Jonathan Drouin suspended without pay by Lightning for not reporting to AHL game
Prospect's agent confirmed trade request earlier this month
Jonathan Drouin is back making headlines, but the Tampa Bay Lightning haven't traded him or recalled him from the minors.
Instead, the NHL team has suspended the 20-year-old Syracuse Crunch winger without pay for failing to report for Wednesday night's American Hockey League game against the Marlies in Toronto, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said through a team news release.
"The team will make no further comment at this time," the release also stated.
Drouin has been with the Crunch since early January and soon after he reported his agent, Allan Walsh, went public with a standing request for a trade from November.
"You try to focus on your game and the rest will settle itself," Drouin told reporters on Monday.
Walsh issued the following statement to the media Wednesday evening:
"When the Tampa Bay Lightning assigned Jonathan Drouin to Syracuse it was explained the purpose of the assignment was two-fold; (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 practising 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."
Caught off guard
In seven games since joining the Crunch, Drouin has two goals, three points and a minus-1 rating.
Crunch coach Rob Zettler was caught off guard when Drouin informed him he would not attend Wednesday's game.
Drouin made Zettler aware of his intentions following the team's morning skate at Ricoh Coliseum and was not on the bus to the rink for the game.
"He seemed to be enjoying himself and engaged with everybody," said Zettler, who maintained he had no issues with Drouin. "He made a decision not to play so we'll move forward and let the powers that be in Tampa handle it from here."
Drouin was announced as a healthy scratch prior to the Crunch's 5-4 overtime loss to the Marlies.
Several NHL clubs had scouts in attendance at Ricoh Coliseum, including the Vancouver Canucks, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens.
"I just don't know how it helps his value," one scout told The Canadian Press.
On poor advice from an agent, I refused to go the AHL and was suspended. All It did was lose me money, and hurt my reputation. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/drouin?src=hash">#drouin</a>—@CoreyHirsch
Even today I regret it, I take 100% responsibility for a poor decision. It took me years to try to rebuild my reputation.—@CoreyHirsch
It's been a rough introduction to the pro ranks for Drouin, a native of Ste-Agathe, Que., and third overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft.
Drouin spent a third and final season with the Halifax Mooseheads after being drafted to the NHL and last season missed all of training camp with the Lightning due to a fractured finger. He played mostly a fourth-line roll, struggled late in the season and was a healthy scratch for all but six of Tampa's 26 Stanley Cup playoff contests.
Drouin returned to lead the Lightning in pre-season scoring this past September with four goals and eight points in six games.
"[Drouin] is a good player, everybody knows that. He just got picked by a team that's ready to win a Stanley Cup," said Jeff Tambellini, a veteran of 242 NHL games and Syracuse's leading scorer. "Sometimes the same opportunity in Phoenix is different than the one in Tampa — it's always a difficult situation."
He scored a goal and six points in the first five regular-season contests. Drouin has only played 14 games since after nagging injuries kept him sidelined on three separate occasions.
"I think he's a tremendous young talent," Yzerman told reporters after demoting Drouin, who has two goals, eight points and a plus-2 rating in 19 games this season for the NHL club while averaging 14 minutes seven seconds of ice time.
"We'll bring him back at the appropriate time. I don't have a set date for him to return."
Drouin will be a restricted free agent after the 2016-17 season.
With files from The Canadian Press