USATSI_9063123_154158418_lowresThe Tampa Bay Lightning won’t be allowed to extend or “toll” Jonathan Drouin’s contract, regardless of the fact he hasn’t suited up for the hockey club. Even if the 20-year-old forward doesn’t skate in a single game for the rest of this season, the second year of his current entry level contract will be used up.

That means he’ll have a year to go on the deal, which means any team signing him will have a cap hit of $894,167 for a year before all bets are off.

Following that last year of the entry level contract, Drouin will be up for restricted free agency. That’s when the bar will truly be set for the player, which theoretically means next year will be a huge deal for Tampa’s “partial season breach.”

“We haven’t previously had a practice of allowing clubs to toll partial season breaches,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Sportsnet. “Had this been the last season of the contract, however, we may have entertained an argument for ‎some form of remedy or relief in this situation.”

If the contract had been tolled, Drouin would’ve had two years left and a team acquiring him would’ve received two years at the entry level cost.

The situation in Tampa has been dicey ever since Drouin was suspended by the Lightning for his failure to report to the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch for a game in January. Drouin’s agent Allen Walsh had gone public with a trade request earlier in the month after the AHL demotion, at which point things bubbled over.

Since then, Yzerman couldn’t or didn’t move Drouin on trade deadline day. He indicated that the “door was still open” for his player and invited him to report to Syracuse to continue playing hockey. Drouin is, for all intents and purposes, at home in Montreal.

The situation involving his entry level contract may serve as an additional deterrent for any team looking to acquire Drouin’s services. While he’s already building a reputation as a bit of a problem, losing a year on the deal will represent yet another risk. Drouin could explode for some stellar hockey in his next year to try to set the market for his services. Or he could crash and burn.

Regardless, Drouin is still suspended by the Lightning and Yzerman is looking to trade him ahead of the draft. After that, all bets are off.

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