing Jonathan Drouin to Toronto.  He’s got huge upside, he’s really young, and the Leafs have the pieces to get it done.  What are those pieces exactly?  I don’t know.  But the Leafs have established, productive NHLers with good contracts in their lineup, they have blue chip prospects, and they have lots of draft picks (with more on the way).  Jonathan Drouin represents the exact sort of player the Leafs should be going after in a trade.  If the Leafs aren’t pressing hard to try and make Drouin a Leaf, or if they at the very least aren’t inquiring about Drouin with Tampa Bay, I’d be extremely disappointed.

  • Kanuunankuula

    Tampa is extremely unlikely to trade inside their division, so you need to up what you’re giving up to get Yzerman to trade in-division. Western team a far more likely trade partner.

      • Benjamin

        Generally I agree, it is blown out of proportion. But in this case I’m with Kanu.

        We’re not talking about trading just anybody, we’re talking about trading a potential superstar. That’s the type of deal that gets you fired and, if you’re facing this superstar 6+ game a season, fired fast. Fans have a short attention span, but remind them of the botched deal their GM made constantly and they’re going to remember a lot better.

        Let’s follow the Seguin analogy. Seguin was sent, along with an aging 2/3 line centre (Peverley) and a non prospect (Button), for Eriksson and three decent prospects (a 1st rounder, 3rd rounder, and a free wallet). If we try to roughly mirror the deal, let’s say this is it:

        Drouin + Filppula + an SPC to Toronto |
        JVR + Kapanen + Leivo + Hyman to TB

        The Leafs do that before Yzerman can blink. And even if the Leafs players all reached their potential, none of them comes close to what Drouin is capable of. If everyone’s careers went as expected, I really believe the optics of it would come into play re: Yzerman’s job security.

  • Kanuunankuula

    I wasn’t surprised. idk how anyone could be after the mistreatment of him by cooper and he mismanagement by yzerman. constant healthy scratch in the playoffs and regular season. it was obvious he wasn’t happy there. he needs a fresh start. I know he was dominating the q but he maybe should have remained there another year so he could develop in the ahl the next year. we’ll be facing that situation this summer with marner… my thoughts: YES. YES. YES. IN. HEARTBEAT. PICK UP THE PHONE SHANNY. jvr + harrington for drouin + paquette seems ok.

  • Puck_Stops_Here

    This is delusional. As you point out, Drouin has massive potential — as a result he has much more value. There’s no way Yzerman gives him up for the kind of package you put out here; more than one team will offer that. That means one team will have to offer more. There’s not rush for Yzerman to trade Drouin, either. Yes, he demanded a trade. But he hasn’t been playing so having him sit and stew isn’t hurting the organization.

    Stop the pipe dreams. It’s not nice to sell this shill to Leafs fans.

  • STAN

    Sure, he’s just 20, but there’s absolutely no proof that he’s a bonafide and elite NHLer. Nor are there any hints he’s about to become one.

    I’d stay away and continue the build, unless he’s available at the trade deadline for the likes of Matthias, Winnik, Boyes, Parenteau or other spare parts.

  • Kanuunankuula

    JVR isn’t going anywhere.He has a great contract , and is the leading scorer for the Leafs
    He could command way more than a possibly maybe prospect.

    Drouin a player with a history of injury, and can’t make the Tampa bay team. These are significant warning signs and the Leafs are probably likely to steer clear of possible problem players especially after what happen in the Leafs club house last year.

    kasperi kapanen and a 3rd is all I would offer.
    If kapanen is good enough to be the major part in the trade for Kessel then he’s definitely good enough
    to be dealt for Drouin.

  • Benjamin

    Kappanen and pittsburghs 1st round pick from the Kessel trade and maybe one of our cheap vets we have on a one year deal for Drouin and a salary dump maybe?

    • Jeremy Ian

      I agree. This would, however, clear their books to re-sign Stamkos. For Yzerman, he’d make it one or the other. If I am him, I’d certainly try to leverage a Drouin deal to create space for Stamkos’ contract. In getting Kasperi Kapanen and a 1st, they’d be getting a bit of a re-load along the way.

      Marner-Nylander-Drouin as the Leafs’ eventual 1st line. Why not?

  • Benjamin

    I would trade JVR, 6’3, proven NHL first liner in his prime, for 5’11 Drouin – and Tampa’s 1st rounder. A huge number of NHL’ers have the same story: they were scoring stars in Junior, but couldn’t score against NHL calibre goalies, or break down NHL-calibre defences; so they made the NHL by becoming specialists, like Grabner as PK, or as grinders like Komarov. I’d rather have someone like Colin White: NHL size, 200 foot game, wins face-offs, and scores NHL-type goals; tip-ins, rebounds, deflections, the kind you get by hanging around the net. Or Tkachuk: can’t skate with Kane types, or do any of the fancy stuff you describe, but has some toughness and on a different IQ plane from everyone else. But, if Tampa included their 1st, Toronto could get a an NHL-size top-six center or top four D-man – the stuff you build a team around.

  • Puck_Stops_Here

    This summer Tampa is are going to be in a very tight cap crunch and have to shed contracts IF they can manage to resign Stamkos. Toronto has huge pockets and a ton of cap space. Toronto could also use that as a bargaining chip as well.

  • STAN

    Why is an established (big) 26yr old former #2 pick with a SUPER friendly cap hit (with 15% lower actual salary) for the next 2.5 seasons worth less than an unproven 21yr old #3 pick?!

  • Gary Empey

    Drouin is signed for next year at $894,167. He won’t help Tampa’s cap situation immediately.

    I expect Tampa would want a third overall draft pick for him…. or equivalent.