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Yzerman: Trading Jonathan Drouin still a priority

Tampa Bay Lightning Jonathan Drouin (27) controls the puck against Calgary Flames David Jones (19) during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (11/12/15).

DIRK SHADD | Times

Tampa Bay Lightning Jonathan Drouin (27) controls the puck against Calgary Flames David Jones (19) during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (11/12/15).

TAMPA — General manager Steve Yzerman doesn't usually hold news conferences like he did Thursday morning, unless there's something to announce.

But the Jonathan Drouin saga is anything but normal.

One day after suspending the wing indefinitely without pay for not showing up for Wednesday's game for AHL Syracuse, Yzerman reiterated that he was still "actively and aggressively" trying to trade the disgruntled No. 3 overall pick from 2013.

"It's obviously not the position we had envisioned," Yzerman said.

But Yzerman said that despite "significant interest" from other teams, he was not close to a deal for Drouin, 20, and declined to put a time line on when — and if — a trade might happen. And Yzerman said he won't feel pressured to make a trade, even with Drouin returning home to Montreal and declaring, through agent Allan Walsh, that he doesn't plan to continue with the organization in "any capacity."

Yzerman said he always leaves the door open for reconciliation but a deal is his priority.

"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.

"We have to run our hockey club and will run our hockey club."

Yzerman said he wasn't surprised Drouin was a no-show for Wednesday's Crunch game, saying Walsh gave him a heads-up. But Yzerman denied that he told Walsh a few days ago that a deal was close.

"We've never said that there was a pending deal," Yzerman said.

Walsh said in a statement Wednesday that he had been told that, and that led Drouin to make a "reasonable request" that he not play in games so he could avoid a deal-altering injury.

The Lightning refused.

"That's not acceptable to us," Yzerman said. "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 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 has said he won't trade Drouin unless he gets "equal value" for the touted young player, who has just six goals in 89 NHL games. At least a dozen teams have expressed interest, including the Blues, Ducks, and Canadiens. Yzerman acknowledged Drouin's latest actions won't help facilitate a deal.

"I'm not sure that I'll be able to get a player of better value," Yzerman said. "It depends on how you measure it. Instead of using that term 'equal value,' maybe the better phrase is getting a deal that makes sense or is good for the Tampa Bay Lightning."

Yzerman said he remains confident in how the Lightning and coach Jon Cooper develop players, saying they've done a "reasonable job" and will "stick with that plan." For examples, he pointed out center Tyler Johnson, wing Ondrej Palat, wing Nikita Kucherov and defenseman Andrej Sustr.

"I think if you ask every single player in that locker room, at some point they've been frustrated by their situation and they persevered through it," Yzerman said. "A lot of young players had to come up and spent time in the minors and been healthy scratches and have been there.

"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 (AHL) Norfolk and Syracuse, either."

Drouin didn't play for Cooper in the minors.

Cooper said everyone should take a little responsibility for how the Drouin situation has evolved, "including myself."

Asked whether taking Drouin at No. 3 in 2013 was a wasted pick, given the circumstances, Yzerman said it's too early to say.

"The draft is, as we all know, an imperfect process, or science," Yzerman said. "It hasn't worked as any of us, including Jonathan or Allan Walsh, had hoped. We can all have our opinions on why it hasn't worked, we can all point fingers at one another, and (it) 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."

Yzerman: Trading Jonathan Drouin still a priority 01/21/16 [Last modified: Friday, January 22, 2016 12:00am]
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