Less than three hours after being traded to the Montreal Canadiens, Jonathan Drouin has signed a six-year contract with the club. The deal will pay him $33MM, averaging $5.5MM per season through 2022-23. Drouin will be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the deal. It contains a limited no-trade clause in the final two seasons, both bought out from what would have been his free agent years. Drouin had said earlier it was a dream come true for him to join his favorite childhood team, and now had this to say about the deal:
It’s quite an honor to be a member of the Canadiens. I’ve had a smile on my face for three hours straight!
Drouin was acquired for Mikhail Sergachev and a conditional second-round pick, and will now try to live up to his tremendous potential in his native Quebec. The forward is coming off a year in which he scored 53 points in 73 games and many believe he is capable of much more. He’ll be expected to be a huge part of the offense at $5.5MM, but it is reasonable enough to think that it won’t be a burden on Montreal down the line.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, who traded Drouin earlier today had expansion problems with their forwards and wanted a defenseman, but likely couldn’t go as high as $5.5MM in contract talks either. With Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat to sign this summer, they are cash-strapped in the short term as they try to stay under the cap but stay competitive.
Drouin’s deal makes him the second-highest paid forward on the Canadiens, amazingly ahead of captain Max Pacioretty. “Patches” is under one of the most team-friendly deals in the entire league, paying him only $4.5MM per season. The cap certainty that Montreal has gained with a long-term deal for Drouin will come in handy when trying to extend Carey Price, who is up for an extension on July 1st and will probably command the largest contract ever given to a goaltender.
The interesting things to watch in Montreal now are twofold. One, is Alex Galchenyuk destined for another team now that more depth on the left side has been acquired, and two, will it be possible to bring Alex Radulov back under the current salary structure. Those two things almost seem mutually exclusive, as Galchenyuk is also looking for a new contract as a restricted free agent and the Canadiens still need to address their defensive group and re-sign Nathan Beaulieu. If Radulov is looking for upwards of $6MM, he may prove too expensive unless another forward is moved out of town.