USATSI_8918522_154158418_lowresThe Tampa Bay Lightning have suspended forward Jonathan Drouin indefinitely without pay on Wednesday after he failed to report to an AHL game between his Syracuse Crunch and Toronto Marlies.

As we noted back at the beginning of January, the situation between Drouin and the Lightning has gone off the rails – so to speak. Tampa sent the 20-year-old down to the Crunch in order to give him more playing time, but that theory didn’t wash with Drouin and his agent. Word emerged that he’d asked for a trade back in November.

Naturally, the demotion set off several trade rumours with some publications even suggesting that Drouin was going to be moved “within 24 hours.” That didn’t come to fruition and the forward was hanging around Syracuse waiting for what was supposed to be the inevitable.

And now, the story seems to be that Drouin and his agent proposed that he not play in “the next few AHL games” so as to protect him from any “potential injury” in case of a trade.

“Unfortunately, the Tampa Bay Lightning refused this reasonable request,” said agent Allan Walsh. “…however, Jonathan was not willing to accept this risk.”

Now, naturally the risk of injury is something every club has to take seriously if they’re trying to move a player. But for a player to take the onus on himself to, you know, not get an injury within the rigours of the game he’s playing? That takes some serious chutzpah.

In 89 career games with Tampa Bay, Drouin has a total of 40 points – including six goals. His agent is conducting things like he’s the next best thing to emerge in hockey, but the fact remains that his player has an awful lot to prove. Playing this kind of power game is borderline arrogant and it’s clearly designed to squeeze general manager Steve Yzerman to move Drouin faster.

But it’s also having the effect of creating a headache. Other NHL GMs have to be looking at how this situation is playing out and they’ll be proceeding with caution, especially when it comes to signing Drouin to any sort of longer-term contract. Who wants to deal with any sort of fallout in case something goes wrong?

With the Lightning trying to work something out with Steven Stamkos and trying to put together a winning tea in the NHL, one has to imagine that trading Jonathan Drouin isn’t necessarily a top priority. But Walsh, indirectly or directly, is insisting that his player is bigger than the team. That’s a good move for an agent behind closed doors as it secures his commitment, but it’s not necessarily what an agent should be airing in public via several “statements.”

“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,” said Walsh. “We will have no further comment as we await the Tampa Bay Lightning to conclude a trade that involves Jonathan.”

Thank goodness for small mercies.

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