CALGARY — Two days after his trade request was made public and became the talk of the hockey world, Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin reported to AHL Syracuse on Tuesday trying not to fan any more flames.
Drouin, 20, declined to comment on his request, nor his relationship with the Lightning or coach Jon Cooper, which was telling in itself.
The most pressing question now is, has Drouin played his final game in a Lightning uniform?
"Hard to say," Drouin said. "It will be up to me to prove that I can go back up there."
There has been no shortage of interest around the league in Drouin, the No. 3 overall pick in 2013. Canucks general manager Jim Benning told TSN Vancouver the asking price from the Lightning is "really high," saying he didn't have the needed prospect depth.
Bobby Smith, the owner of Drouin's junior team in Halifax, said it'd be a "terrible mistake" if the Lightning doesn't salvage its relationship with Drouin.
"I think he is a future All-Star," said Smith, a former No. 1 overall pick, Stanley Cup champion and Coyotes general manager. "He's a guy who is going to play on Canada's Olympic team. That's a pretty elite group. I know how competitive and what kind of teammate he is. He's going to have an NHL career. And I'm surprised this situation has gotten to where it's gotten."
"I know the teams that have traded away this type of player whether his name is Joe Thornton or Tyler Seguin, normally live to regret it. I think Steve Yzerman, having been, not an elite player, a super elite player, is going to get this back on the rails and Jonathan is going to have a long and very good career in Tampa."
NBCSN's Pierre McGuire offered another cautionary tale: Markus Naslund. McGuire was a special assignment scout for the Penguins when they drafted Naslund 16th overall in 1991. Naslund was a gifted left wing with special puckhandling skills, but on a very deep Penguins forward group. Sound familiar? McGuire said a new management group didn't like Naslund as a player, and after three seasons, he was dealt to Vancouver for forward Alek Stojanov.
"The rest is history," McGuire said. "Just a one-sided deal, it was scary."
Naslund became Canucks captain, a three-time All-Star, setting franchise records in goals and points, finishing with 346 goals. Stojanov? Drafted eight spots ahead of Naslund in 1991, Stojanov was mostly a minor-leaguer, retiring by age 29 after scoring two goals in 107 career NHL games.
"Those guys take a little bit longer sometimes to come around, and I think Jonathan will be able to do that," McGuire said. "You don't want to make a panic move on a player that has shown so much potential and he still has so much potential."
Drouin said he's excited to play for the Crunch; his first game with Syracuse would be Friday in Albany.
Smith said the Lightning won't get fair value for Drouin, the "smartest hockey player I've ever had."
Said Smith: "I would take him on my NHL team any day of the week."
Contact Joe Smith at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.