Things have pretty much gone off the rails with Jonathan Drouin and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The third pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft was sent down to the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL on Saturday and now word has emerged that the 20-year-old asked for a trade back in November.
“It’s in everyone’s best interests that Jonathan be allowed to move on and play hockey,” Drouin’s agent Allan Walsh said in a statement via Sportsnet’s Elliote Friedman. “Let’s be clear, Jonathan loves playing for the fans in Tampa, he loves his teammates and many people within the Lightning organization have treated him well. It was his sincere intention to play in Tampa for many years.”
In 19 games with the Lightning this season, Drouin has just eight points. He started the year with six points in the first five games of the campaign, but injuries kept him out of 19 games and he’s put up just two points in his past 14. In 89 career games, he has 40 points and just six goals.
Tampa general manager Steve Yzerman said that the AHL assignment was designed to give Drouin more playing time, but that doesn’t seem to be sitting well with the young forward. The news suggests yet more friction between the GM and one of his key players, especially as the Steven Stamkos situation sits unresolved.
One also hears echoes of Yzerman’s treatment of Martin St. Louis, with the general manager not naming him to Team Canada for the 2014 Winter Olympics and the speedy forward making his way to the New York Rangers shortly after that tumult.
“We acknowledge, via communication from his agent, Jonathan Drouin’s request to be traded,” Yzerman said in a statement on Sunday. “Moving forward, my sole intention is to act in the best interest of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey club. In the meantime, Jonathan has been assigned to our American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, and we expect him to report for practice with the rest of his teammates this Tuesday morning.”
Regardless, Drouin is a young guy and he has simply not produced for the Lightning this far. A stint in the AHL is far from the worst thing to happen to an unproductive NHL player, especially at this early stage of the game. He has a year to go on his entry level contract before he can become a restricted free agent and one has to imagine the trade market is less than robust at this point and time.
Naturally, that hasn’t stopped the rumour mills from churning out some possibilities and thinkpieces. Drouin is, at this point and time, a pure potential player. He’s in an “untenable” situation in Tampa and could well explode if given the right opportunity. He’s on the small side at 5’11, 188 pounds, but some clubs may find considerable value in his playmaking ability.
Right now, it looks like things have come to a head with the Lightning. It’s certainly always an uncomfortable situation when a player has a trade request hanging out there, but Yzerman isn’t going to just move Drouin for the sake of it. And with few player-for-player trades occupying the market this year, Walsh’s client may just have to wait.