Drouin returning to AHL Syracuse
The Jonathan Drouin saga took another surprising twist Monday.
Drouin, 20, will report to AHL Syracuse for the rest of the season, starting with Tuesday's practice, and could play as early as Friday for the Crunch. The Lightning lifted the suspension it handed down Jan 20 when he didn't show up for a Crunch game against Toronto.
GM Steve Yzerman hadn't talked with Drouin since reassigning him to Syracuse Jan. 3, but the touted wing called him last week after the trade deadline and "expresed an interest in returning to play."
"I guess I always felt it was a possibility," Yzerman said. "It was, if anything, a pleasant surprise."
Drouin, the No 3 overall pick in 2013, had requested a trade in November, which became public in January. GM Steve Yzerman said he had left the door open for Drouin to return to Syracuse and said it was up to him.
But could Drouin earn a callup to the Lightning down the stretch in its playoff push?
"Yes," Yzerman said. "I will do what's best for the team and if Jonathan is playing well and is the right fit, I certainly wouldn't exclude that possibility."
Drouin has been working out at home outside of Montreal, practicing with his old midgets team, and Yzerman doesn't expect it to take long to be ready.
"Speaking with him, he's indicated he's been skating and working hard," Yzerman said. "He's a pretty fit young man. Nothing prepares you for playing games like playing in games."
Drouin could still - theoretically - get traded during this season, but wouldn't be eligible to play in the NHL playoffs. Yzerman said during this part of the season is "not an opportune time to be trading anybody."
And while it's assumed Drouin will get traded this offseason, is there a possibility his relationship with the Lightning can be salvageable long-term.
"I'm not going to rule anything out," Yzerman said.
Veteran center Brian Boyle said some teammates were aware Drouin could be returning, calling it a "smart move."
"I think it's the right thing to do," goalie Ben Bishop said. "It's kind of a shame that he stopped doing it in the first place, I don't know if it's poor advice or what. But he's a good kid, he's a good kid, he's going to have a bright future. It's good news, I'm glad to hear he's coming back and playing. You know he doesn't want to be sitting at home. He's going to do well."
Would Drouin be welcomed back in the Lightning room?
"Absolutely," Bishop said. "Everybody here realizes there's a business side of things. And he's a young kid. I don't know whose decision it was to stop playing. But sometimes when you're that young and have people telling you things to do, it's not always the right thing to do. You're not going to hold that against an 18 year old kid or 19 year old kid. But if he goes down puts in his work and if things work out and he's back here, he'll be welcomed with open arms."