TAMPA — The discord between Jonathan Drouin and the Tampa Bay Lightning reached potentially irreconcilable differences on Wednesday.
More than two weeks after the former first-round draft pick was assigned to the team’s minor-league affiliate and made public his request for a trade, the Lightning suspended Drouin after he failed to report to the Syracuse Crunch’s game at the Toronto Marlies.
Drouin, who was at the morning skate and was spotted inside Ricoh Coliseum before the game Wednesday night, was “suspended indefinitely without pay,” Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman announced in a statement issued by the team.
Drouin’s agent, Allan Walsh issued a statement Wednesday, as well, indicating Drouin does not intend to continue with the Lightning “in any capacity.”
According to Walsh’s statement, the Lightning indicated a trade was close to being completed. Drouin then requested he not participate in any more games with Syracuse to avoid risking an injury that could damage the chance for a trade. Drouin would continue to practice with the team until a trade was finalized. The team did not abide by that request, Walsh said, which led to Drouin refusing to play on Wednesday.
“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,’’ Walsh said in the statement. “We will have no further comment as we await the Tampa Bay Lightning to conclude a trade that involves Jonathan.’’
Drouin was assigned to the team’s American Hockey League affiliate on Jan. 2. The next day, Walsh went public with a trade request made by Drouin in November.
Yzerman has not commented much publicly, but did appear on Hockey Night in Canada on CBC television on Jan. 9.
“I am prepared to trade him, but any deal that I make has to be what I consider a good deal for the Tampa Bay Lightning,” Yzerman said. “It’s important for our organization that if we make a trade we get equal value, and you can measure that in a lot different ways, But Jonathan has been told that he won’t be traded to make him happy, but because it’s a good trade for the Tampa Bay Lightning.’’
Drouin is in the second year of a three-year entry level contract. According to the website generalfanager.com, Drouin makes a base salary of $925,000 at the NHL level with up to $2.3 million available in bonus clauses. His salary in the AHL, however, is $70,000.
The third overall pick in the 2013 draft reported to Syracuse on time after being assigned, and played in seven games in the minors before Wednesday. He has two goals and one assist, and is minus-1.
As recently as Monday, when Syracuse played at Rochester, Drouin spoke positively of playing with Syracuse.
“This is a great group of guys,” Drouin told NHL.com. “We have a lot of fun down here. Those guys, they want to win. It’s the same thing when I come here, we want to win. We’ve been on a bit of a roll, so I think we’re happy with that.’’
He also addressed his immediate future: “I don’t control anything. Whenever it happens, it happens, and we’ll just go from there.’’
Syracuse head coach, Rob Zettler was surprised by Drouin’s move.
“There have been no issues, he’s been fine,” Zettler told reporters after Wednesday’s 5-4 overtime loss. “He seemed to be enjoying himself, engaged with everybody. But he made a decision not to play. So, we’ll move forward and let the powers that be handle it from here.”
In 89 career NHL games, Drouin had just six goals and 40 points while trying to establish himself after a stellar junior career. With this latest tactic to try to force a trade from Tampa Bay, however, there will be questions about any potential damage he is doing to his career.
With Anaheim reportedly interested in acquiring Drouin, Ducks general manager Bob Murray was asked about Drouin over the weekend.
“We know he’s there, but there’s a few others out there, too, that haven’t requested trades,’’ Murray told the Los Angeles Times. “Requesting trades on entry level, that’s something new for you and I. ...Entry-level players requesting trades. Amazing.’’