Bolts GM Yzerman: Drouin's decision won't help us trade him
Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman expressed disappointment in the Jonathan Drouin saga today, saying he didn't envision it coming to this with the No. 3 overall pick in 2013.
Yzerman suspended Drouin indefinitely without pay Wednesday for failing to report to a game with AHL Syracuse in Toronto. Yzerman said he's still "aggressively and actively" trying to trade Drouin, who requested a trade in November, but isn't close to a deal and won't feel more pressure to make one. Yzerman said this obviously can't help, with Drouin saying through agent Allan Walsh he doesn't plan to continue with the Lightning in "any capacity."
"I've told Jonathan and his agent we will trade him if and when we can make a deal that is good for the Tampa Bay Lightning," Yzerman said. "In that sense, nothing has changed."
Yzerman denied that he told Walsh a few days ago a deal was close. "We've never said that there was a pending deal, or a deal close," Yzerman said That's what led Walsh to proposing Drouin not playing in games, just practicing, so he doesn't get hurt and impact a potential deal.
The Lightning refused, resulting in a suspension.
"Number one, you sign a contract to play games," Yzerman said. "If a trade is immiment or we feel we're getting closer to a trade, I think it's very reasonable for us to say, 'We'ree close on something,' we'll pull a player out of the lineup, that happens pretty regularly. But we're not at that point yet. We didn't feel it was right not to play. (Then) every other player that wants to be traded is saying, 'I'm not going to play, I'll just practice and let me know when it happens. That's not acceptable to us. You go and you play. And teams are scouting, teams are watching. Every game, there's scouts out there, every single game assessing players. So if a player that wants to be traded, the best thing you can do is go out and play and play well if you want to help your cause."
Yzerman said he wasn't ready to say the relationship with Drouin is not salvageable, saying he always leaves the door open, but has no idea how this will end up. Yzerman said Drouin making trade request public in early January "changed everything." When asked whether Drouin or his agent were driving this, Yzerman said he's always been told by Walsh that he's representing Drouin and doing what Drouin wants.
Can this episode stick with Drouin's reputation forever?
"Potentially," Yzerman said. "We all have choices and decisionsn to make, whether I agree with what they're doing or not. Jonathan is a 20-year-old professional hockey player, he's got to make his own decisions. And I'm not going to sit here and judge him on his decisions. I don't agree with the position, but that's for him to make and where this goes and how this plays out eventually, I don't know. If he becomes a very good hockey player, all will be forgotten I assume."
Yzerman reiterated his confidence in how the organization develops players, pointing to Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, among others, making a point to say not all of them played for coach Jon Cooper in Norfolk.
"I think if you ask every single player in that lockeroom, at somes point they've been frustrated by their situation and they persevered through it. So yes, every player in the league for that matter, there are very few, a handful of players in the league who at some point haven't gone through something and had to persevere and be frustrated and want more ice time and want that and they stick with it and they play.
"I feel that as an organization in the five and a half years I've been here, Coop is in his third year, from Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal to Nikita Nesterov to Andrej Sustr to Ondrej Palat to Tyler Johnson to Cedric Paquette, Vladdy Namestnikov, a lot of young players had to come up and spent time in the minors and been healthy scratches and have been there. They've come through Norfolk, Syracuse, through Tampa. I think we're doing a reasonable job of developing young players into good players. There's a group of them on our team now, and not all of them played for Jon Cooper in Norfolk and Syracuse either. There is not an exact progression for every single player, it's different. I know Jonathan wanted to play more, he said he's not happy with how he's used and I understand that. But Jon Cooper is doing a good job and I like to think we're doing a pretty good job of bringing these young kids along, wer'e going to stick with that plan."
Coach Jon Cooper discussed the Drouin issue briefly, saying everyone should accept responsibility, "including myself."
Asked whether the Drouin pick in 2013 was a waste, Yzerman said it is too early to say.
"Let's see how this plays out," Yzerman said. "If there is a trade, what do we get in return for that trade. We'll see, time will tell."
Was it a bad read on the kid?
"The draft is, as we all know, an imperfect process, or science, we are here today, it hasn't worked as any of us, including Jonathan or Allan Walsh had hoped. We all picked Jonathan third overall, he was excited to be picked by Tampa. To date, it hasn't worked. We can all have our opinions on why it hasn't worked, we can all point fingers at one another and doesn't matter at this time. We have our opinions and feelings on the situation, we think it's best we keep it to ourselves and learn from the situation, what can we do differently, what can we possibly do better and go on. We are here today and we'll deal with it...
"We have to run our hockey club and will run our hockey club."
Lightning players were surprised of the latest developments, but veteran center Brian Boyle was among those still supporting Drouin, saying he's as great kid, great teammate. Boyle said Drouin was the first player to give him and his wife a gift when their baby, Declan, was born over the summer. "We love him in here," Boyle said. Defenseman Victor Hedman said they'd "welcome him back."
Time will tell if Drouin ever gets that chance.