All it took was one message and one email to create seismic reverberations throughout the National Hockey League.
The epicenter was Tampa Bay.
Allan Walsh, the agent for Jonathan Drouin, formally announced the desire of the third overall pick in the 2013 draft to be traded away from the reigning Eastern Conference champions Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday morning.
“On behalf of Jonathan Drouin, I formally requested a trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning back in November,” Drouin’s agent, Allan Walsh, wrote. “We have not said one word about this untenable situation publicly until today. It’s in everyone’s best interests that Jonathan be allowed to move on and play hockey. Let’s be clear, Jonathan loves playing for the fans in Tampa, he loves his teammates and many people within the Lightning organization have treated him well. It was his sincere intention to play in Tampa for many years.”
A few hours later, the Lightning released a statement attributed to vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman.
“We acknowledge, via communication from his agent, Jonathan Drouin’s request to be traded,” Yzerman said. “Moving forward, my sole intention is to act in the best interest of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey club. In the meantime, Jonathan has been assigned to our American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, and we expect him to report for practice with the rest of his teammates this Tuesday morning.”
Drouin, 20, has totaled six goals and 34 assists for 40 games in 89 games spanning the last two seasons. Still, Drouin is a highly regarded offensive prospect. The left wing recorded 108 points (29 goals and 79 assists) in 46 games with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2013-14.
Make no mistake: Drouin’s time with the Lightning is drawing to a close, and Yzerman will likely have his pick of trade offers to choose from.
In the interest of this market, Metro New York examined the likelihood of Drouin ending up with the Devils or Islanders or Rangers.
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New Jersey has been one of the best stories in the NHL during the 2015-16 season. Most outlets—including this one—predicted that the Devils would find themselves in the running for the ostensible first pick in this June’s draft, Auston Matthews. Instead, entering play on Jan. 4, the Devils are 20-14-5, good for fourth in the Metropolitan Division and hold one of the two Eastern Conference Wild Card spots.
Much of the credit is due to Cory Schneider’s stellar play in goal, defensive corps that has played well and forward lines whose whole have been better than the sum of their parts. Still, New Jersey ranks 26th in the NHL in goals scored with 91 and 27th with 2.33 goals per game.
In theory, Drouin would be a boost to the forward groups, and New Jersey has $9,079,166 in cap space. Of the three teams, Drouin fits the Devils’ needs perfectly.
One of the themes mentioned about the Islanders during this season has been the lack of a high-end wing to play alongside franchise centerpiece John Tavares. Drouin could be that winger. Plus Drouin’s contract isn’t exceptionally onerous. He’s due to make $849,167 this season—so if he’s traded during this season, the deal will be pro-rated—and $894,167 next season before becoming a restricted free agent.
Moreover, the Islanders could possess the kind of young talent to interest Yzerman. Ryan Strome, for instance, is 22 and is making $863,333 before becoming a RFA this summer. Also, the Islanders are attempting to trade defenseman Travis Hamonic, whose off-season trade request became public knowledge in early this season. Hamonic, 25, is making $3.857 million through the 2019-20 season. Would Yzerman be interested in a top pair defenseman with a reasonable contract? Would you? Thought so.
According to industry website Capfriendly.com, the Rangers have $1 million in cap space. They also have structural problems that have become more pronounced in the last five weeks. But do they have what Yzerman would want? Moreover, it’s unlikely that defensemen Dan Girard and Marc Staal are traded despite their struggles this season as both have no-move clauses. Staal will make $5.7 million through the 2020-21 season, while Girardi is set to earn $5.5 million through 2019-20.
You can follow NHL writer Denis P. Gorman on Twitter at @DenisGorman.