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Thursday, Dec 14, 2017
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Fennelly: Why trading Jonathan Drouin could haunt the Lightning

This could haunt the Lightning.

Bolts GM Steve Yzerman and coach Jon Cooper don't scare easily. They proved as much Thursday and took a real chance by dealing Jonathan Drouin to Montreal. Au revoir.

In return, the Lightning gets Montreal's top defensive prospect, Mikhail Sergachev, who was picked ninth overall in the 2016 draft. Sergachev, 18, has the potential to be an elite puck-moving NHL defenseman. That's hard to pass up. A proactive move by Yzerman in the name of the future.

One day, this might be a great deal.

Only this isn't that day.

Drouin wasn't a prospect anymore. He scored 21 goals last season, and I think he has the potential to be a point-per-game guy in this league. He's only 22.

I get the Lightning approach. Drouin could have been a restricted free agent this summer. The Bolts can't sign everyone they want to keep, like Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson. Something had to give. Someone had to go. I would have kept Drouin.

I don't think Drouin's past — the sit-down in Syracuse in 2015-16 or the headaches he provided Cooper — were a major factor here, or at least they better not have been.

Drouin must be elated. He returns to Quebec and quickly signs that big contract — six years, $33 million — he was never going to get in Tampa Bay.

On the other hand, Drouin will be under pressure in Montreal. Why do you think Vinny Lecavalier never wanted to play there? Drouin better deliver, or eventually the headline will be "Hab Fans Bid Kid Adieu."

But the Lightning might be haunted first. Especially if Drouin excels in Montreal. Remember when Boston traded problem child Tyler Seguin to Dallas? Seguin is an scoring dynamo for the Stars.

Not only that, the Lightning has traded Drouin within the division, to a offensively starved team. And don't think Drouin won't be out to show up his old team.

Here's another thing: If the Lightning was so determined to get defense, why did it take Drouin third in the 2013 draft instead of defenseman Seth Jones, who went fourth? Jones has turned into an all-star with Columbus. The Lightning could have saved itself some time.

I don't remember Yzerman making many bad deals on his Lightning watch. But this one has mistake potential. Sergachev is a great prospect. But Drouin is already more than that.

Yes, Drouin could be a child. He got lost in his game sometimes, and he made mistakes. And I'm sure he wasn't willing to cut the Lightning a team-friendly deal — too much history.

But people who can make goals and have a genius for creating them for others are a rare commodity in this league, as rare as puck-moving defenseman, maybe more so when the commodity is as talented as Drouin.

Circle those Lightning-Canadiens games on the schedule when it comes out next week.

A haunting we will go?

Contact Martin Fennelly at mfennelly@tampabay.com or 813-731-8029. Follow >@mjfennelly.>

   
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