Nashville Predators

Column: Predators Should Be Wary of Jonathan Drouin Trade

(Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)

Twenty-year-old Jonathan Drouin has been in trade talks since his agent Allan Walsh released a statement on January 3 that indicated that Drouin requested a trade in November. With the trade day that sent Ryan Johansen to Nashville in exchange for Seth Jones on January 6, the feeling of a possible Drouin deal seems more and more realistic.

Elliotte Friedman spoke with SportsNet 960 Monday morning and added a few more sparks to the flame including a note that Nashville has for sure looked at Drouin as a possible fit, saying:

“Steve Yzerman was on our show on Saturday night. He said, ‘Yes, I’m trying to deal him,’ but he’s told Jonathan Drouin that it’s got to make sense for the team. I think St. Louis is really into that one. I think some other teams have looked. Montreal for sure. Chicago for sure. The Rangers for sure. Nashville for sure. I wouldn’t be surprised, now that they’ve traded Johansen, if Columbus is in on this one too.”

The Predators rank 22nd in the league in even-strength scoring with 65 goals. Putting the puck into the back of the net, particularly when the bottom-six forwards are on the ice, has been a real struggle. Adding a guy like Drouin could add another piece to the puzzle, but is it a move the Predators should make?

Drouin scored four goals and added 28 helpers in 70 games played in what was his rookie season a year ago. During Tampa Bay’s run to the Stanley Cup Final he played in just six games, recording zero points. This season, the 5’11” left-wing has scored two goals and added six assists in 19 games played.

Interestingly enough, the news of Drouin requesting a trade out of Tampa came one day after he was assigned to the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. In his three games with the Crunch he has scored two goals.

If acquired, Drouin would likely see himself slotted in on the third-line to begin his stint in Nashville, meaning that a current third-liner would be on the outside looking in. Consistent third-liners this season for the Predators include Viktor Arvidsson, Calle Jarnkrok, Cody Hodgson and Gabriel Bourque.

Management appears to be high on Jarnkrok since acquiring him at the 2014 trade deadline for David Legwand. The 24-year-old can play both wing and center and has shown signs of being a legitimate second- or third-line player in his time in Nashville. This season he has 13 points in 41 games.

Hodgson, who too can play both wing and center, has been Nashville’s top possession player with a Corsi For percentage of 57.8 percent. While he’s been possessing the puck tremendously, he has just eight points in 35 games this year and has not been the player the Predators have hoped for since signing him to a one-year deal following the Buffalo Sabres buying out his contract this past summer.

The 5’9” Arvidsson strictly plays on the wing and got off to a good start this season with Nashville but has cooled off dramatically since late December with just one point in his last 12 games. The Nashville coaching staff and team management seem to be very high on the 2014 fourth-round draft pick, but he hasn’t brought a consistent scoring punch to the bottom-six that the team is hungry for.

This is the area that Drouin could certainly bring a new identity to, but at what cost?

The Lightning are not going to just ship off a 20-year-old forward with massive amounts of potential for a mid-level prospect and second-round draft pick. General manager Steve Yzerman must know that Drouin has all the skills in the world and could develop into a legitimate top-six forward. Drouin’s potential is of the elite status therefore he warrants much more than the aforementioned bounty.

The Predators can not afford to send any other defenseman away after dealing Jones to the Blue Jackets, therefore the focus turns to the forward group. The one name that comes to mind is one of Nashville’s top-end prospects, Kevin Fiala. Fiala was expected to make the Predators roster out of training camp this season but he has been in AHL Milwaukee all year where he has scored six goals and added 15 helpers in 34 games. One could look at him and compare him to a 19-year-old version of Drouin minus the valuable NHL experience.

If the Predators could swing a deal surrounding Fiala and throw in perhaps a second-round pick, sure, it is worth a discussion, but giving up a valuable asset such as a first-round pick or a current roster player is too risky. And, who is to say Fiala is not a valuable asset to the Predators’ future?

The trade deadline is fast approaching, and February 29 could be the day that Tampa decides to take a chance on dealing Drouin. Whether being dealt to Nashville or any other team, the Lightning could lose one of the best prospects in the NHL.

If Nashville decides to take the risk they would be swinging for the fences. But they could also strike out.

Stats via War On Ice.

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