Colorado Avalanche: Still in on Jonathan Drouin?

Dec 30, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) skates with the puck as New York Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle (93) during the second period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 30, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) skates with the puck as New York Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle (93) during the second period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Jonathan Drouin is either the hottest trade bait or a player whose stock is dropping fast. Are the Colorado Avalanche still interested in the young forward?

The Colorado Avalanche made their fame based on a player’s refusing to play for his draft team. In 1991, the Quebec Nordiques drafted Eric Lindros first overall. Lindros refused to play for the team, and the resultant trade went heavily in the franchise’s favor. Besides the immediate return of getting Peter Forsberg, the prospects and draft picks still resound in the NHL today. Indeed, in some convoluted way, defenseman Brandon Gormley is the last vestige of the trade for Colorado.

The situation with Jonathan Drouin is different. He didn’t refuse out of the gate to play for his draft team, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Instead, after feeling like his development was being mismanaged, he requested a trade.

Bringing Drouin to the Colorado Avalanche is seductive because of the Nathan MacKinnon connection — he and Jonathan Drouin tore up major juniors as an unstoppable one-two punch. However, there are other reasons that the Colorado Avalanche would want Drouin — and might still be in the running for him.

Jonathan Drouin’s Stock

Left wing Jonathan Drouin has burned his bridges with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He requested a trade privately at the beginning of the season. When it didn’t happen, and when he got assigned to the AHL, his agent, Allan Walsh, released a public statement requesting the trade.

That was a slap in the face enough. However, Yzerman kept stating the trade was close to being done, yet it never came about. Finally, Walsh recommended Drouin not play for his AHL team in case an injury inhibit his trade. Drouin refused to report for a game, and the Lightning promptly suspended him.

You don’t return to a franchise after that.

On the flip side, we’ve seen how injuries in the AHL can impede a player’s transition into the NHL. Look at how that horrible concussion impeded Joey Hishon’s development. Defenseman prospect Duncan Siemans has also suffered injuries at inopportune times. Even Mikko Rantanen didn’t get a call-up because he’d injured his hand.

The Problem of Jonathan Drouin

A lot of teams have backed off a potential Jonathan Drouin trade because of his behavior. Indeed, the Anaheim Ducks GM, Bob Murray, has even gone on record as “raising an eyebrow” in response to Drouin’s holdout. (I wonder if he just had to say his eyebrow was raised, or if he actually had to raise it in front of others.)

Nonetheless, this holdout is perceived as a red flag, as a sign that the player is a prima donna. If he’s held out once, why wouldn’t he hold out again next time he wants something?

Now, the Colorado Avalanche are no strangers to hold outs. Besides Lindros, Colorado more recently had to deal with the Ryan O’Reilly saga. In the end, it all came down to O’Reilly wanting more money than anyone else on the team, and he was willing to play hard ball to get it.

Drouin is a different situation. A player like O’Reilly has the right to try to make as much money as possible in his limited work span. However, doesn’t Drouin have a similarly limited work span? And for him it’s not about the money — he just wants a better path to development.

Contractual demands are the business side of hockey that most people don’t want to talk about. However, I think Drouin is a little purer in his demands — he just wants to be the best player possible. That should make him valuable to whatever team lands him — and why the Colorado Avalanche should still be in the running.

Gunning for Jonathan Drouin

According to The Sports Network, the Tampa Bay Lightning want a defenseman to be part of the deal. For most Avs fans, that takes the Colorado Avalanche right off the table. However, I challenge the perception that the team is more shallow in defense than in offense.

More from Mile High Sticking

As of right now, Colorado has a clear top-two in Erik Johnson and Francois Beauchemin. There’s a clear second pairing in Tyson Barrie and Nick Holden. That top four has shown more than adequate.

From there, it’s been a pretty good rotation of players that has included Brandon Gormley, Nate Guenin, Brad Stuart, Chris Bigras, Andrew Bodnarchuk and Nikita Zadorov. Bigras and Zadorov are seen as the future of the Avalanche D-corps.

Back in San Antonio, the Avalanche have prospects in Mason Geertsen and, of course, Duncan Siemens. At the very least those two could be future bottom pairing players.

Now, you may be thinking that that isn’t deep enough for comfort. The Avalanche shouldn’t consider trading a defenseman for a forward. Look, though, at the forward depth. Colorado only has five top-six forwards — Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay. You might make a case for Carl Soderberg, but it couldn’t be a strong one.

The Colorado Avalanche has a lot of third liners — so many that some get promoted to the top-six, and some end up on the fourth line. To replenish this group, Colorado has the fragile Joey Hishon and Mikko Rantanen.

In other words, Colorado could really use a potential top-six winger.

Concerning the red flag that is Jonathan Drouin, having Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman as your GM should be daunting. We can match that with Joe Sakic. We can also match that with a very fiery head coach and Hall of Famer — Patrick Roy. How do you backtalk a man with his accolades? Especially when he’s renowned as the player’s coach?

And then there’s the Nathan MacKinnon connection. MacKinnon is in his third full season with Colorado, and he’s learned a whole lot of ropes. It’s highly likely Drouin will listen to his longtime buddy — especially since said buddy did go higher than him in the same draft.

Next: Roy's Avalanche Structure

Looking at it all that way, it’s possible Colorado is the best option for Jonathan Drouin.