Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Expansion Draft Helps Habs Land Skillful Jonathan Drouin from Tampa

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Expansion Draft Helps Habs Land Skillful Jonathan Drouin from Tampa

Article excerpt

Habs land Drouin as expansion draft looms

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MONTREAL - General manager Marc Bergevin couldn't pass up a chance to bring one of the most talented French-Canadian players in the league to the Montreal Canadiens.

But it cost him perhaps his best prospect -- big, mobile Windsor Spitfires defenceman Mikhail Sergachev -- and a conditional 2018 draft pick for Drouin and a conditional pick.

"It's a tough decision for sure," Bergevin said Thursday. "We drafted (Sergachev) last year ninth overall, but to get a young player of Jonathan's calibre, it's something as an organization we could not pass by.

"The chance to put your hands on a player like that, at that age, and a guy from here, I can't pass that up. We gave up a lot but I'm convinced we got back a big piece."

The deal had been in the works for some time. No sooner had Drouin arrived at a Bell Centre news conference and donned a Canadiens jersey (No. 72, probably not the number he will wear) than it was announced the potential restricted free agent had agreed to a six-year contract extension, reportedly worth a reasonable US$5.5 million per season.

Drouin has the potential to be the first French-Canadian offensive star in his prime the Canadiens have had since Vincent Damphousse in the 1990s.

"When I heard the news, to me, as a young Quebecer, it was huge," said Drouin, 22, who was on his way to play golf when his agent called with the news. "I had a big smile.

"It's surreal. I'm a home town boy. You don't really think that day's going to happen then you realize you'll be playing for the Canadiens. I'm still kind of in shock that it happened."

Now the Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., native will have to deal with the pressure that comes with playing in hockey-mad Montreal.

"Obviously there's that pressure of playing in Montreal, everybody knows that, but as a player, I'd rather have that pressure on myself," he said. "I'll thrive on that pressure.

"I like that stuff. I've played at the Bell Centre many times as an away guy. Being on the home side will be even better."

The Canadiens were in the market for a first line centre but it's not certain that Drouin fits that bill. He has played all three forward positions in Tampa. Bergevin said it will be up to coach Claude Julien to decide.

The Canadiens were short on skilled forwards for their top two lines, especially with Alexander Radulov set to become an unrestricted free agent. …

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