USATSI_8671960_154158418_lowresThings may be turning around for Jonathan Drouin and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The team has lifted its suspension of the forward after the 20-year-old reported to Syracuse on Tuesday morning. Drouin had been suspended without pay for refusing to show up to an AHL game back on January 20 of 2016 and he hasn’t played a single game since.

A few days ago, we discussed the logistics behind the Drouin contract. At that point, he was at home in Montreal despite general manager Steve Yzerman’s invitation to report to Syracuse.

Now, it looks like Drouin has decided to accept Yzerman’s open door policy and seems set to salvage at least some of this unfortunate situation.

After the trade deadline, Drouin saw his options dwindle. The second year of his entry level contract will be used up this season, with the Lightning unable to toll the deal despite a “partial season breach” of its terms. With a year to go after this season’s end, Drouin will next see eligibility as a restricted free agent.

But the damage to his reputation presented likely obstacles, with few teams willing to take a chance on a “problem play.”

That’s why his decision to suck it up and report to the AHL could go a long way to mending broken fences. Drouin has a chance at rehabilitating his image and illustrating that he’s learned a valuable lesson in humility.

He has the opportunity to play solid hockey for the Syracuse Crunch, which in turn would raise his value as a potential trade for Tampa. If he’s still interested in a ticket out of Florida, this is his big chance. If he’s interested in playing for the Lightning and repairing a seemingly untenable situation, this is also his chance.

Regardless, Tampa Bay played hardball and won. Yzerman wants value for his player and he didn’t take a flimsy deadline deal just to get Drouin off his back. He didn’t balk when his agent published a trade request and didn’t deviate from the plan when the player refused to report. He stuck to it and that should teach Drouin a thing or two about how things work in the organization.

Now it’s up to the third overall selection in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. The ball is in his court. He can prove his worth and potentially earn a call-up to the playoff-bound club or he can phone it in and cement a poor reputation. Let’s hope he chooses the former.

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