The absence of Jonathan Drouin from the Montreal Canadiens' first two games of the season raised some eyebrows. He returned to the lineup on Saturday and assisted on Cole Caufield's game-tying goal in their 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday. Nevertheless, speculation persists over the 27-year-old winger's future in Montreal.
Drouin is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July. He carries a $5.5-million cap hit for this season along with a three-team no-trade clause.
Citing Drouin's on-ice struggles and injuries, the Montreal Gazette's Stu Cowan recently speculated Canadiens GM Kent Hughes could attempt to move him if he can before the March 3 trade deadline.
Cowan's colleague Pat Hickey shared that view on Oct. 14, suggesting Drouin has no future with a Canadiens club that's putting its emphasis on rebuilding with younger players. However, he felt flipping the winger for futures will be difficult if he doesn't get a chance to show other clubs what he can do.
Drouin has put up good numbers in the past for the Canadiens when he's been healthy. Being in his contract year should also provide the veteran winger with additional motivation. If he can avoid the injury bug this season, he could become valuable to teams looking to bolster their offense for a playoff run.