The battle of wills between the Tampa Bay Lightning and promising left wing Jonathan Drouin escalated Wednesday, when the club announced it had suspended him indefinitely without pay after his failure to report for Wednesday's American Hockey League game between the Syracuse Crunch and the Toronto Marlies.
Drouin, 20, was selected third overall in the 2013 entry draft but injuries have contributed to him playing only sparingly for Tampa Bay. He had four goals and 32 points in 70 games last season but played in only six games during the Lightning's surge to the Stanley Cup Final.
Drouin had requested a trade because he felt he wasn't getting enough quality playing time and was sent to the Lightning's top farm team on a conditioning assignment. The purpose, according to his agent, Los Angeles-based Allan Walsh of Octagon Hockey, was to get Drouin back in shape after an injury and "provide proof that he had completely recovered." Drouin played seven games for the Crunch, scoring two goals and three points.
"A few days ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning advised that a trade involving Jonathan was moving closer to completion," Walsh said in a statement. "We proposed to Tampa that Jonathan not play in the next few AHL games but continue practicing 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."
Drouin's skills are apparent, but he hasn't been able to consistently score. At this point, a change of scenery likely would be good for him but his refusal to play might have reduced his value in the eyes of potential trade partners.
Simply requesting a trade might scare some teams away from him, even teams that could benefit from his scoring potential. Ducks General Manager Bob Murray, asked indirectly about Drouin last week — Murray couldn't mention Drouin specifically because that could have constituted tampering — indicated he was not interested in acquiring the youngster despite the Ducks' scoring woes.
"There's more than just him that's probably out there and available right now. Let's just leave it at that," Murray said. "We're looking at a whole bunch of things. We know he's there, but there's a few others out there, too, that haven't requested trades. Requesting trades on entry level, that's something new for you and I. ... Entry level players requesting trades. Amazing."