TAMPA — The Jonathan Drouin saga took another stunning twist Wednesday night and appears headed for an ugly ending.
Drouin, the Lightning's No. 3 overall draft pick in 2013, was suspended indefinitely without pay by the team after he failed to report for AHL Syracuse's game in Toronto.
Drouin, 20, has played seven games for the Crunch while he awaits a trade he requested in November. When the trade demand was made public Jan. 3, agent Allan Walsh called Drouin's situation with the Lightning "untenable." After this move, it may be irreparable.
The Lightning declined to comment beyond a statement announcing the suspension.
Walsh said in a statement that in light of the suspension, a trade is clearly in both sides' interest because there is "no reason" for Drouin to continue with the Lightning "in any capacity."
Walsh said the Lightning told him a few days ago that a trade "was moving closer to completion." Walsh and Drouin proposed that the wing not play in the next few AHL games but continue to practice to avoid any injury that might prevent a trade, the agent said.
"Unfortunately, the Tampa Bay Lightning refused this reasonable request," Walsh said. "However, Jonathan was not willing to accept this risk."
As many as a dozen teams reportedly have shown interest in acquiring Drouin, including the Blues, Ducks, Canadiens and Wild. It was uncertain how the latest development would affect Drouin's trade value.
"The key for me is what you are giving up?" said former NHL general manager Craig Button, an NHL Network analyst. "I would be inclined to give up a little less than more because of the actions of the player. I don't like when things don't go a player's way and he's going to lay on the floor and kick and scream. So, yes, it would impact my desire."
Before Wednesday's news, Ducks GM Bob Murray had told the Los Angeles Times: "Requesting trades on entry level (deals), that's something new for you and I. Entry-level players requesting trades. Amazing.""
Drouin has six goals and 34 assists in 89 career NHL games. He believes he isn't getting enough opportunity from the Lightning and coach Jon Cooper, which is why he wants a fresh start elsewhere. He has been limited to 19 games in Tampa Bay this season due to injuries, which led him to get sent to Syracuse on Jan. 2 to get more playing time and show he is healthy.
The Lightning has gone 7-1-0 since then, and it rides a six-game winning streak into tonight's showdown with the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks at Amalie Arena.
Drouin is under contract with the Lightning through 2016-17. He becomes a restricted free agent after that, so he's under team control for several years. Button said the Lightning can terminate Drouin's contract but likely won't because it doesn't want to lose a player for nothing. Plus, Tampa Bay doesn't want to set a precedent with which it sends the wrong message to other players.
Drouin's Lightning teammates have supported him publicly, calling the second-year player a real pro, a "great kid" and "great teammate." But Wednesday's developments won't help Drouin's reputation with some in the hockey world.
"It's one thing to dig a hole for yourself," Button said. "But when you start throwing the dirt back on yourself, you are taking steps toward burying yourself. Speaks to a significant level of immaturity."