How Yzerman perfectly handled the Drouin situation

Scott Audette / National Hockey League / Getty

Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman was dealt an incredibly tough hand when Jonathan Drouin, the club's third overall pick from 2013, demanded a trade.

Yzerman handled it as best as he could, and, in the end, it paid huge dividends for the Lightning. To refresh, here's a brief timeline of the events leading up to Thursday's blockbuster trade:

  • 2013-14 season: Drouin plays one more season of junior after being drafted.
  • 2014-15 season: Drouin plays 70 games with the Lightning, recording four goals and 32 points.
  • January 2, 2016: Drouin is sent down to the AHL after playing 19 games with the Lightning.
  • January 3, 2016: Allan Walsh, Drouin's agent, reveals his client made a trade request back in November.
  • January 20, 2016: Lightning suspend Drouin for failing to report to AHL game.
  • March 8, 2016: Drouin reports to the AHL's Syracuse Crunch for the first time since being suspended.
  • April 4, 2016: Drouin is called back up to the big club, and promptly scores two goals in the season's final two games.
  • 2016 playoffs: Drouin plays the best hockey of his NHL career, notching 14 points in 17 games.
  • 2016-17 season: Drouin has a drama-free breakout year, tallying 21 goals and 53 points in 73 games.

Had Yzerman traded Drouin upon his initial request, it would have resulted in two things:

1) He would have been labeled a weak GM who can be pushed around by players.
2) He would have received diddly squat in return.

Trading Drouin, a proven top-six forward, in exchange for Mikhail Sergachev, an 18-year-old with just four NHL games under his belt, is certainly a risky move. However, Sergachev was a top-10 pick, has great size, strong skating ability, offensive upside, and the potential to be a legitimate No. 1 NHL defenseman.

You can bet Yzerman and his scouts have done their due diligence. Given the Lightning's history of player evaluation and development since he became GM, there's a good chance Sergachev is the real deal.

Drouin, on the other hand, has proven to be a drama queen and a headcase during his brief NHL career. He still has some growing up to do. Even though it seemed like he and the organization had moved past the whole trade request incident on the outside, internally, they clearly hadn't. He didn't want to be a member of the Lightning.

We won't know who wins this trade until 5-10 years from now, but by holding his ground and waiting for Drouin's trade stock to climb back up, Yzerman was able to flip him for a valuable asset. It's a template GMs in any sport can learn from when dealt a difficult hand.