The Tampa Bay Lightning traded Jonathan Drouin to the Montreal Canadiens for defensive prospect Mikhail Sergachev. Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman held a press conference on June 15, 2017 to discuss the trade. The following is a transcript of the audio from that press conference.
Stephen Whyno, Associated Press: Hey Steve. How much of this trade had anything to do with the impending [Vegas Golden Knights] expansion draft and contracts coming up? And how much of it was wanting to get a young defenseman [that is] hard to get, like Mikhail Sergachev?
Steve Yzerman: The number one reason was to acquire a defenseman. We like obviously the age. Mikhail coming in, he’s obviously still a young player, still eligible to play junior hockey. He has a very bright future. He’s starting his entry-level contract. The expansion draft does have some effect. It helps us in acquiring a player that we don’t have to protect versus someone we have to protect, forcing us to expose someone else. It touches on all of the elements that you mentioned, but ultimately our biggest need and our biggest goal was to acquire a puck-moving, young defenseman and we were able to do that.
Whyno: Thank you.
Joe Smith, Tampa Bay Times: Hey Steve, thanks for doing this. Obviously Drouin is such a talented player, and you know more than anybody. Was there ever a situation where you considered finding a way to make a deal with him in the summertime? Did you ever think that it was possible to get a deal done with him and him be part of the future?
Yzerman: A contract, you mean, with Jonathan?
Yzerman: We really hadn’t talked contract at this point. We had a brief meeting with [Drouin’s agent] Allen Walsh In Buffalo, really just talking. Ultimately we felt like we could keep all of our forwards. And if we did that, we might have to [inaudible - sounds like “trade one”] eventually to try and improve our defense or add a defenseman.
I’ve been exploring trying to find defensemen and ultimately this was a deal that we felt made sense for us and it was a fit with the Montreal Canadiens and we were able to reach an agreement.
Corey Long, NHL: Steve, how does this move change - or does it change any of the strategies you were planning with the expansion draft coming up and who you were going to protect and who you’re going to leave exposed?
Yzerman: Well we don’t, at this time - if we don’t do anything else between now and Saturday afternoon. In trading Jonathan, he would have required protection. It changes things I guess a little bit, or makes it a little clearer as to what we’re going to do. It doesn’t really change anything with what we plan to do with our defense and our goaltending.
Erik Erlendsson, Lightning Insider: Hi Steve, a couple of quick ones for you. First, can you clarify the conditions on the draft pick? Some said it was if he [Sergachev] plays 40 games this year, or if he doesn’t play 40 games this year. Secondly, how much now, in contract situations, does this kind of make the salary cap space you have sort of go a little bit further now?
Yzerman: Well first of all, the conditions are if Mikhail does not play 40 NHL games this year, which would include playoff games - if he does not accumulate 40 games, we would get a second round pick in 2018, which Montreal previously acquired from Washington. In effect, it’s Washington’s second round pick in 2018. Mikhail [Sergachev] again has to play 40 NHL games including playoffs next year.
Or if he does not play 40, we would get a second round pick which is Washington’s in 2018 and in return we would give our sixth round pick in 2018. If Mikhail plays 40 games, there are no picks exchanged.
Erlendsson: And how much more salary cap space, in terms of how much more maneuvering room do you have now without having a contract for Jonathan?
Yzerman: Well, a little bit difficult to say because we don’t know ultimately what that [salary cap] number was going to be on Jonathan, depending on the length of the term, had we signed him and kept him. We know what Mikhail’s cap number is going to be if he’s on our team at the start of the season and we’ll budget for that.
It frees up cap space to do other things. One, to sign our other free agents and potentially do anything else we have with our team. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Mikhail’s cap number was going to come in - had we done say a two-year bridge [with Drouin] or anything less than than what we figured Jonathan’s would be, two years or more.
Erlendsson: Okay, thank you.
Richard Lane[?], L.A. Press: Hi Steve. I was just wondering, there were a lot of talks about Montreal obviously and you guys, I was wondering if Sergachev was the one guy you were targeting the whole way or did you also maybe have talks regarding other Montreal players?
Yzerman: We’ve been looking for a defenseman. Our priority was acquiring a defenseman.
Tom Jones, Tampa Bay Times: Hey Steve. Jonathan had a bit of a tumultuous career in Tampa Bay. Does his history here have anything to do with trading him? And what do you see Jonathan’s future in this league?
Yzerman: Ultimately we made the trade because we were looking to acquire a defenseman. We wanted the type of game that Sergachev plays - offensive defenseman, big, strong, good skater, moves the puck well. We’re looking for that type of player and we were able to find a fit. That’s why the trade was made.
The Montreal Canadiens were looking for a forward. That was the one they targeted from us and we were willing to part with him. So really that’s the only reason that this trade was made.
We were looking for a defenseman and we had to give up a forward to do that. Ultimately Jonathan’s an extremely talented young man. I expect he’s going to have a long and successful career and we wish him good luck.
Jones: Thanks, I appreciate it.
Jonathan Bernier, Le Journal de Montréal: Hello Mr. Yzerman. I was just wondering, isn’t it dangerous to make such a trade in the same division?
Yzerman: There’s risk involved in every trade.
Bernier: So you’re not afraid to see Jonathan come back and maybe beat the Lightning or something like that?
Yzerman: [long pause, sigh] Ultimately I’m going to do what’s best for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Bernier: Thank you.
Mathieu Bédard, TVA Sports: Hi Steve. Just want maybe quick information. I think there was maybe some issue on the phone. I think I was hearing up and down the volume. Just a quick one for you. I was wondering since when you and [Canadiens General Manager] Marc Bergevin start talking about making this deal with Jonathan Drouin?
Yzerman: I think we talked last week, just briefly. We all kind of kick around - or get on the phone and start talking to different teams about what they’re trying to do and see if there’s any fits for trades. Marc and I spoke - maybe it was a week ago, give or take a few days. I let him know that I was looking for a defenseman, the type of player. Then we just kind of started kicking around some names and ultimately we ended up being able to complete the deal today.
Bédard: Was he only interested in Drouin or maybe other players were maybe on his mind too?
Yzerman: Well you can ask Marc that. We talked specifically about a trade between Jonathan and Mikhail Sergachev.
Bédard: Thank you Steve.
Long: Hey Steve. This is a two-parter. First of all, what do you think the chances of Sergachev contributing to the NHL squad this upcoming season? And did you make this move with the belief that you might potentially be losing a defenseman in the upcoming expansion draft?
Yzerman: Potentially we could lose a defenseman. There’s a lot of things we liked, that suited us, in making a deal for Mikhail Sergachev. One, he did not have to be protected [in the expansion draft].
Ultimately, the biggest reason was we were getting a young defenseman that’s going to have an impact in the NHL for a long time. Whether that’s this year or two years from now, time will tell. We think he’s going to be a good player in the league for a long time.
As far as the expansion draft, it also is helpful to us that we do not have to protect him. Had we acquired a defenseman that needed to be protected, it would require us exposing or reacting in some way to protect the players we wanted to. That did have some more appeal to us in making this trade.
Long: Thank you.
Smith: Steve, what do you like the best about what Mikhail brings? I know you mentioned that he could play in this league for a long time, a young defenseman. What made his traits the best fit?
Yzerman: Well, we watched him play in juniors. We watched him in his draft year. We watched him play this year at the Memorial Cup. He’s got good size, he’s very strong, he’s physical, he skates very well, he’s got an excellent shot, he moves the puck well. We’re hoping that he can continue to be that type of player as he turns pro and do that in the NHL.
We think he has a chance to play in all situations in this league. It’s very difficult to find players of that caliber and in this instance, a prospect of that caliber, is difficult to acquire.
Smith: Speaking of that, you mentioned trying to get better on the blue line as well - acquiring a defenseman as one of your top priorities. Do you still want to acquire another defenseman or does this fulfill that need? Even if you don’t know he’ll play a full season with you guys next year? Is that another part of your potential [players] that you’ll be looking for this summer?
Yzerman: Well, we’ll certainly look at anything Joe. Any type of move that we feel is going to improve our team, whether it be a forward or a defenseman. We’ll continue to do that. I’m not specifically - we acquired Mikhail Sergachev. It doesn’t take me out of trying to acquire another defenseman.
Our hope - we’re going to give Mikhail an opportunity to make our team, we’re hopeful that he can, but if not, he still has another year of eligibility in junior. We’ll worry about that in the fall. Again, if there’s another defenseman out there and there’s a fit and it makes us better, we would look at it for sure.
I’m not sure - we’ll see what happens with the expansion draft. I don’t know what’s going to happen with that. I don’t know who I’m going to lose. That could change our thinking after we find out what we’ve lost in the draft.
Erlendsson: Steve, you mentioned the expansion draft. From a managerial standpoint, what kind of challenges has this presented? Something that you haven’t dealt with before in terms of managing things and everything like that. Getting ready for it and everything else, knowing that you’re going to lose a player.
Yzerman: Well, it’s made it - the league has been pretty quiet for - the season just ended a few days ago. It’s generally quiet. Teams, there’s a lot of talking. Everyone is concerned about making a potential trade or making a trade.
You move a player from one position thinking you’ve got too many guys and you lose another player from that position [in the expansion draft]. Now you’re out searching for a player after [the expansion draft].
It’s kind of made everyone proceed very cautiously. For myself, ultimately you measure now - again, it’s part of the reason we like this trade. We were able to acquire a player that we do not have to protect. It gives us a little more clarity there. This expansion draft has complicated things a little bit, but I think everyone is gradually working through it.
Ultimately, we all know we’re going to lose one player and accept that. To the extent we can then make agreements or come to a deal with Las Vegas [Golden Knights], you measure what it’s going to cost you versus the risk of losing for that certainty, versus the risk of the unknown, what you’re going to lose, the general unknown. At some points, it makes sense. At some points, it doesn’t make sense.
Erlendsson: Thank you.