Bill Guerin is looking for a Top-6 player to maximize the Minnesota Wild’s offense. If the Wild are looking for a pure rental, they may not need to look further than the Montreal Canadiens’ Jonathan Drouin. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2022-23 and carries a $5.5 million cap hit.
Montreal is out of a playoff spot and rebuilding for the future. Drouin is likely out for the next one to three weeks and would probably want to play for a team who’s ready to win now. The Canadiens are under new management and likely ready to move on. If Guerin can swing a trade and Drouin can get healthy, they may finally have multiple scoring lines again.
Drouin tore up the QMJHL with back-to-back 100-point seasons in 2012-13 and 2013-14. He was one of the juggernauts who made the Halifax Mooseheads a nightmare to play against. Drouin was destined for greatness. While not as good as his Mooseheads’ teammate MacKinnon, Drouin was still projected as a game-breaking forward.
So what led to his downfall?
Injuries and mental health have been the kryptonite of Drouin’s career. After three years of not blossoming as part of the Lightning’s core, the Bolts traded him to Montreal for Mikhail Sergachev. At the time, there were mixed reviews on the trade from Tampa’s side, but they wanted to load the blue line. It worked to perfection.
Meanwhile, the Canadiens wanted to see if they could spark Drouin. He was playing an hour away from his hometown in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts. It seemed like the perfect opportunity.
However, Drouin failed to meet expectations again. He battled injuries, and his play worsened when he took a break in the 2019-20 season when he sought professional help for mental illness, which he’s been battling for most of his life. He returned the following season but unfortunately missed Montreal’s surprise Stanley Cup run.
While Drouin hasn’t had the best career, he’s produced when it matters the most. The playoffs are the most important time of the season to show what you’re made of. Throw out his rookie year (0 points in six games averaging 10:02 a night), and his numbers are extremely solid.
In his last 27 playoff games, Drouin’s scored six goals and 21 points, translating to an 82-game pace of 18 goals and 64 points. Drouin’s previous playoff appearance was in the 2019-20 season. For his career, he’s averaged 0.58 points per game in the regular season and 0.64 in the playoffs. After missing a Cup run, he’ll be motivated to win, and the Wild have a great locker room that can help with that.
Guerin can capitalize on getting Drouin at a rock-bottom price. He doesn’t need to overpay. Can fans get behind a Drouin trade centered around Ryan Hartman? Hartman has fallen back to earth and is also on the injured list, but he still has a valuable contract at $1.7 million. The Canadiens would love to have his team spirit and versatility.
Consider the dynamic of a Boldy, Rossi, and Drouin line. Rossi has more support to work with. Drouin is a puck distributor who can give the reins to Boldy to become more of a shooting threat. Rossi can learn to adapt to their chemistry by being effective on the transition. Their skills should open up the ice, allowing everyone to be more aggressive offensively and chip in points. Drouin should also help the team’s second power-play unit.
With the addition of Drouin, Minnesota has a chance to be similar to last year’s team. The question is will they have better success? Will Drouin deliver as a prime-time player, or will injuries continue to derail him? Guerin can either re-sign Drouin to a discounted deal that won’t be a hassle on the salary cap or let him walk.
Guerin will continue pursuing pending unrestricted free agents if he wants to make any upgrades, and Drouin fits the bill. Thanks to his loaded prospect pool, he clearly sees how he will form his roster within the next three years. Drouin would be a good placeholder to produce legit secondary scoring and make the Wild much more difficult to play against.