The Montreal Canadiens sacrificed a part of their future to address their current needs
In acquiring Jonathan Drouin for his top prospect, Marc Bergevin is exhibiting an urgency to assemble an elite team capable of winning it all this year.
Jonathan Drouin for Mikhail Sergachev.
The first name had been included in rumours going back to his holdout with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The second was thought to be untouchable.
So, where does this put the Montreal Canadiens?
Drouin is a talismanic playmaker, an offensive dynamo, and a youngster oozing with talent. In him, the Habs have an immediate bona fide first-liner with boundless potential. (He’s not a centre though, and never has been).
Sergachev, on the other hand, is a powerful puck-moving defenceman with that same potential. He, as evidenced by his play during the Windsor Spitfires’ run to the Memorial Cup, is a player who has outgrown the OHL and is preparing for the transition to professional hockey.
However, Sergachev is not a difference-maker at the NHL level yet, and in making this trade, Marc Bergevin has brought in a top-three-quality forward without giving up anything from the active roster.
With Drouin, Max Pacioretty, Artturi Lehkonen, Paul Byron, Brendan Gallagher, and Andrew Shaw, the Canadiens currently have one of the best winger corps in the National Hockey League. If Alex Galchenyuk and Alexander Radulov are retained, the Canadiens will have enough winger firepower to roll four lines with top-six-quality on the flanks.
In accumulating this array of offensive skill, Bergevin has left his defensive corps in a perilous situation. He has given his vote of confidence to a left side comprised of Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin, Brandon Davidson, and Jakub Jerabek for the upcoming season. At right-defense, it’s Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, and possibly Zach Redmond. Nathan Beaulieu and/or Jordie Benn can bolster this unit, depending on how the expansion draft unfolds.
This is a solid, above-average defence corps, but beyond that, there’s little in the cupboard. Noah Juulsen and Victor Mete are talented, but neither is likely ready for substantial NHL minutes. If the injury bug hits, or if a key player hits a Plekanecian regression, the Habs may find themselves bereft of internal options on the blue line.
Furthermore, neither Juulsen nor Mete are projected to be that bona fide 1D replacement for Markov like Sergachev was. So, when Father Time finally comes calling for The General, the Canadiens will no longer have an heir apparent within the system.
Combined with Weber’s much talked (and argued) about aging trajectory and the impending Carey Price and Pacioretty contract expirations, Bergevin clearly sees that the Canadiens’ window is short. With this move, he is clearly aiming for a Stanley Cup within the next 2 seasons - what comes thereafter be damned.
Make no mistake: this was the correct move. Especially after the Weber-Subban trade last year. Right now, despite all the doomsayers, the Canadiens happen to find themselves with one of the best defence tandems in the NHL in Markov and Weber. They also simply do not have any elite defensive youth whom they can expect to mature and contribute prior to the decline of that veteran duo.
The iron is hot and Bergevin needs to strike. Drouin is a key component to the hammer that is being assembled.
But the hammer is not there yet. Alex Galchenyuk’s future is still up in the air, and the Canadiens have not addressed the weakness down the middle. The Drouin contract, in particular, may render Radulov’s - and even Galchenyuk’s - contract demands untenable.
Therefore, Marc Bergevin can’t be done his summer dealing.