TORONTO — The Jonathan Drouin saga took another twist on Wednesday night when the Tampa Bay Lightning prospect refused to report to an American Hockey League game between the Syracuse Crunch and Toronto Marlies.
The team announced the 20-year-old as a scratch at Ricoh Coliseum prior to puck drop, adding in a statement that he has been "suspended indefinitely without pay by the team after his failure to report for tonight's game."
Earlier this month it was made public that Drouin, through his agent, had requested a trade from the Lightning back in November.
According to Drouin's agent Allan Walsh, when the forward was assigned to the AHL club on Jan. 2, it was explained that the assignment was for conditioning purposes and show other NHL clubs he had recovered from his injury.
"A few days ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning advised that a trade involving Jonathan was moving closer to completion," Walsh said in a statement on Wednesday. "We proposed to Tampa that Jonathan not play in the next few AHL games but continue practising 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."
In seven games since joining the Crunch, Drouin has two goals and an assist to go along with a minus-1 rating.
"He's been great. He's worked hard in practice, worked hard in games — no issues at all," said Syracuse head coach Rob Zettler following the team's morning skate on Wednesday. "Its been fun having him here, guys have enjoyed his presence, enjoyed him in the locker-room."
Drouin was a full participant in the team's morning skate, which lasted roughly 30 minutes Wednesday morning and was seen joking around with teammates on the ice.
"I think the hardest part is, as a young player, you're always at the mercy of where you get picked," said Jeff Tambellini, a veteran of 242 NHL games and Syracuse's leading scorer. "Different teams have different opportunities available and you never know what you're going to come into.
"(Drouin) is a good player, everybody knows that. He just got picked by a team that's ready to win a Stanley Cup. Sometimes the same opportunity in Phoenix is different than the one in Tampa — it's always a difficult situation."
Originally the third overall selection by the Lightning at the 2013 NHL draft, Drouin has six goals and 34 assists in 89 career games with Tampa Bay.
"I don't know if (the trade request) surprises me, you've seen it before with players at different levels, but he's trying to do what's best for his career," said Zettler.
Dhiren Mahiban, The Canadian Press