The Jonathan Drouin saga took another stunning twist Wednesday night, and got a whole lot uglier.
Drouin, 20, who made a trade request in November, has been suspended by the Lightning indefinitely without pay for not showing up to play for AHL Syracuse in Toronto. The Lightning said in a statement it has no further comment on the issue. Drouin has played seven games for Syracuse while awaiting a potential deal.
Drouin, the No. 3 overall pick in 2013, had already made the bold move of disclosing his trade request publicly Jan. 3, through Drouin's agent Allan Walsh, who called the situation in Tampa Bay "untenable." There's been significant interest from many teams in Drouin, with trade speculation running rampant the past few weeks.
Here's a full statement from Walsh, released this evening.
"When the Tampa Bay Lightning assigned Jonathan Drouin to Syracuse it was explained the purpose of the assignment was twofold; (1) conditioning due to missed games from injury and (2) provide proof that he had completely recovered from his injury. Jonathan has now played seven games with Syracuse in the past (14) days.
A few days ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning advised that a trade involving Jonathan was moving closer to completion. We proposed to Tampa that Jonathan not play in the next few AHL games but continue practicing with the club to avoid any potential injury from preventing an imminent trade. Unfortunately, the Tampa Bay Lightning refused this reasonable request, however, Jonathan was not willing to accept this risk. We have been advised that the Tampa Bay Lightning has suspended Jonathan.
In light of the latest developments it is clearly in both sides best interests that the Tampa Bay Lightning trade Jonathan as there is no reason for Jonathan to continue with the Tampa Bay Lightning organization in any capacity. We will have no further comment as we await the Tampa Bay Lightning to conclude a trade that involves Jonathan."
It's uncertain how this latest move will impact the situation. It certainly can't help his relationship with the Lightning, and it likely won't help his reputation with other teams who have been interested.
"The key for me is what you are giving up?" said former GM 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 players' way and he's going to lay on the floor and kick and scream. So, yes, it would impact my desire."
Drouin is still under contract with the Lightning through the 2016-17 season, then becomes a restricted free agent after that, so he's under team control for several years. It's unclear what the next move will be in this already unpredictable situation.
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Button has said what "made (GM) Steve Yzerman a great player was he was stubborn. It might be a case of of wills." Button said the Lightning can terminate Drouin's contract, but likely won't because they don't want to lose a player for nothing. Plus, Tampa Bay doesn't want to set a precedent where the wrong message is sent to other players.
Drouin has seemed like a good kid, teammates have called him a real pro, but this won't put him in a favorable light.
"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 towards burying yourself. Speaks to a significant level of immaturity."