The No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 draft for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Jonathan Drouin is still a big-time prospect that has top-line potential in the NHL. That did not seem to matter much around the NHL as 2016 NHL trade deadline came and went without a deal most observers were all but certain would occur. Drouin was sent to the American Hockey League in January, at which point it was revealed that he had requested a trade from the team.
Drouin and his agent decided in late January he was not going to play and the Lighting suspended him without pay.
Not much has changed since and now it looks like it may not until the summer.
For Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, waiting to deal Drouin after this season, the young forward’s value should increase. This assumes Drouin doesn’t play another game this season (for Tampa or another NHL team).
Yzerman has leverage now and will not have to settle for an offer dictated by a salary cap and here is why.
Article 10.1(a) of the CBA provides that in order to qualify as an unrestricted free agent, a player must have seven “accrued seasons”. An “accrued season” is defined as a minimum of 40 games on the active roster for a player. Drouin was on the active roster for 38 games (playing in 19 games), which means he’s two games short of an “accrued season”.
NHL players are not any different than any other professional sport. The goal, no pun intended, is to become an unrestricted free-agent. This may ste that back a year.
Publicly Yzerman is taking the high road.
“Jonathan is suspended. If he wants to come back, the door is open,” Yzerman said. “That’s up to him.”
Privately he probably knows the end is not a matter of if , but when Drouin takes his talent elsewhere.