Let’s pump the brakes on Drouin and the Leafs

As Leafs fans, we’re contractually obligated (it’s written in tears) to speculate on a trade for any name that comes along in the rumour mill. This week’s surprising news of Jonathan Drouin wanting out of Tampa Bay presents some easy material, and as you may have guessed, we’ve already been all over it from a Toronto perspective.

Most people seem to be of the opinion that the Leafs, or any team really, should do whatever they can to take advantage of Yzerman here and pluck Drouin away for dimes on the dollar – the thinking being that leverage goes out the window when a player or the team clearly wants out of the relationship. Tyler Seguin all over again, apparently.

The thing is, for one, Drouin isn’t Seguin, and their situations aren’t really as similar as some have been leading on. Before Seguin was punted from Boston, he’d already posted 121 points in 203 games played as a Bruin, which included a 29-goal season. Drouin has been somewhat impressive with 40 points in 89 games for the Lightning in a limited role, but there isn’t even remotely the same level of security around how he’ll perform going forward. Dallas had a much better picture of what they were getting in Seguin than any team will when it comes to Drouin. That’s not even debatable.

Another thing that sort of sticks out to me when it comes to Drouin is his lack of goal output. He’s only been able to find twine six times through his 89 NHL games, and though it’s well-documented he’s had some poor shooting luck, even going back to his junior days, if you look at his draft-plus-one season without Nathan MacKinnon in Halifax, his goal total took a hit and decreased to 29 from 41 the previous year as a draft-eligible. And it should also be noted his overall production didn’t take a step forward that year either, which is a little concerning. Anthony Mantha, for example, also from the 2013 draft, produced at a similar clip with a much higher goal output, so if QMJHL production is the main thing you’re clinging to as signs he’ll be elite, maybe dial it back a notch.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a Drouin hit piece. He’s going to be a good NHL player, but I just don’t agree with pegging him as a budding elite scorer and offering up the farm to get him. There’s still plenty of risk involved here. To say Drouin is an elite forward who can’t climb beyond the Lightning’s depth at forward to get ice time doesn’t make any sense.

Then there’s the trade package the Leafs would have to offer up. Yzerman doesn’t seem interested in operating from a position of weakness here, and it’s not likely you’re getting Drouin without offering up at least one of Rielly, van Riemsdyk, Marner, or Nylander. Out of that group, JVR is perhaps the only option I’d consider, but even then you’re moving out a 30-30 guy in hopes of maybe getting a 30-30 guy back, and as we’ve noted, it’s hard to say how much offense Drouin can create for himself based on his low goal output. Someone has to score.

Unloading a player like Marner or Nylander would be a lateral move at best, and I’d keep the younger untapped potential of those guys rather than rolling the dice on Drouin, who’s further along and obviously has had a few missteps those other two haven’t. And as far as Rielly goes, the organization is awful enough on the blue line as it is, and I’m of the opinion that potential top pairing defencemen carry a lot more value anyway.

In any trade for Drouin, there’s likely going be a lot of potential-for-potential talk if the Leafs are involved, and given what they currently have in the system, it doesn’t seem like a deal that makes much sense considering the level of risk involved to likely end up shifting around a couple deck chairs.

  • Gary Empey

    You’re right about not trading Marner, Nylander or Reilly, but no one is suggesting that and Yzerman can’t expect that high of a return.

    As for Drouin not producing that’s not exactly true when you look at his rate stats. In terms of pts/60 he’s second best on the lightning and that’s already similar to JVR. The problem is the coach isn’t giving Drouin any ice time. You can’t compare offensive output of someone who only gets 8-9 minutes of ice time and expect a point per game out of them. And you can’t expect a player to get better defensively (or offensively) if they ain’t playing!

    With a player like Drouin they need lots of ice time to properly develop. If the coach wasn’t willing to give it to him then he should have been kept down in junior or the AHL until he was ready. But the Tampa organization messed that up. That’s there loss and potentially our gain.

    As for trading JVR for Drouin absolutely! I’d even be willing to eat 1.5 mil in salary and give up a second round pick. JVR is 27-28, Drouin is 20 on an elc and already has better rate stats. I’d then send Drouin down to the Marlies to play on a line with Nylander and Brown (when he’s back) and just dominate the AHL while learning Babcock’s systems away from the lime light.

    For Tampa that would be a great deal too. JVR can help a contending team like Tampa right now and for a few years to come. Plus his contract and the 1.5 mil in salary cap space (that the leafs won’t even need until after JVR’s contract is over any way) really helps out a team like Tampa that’s already bumping up against the ceiling. And a second round pick to boot! It’s a win win. Sign the deal today Mr. Lamoriello!

    • Handsome Normale

      I would like to preface by saying that I live in Halifax, and I personally watched Drouin a lot over the 3 years he was here. I’ll even say that I was never a huge fan of his. His skillset was obvious, every time he touched the puck it was like he was created in a lab to play hockey.

      It was also obvious when things weren’t going his way though. In a tight game, or if the Moose were down by one or two, he was tenacious. If they were down a bunch, or he got in penalty trouble, he would sulk, and sulk visibly. After Mackinnon was promoted to the NHL and the team was his, he disappeared in the playoffs. I would not be at all surprised to see him bust.

      BUT all that said;

      I think this hits the nail right on the head. His talent and puck skills are obvious and unteachable. You don’t get the opportunity to trade for potentially elite offensive players every day, and I would absolutely trade JVR, and maybe another minor piece like Leivo. I wouldn’t retain salary though, since JVR is an excellent player with a cap hit of just 4.25 for the next 2 seasons after this one. If they expect retained salary, take Leivo out and toss them a late round pick.

      Marner, Nylander, Rielly are totally off the table in my opinion.

      • Jeremy Ian

        Thanks for this. But this discussion is confusing. The evidence on Drouin is mixed. To wit:

        “It was also obvious when things weren’t going his way though. In a tight game, or if the Moose were down by one or two, he was tenacious. If they were down a bunch, or he got in penalty trouble, he would sulk, and sulk visibly. After Mackinnon was promoted to the NHL and the team was his, he disappeared in the playoffs. I would not be at all surprised to see him bust.”

        This is not a great testimony. We’d dish a very cap-friendly, proven producer, JVR for an unpredictable player who wilts when faced adversity?

        Here’s another way to calculate this: what’s the opportunity cost of trading JVR? What could JVR get the Leafs in another trade scenario? You could get a raft of development potential.

        I’d rather throw unpredictable assets like Kapanen, Leivo, a 2nd rounder and a few other parts. Not sure if this would do it. Maybe take on Carle’s contract. But if Drouin is in the early stages of being a bust, sending JVR away could be a huge dent on the rebuilding program.

        I am all for the deal, but not these terms.

        • Gary Empey

          I totally agree that looking at the opportunity cost is exactly the right way of looking at it. But what other player can you name, that the leafs could get for JVR, in a trade that some other team was willing to do, that would have a higher upside than Drouin? I can’t think of a single person! Or even draft pick. Is someone going to give up a top 5 or top 10 pick for JVR? Not likely.

          The leafs don’t need JVR now and he won’t be worth it in 3 years. So we loose nothing.

          Obviously I would rather give up Kapanen and a bunch of other random pieces but there’s no way Tampa will take that trade. We have to be realistic and also look at it from Tampa’s side.

          Tampa needs: top six left winger who can help them now, cash, and salary-cap space. The leafs can give them all of that and get a decent young player with massive upside.

          • Jeremy Ian

            I know it’s a long shot. But remember, Yzerman has two headaches. Drouin and Stamkos. What the Leafs offer is to take Carle off SY’s books, to make room for resigning Stamkos. That’s what sweetens the deal. Remember, too, Drouin gives him nada, nada, in the playoff push. he’s buried in the AHL. So, throw in Parenteau if he wants a 2nd line winger for some scoring. That way the Leafs give a decent prospect (Kapanen), a decent winger now (Parenteau), and buys some cap relief.

            But JVR’s value now is very high; Drouin’s value later is still a big unknown.

            If you are going to deal JVR, I’d drive a much harder bargain. SY’s not that desperate to deal Drouin. I’d rather wait for a more desperate team, like the Rangers (if they had someone to pick off the way they did with Arizona last year) to come begging for JVR. JVR vs Drouin, same speed, JVR is 6’3: Drouin 5’11”, JVR 2nd overall while Drouin 3rd. JVR was point a game in the Boston series. JVR second in team scoring for the last three years, and likely first this year. Under Babcock, he’s turning into a better two-way player.

          • Jeremy Ian

            5 on 5 points per 60 at evens:
            Drouin this year: 1.65 JVR this year 1.61
            Drouin last year: 1.95 JVR 1.51

            Once you adjust for the fact that JVR gets more ice time and power play time Drouin is already the better offensive player at age 20!!! And JVR will be way past his prime before it even matters!

            JVR is taller, so what? They ain’t playing basketball. JVR was a point per game player in one playoff series 3 years ago… please tell me how that’s relevant. JVR is playing better defensively this year as compared to last, that’s true but he was one of the worst defensive players in the whole NHL last year!

          • Gary Empey

            Drouin constantly turns over the puck. No coach will put up with that. Players that continue to do it end up benched or scratched. This is exactly what has happened to Drouin.

            He may have a lot of offensive upside but at the moment he has even more defensive downside.

            If you have noticed Babcock is real fussy about turnovers.

      • Jeremy Ian

        I doubt Tampa takes that trade it doesn’t really help them now and their window is closing. Only teams that don’t consider themselves contenders can offer Tampa the help they need in the timeframe they need it.

        If everyone thinks JVR for Drouin is too much for the leafs then still trade JVR but ask for a pick from Tampa, take back a bad short term contract, or eat salary or offer another soon to be ufa. Honestly the leafs don’t need JVR now and he won’t be valuable when they do need him. He’s the number one trade chip the leafs have, he must be traded while his perceived value is high.

  • Gary Empey

    I’m confused. Early in the piece you say the idea among fans is that the Leafs should try to get Drouin for “for dimes on the dollar”.

    Then later on you state that you “just don’t agree with pegging him as a budding elite scorer and offering up the farm to get him.”

    Who has been arguing that the Leafs (or any team) should be offering up the farm to get him? You seem to on the one hand argue that Leafs fans want to get him as a steal while also arguing with some non-existent group who would give up “the farm” for him.

    I don’t think any significant group of fans would give up the farm for him.

  • Gary Empey

    Yes Ryan you are right. The asking price is not likely worth the risk here. He is still a prospect, with future potential.

    Let’s not forget Drouin asked for a trade back in November and Yzerman has not traded him yet.
    Instead he has sent him to the minors.

    Unless Drouin refuses to report(which doesn’t seem likely), then I expect nothing to happen. Only if a team puts a super offer on the table is Yserman going to make a move.

    Also for those who think sending young players to the AHL to over-ripen, should take note. In some cases this move can blowup in your face. In Tampa’s case it looks like he should of been in the AHL out of junior. The kid has definitely been mismanaged.

    • Gary Empey

      If the deal is for JVR I don’t see what the risk is? The leafs don’t need JVR now and JVR will be a 30 yr old UFA in 2018 anyway. If Drouin doesn’t pan out who cares, we’ve lost nothing. But Drouin is already as good offensively as JVR.

      And how can playing in the AHL blow up in your face? When the player has mastered the system and is scoring at a high rate in the AHL you just bring him up. If he hasn’t he shouldn’t be brought up. The only exception I can think of would be a player that’s too good for junior and that is ineligible to play in the AHL like Reilly was. But in that case if you do bring him up you have to play him!

      • Gary Empey

        JVR is 26 turning 27 end of season in May. He will be 28 turning 29 end of season in 2018. How can you possibly say Drouin is as good a JVR already. JVR has scored 136 goals and added 140 assists. Drouin can’t make the Tampa line up. Tampa is a team that is only 5 points ahead of us in the standings.

        Re- Blowing up in your face. Tampa just sent Drouin to the AHL and it just blew up in their face. Drouin’s agent has revealed he is demanding a trade.

  • Gary Empey

    A consensus has developed, that the only player amenable to both Leafs and Lightening, is JVR.
    However, no one has asked Stamkos. If I were Stamkos, having JVR on my first line is non-negotiable. No JVR, no Stamkos, no trade for Drouin.