Jonathan Drouin ends holdout; Lightning return a ‘possibility’

Chris Johnston joins Jeff Marek to talk about the latest news in the NHL, including Tampa Bay’s situation with Jonathan Drouin.

Jonathan Drouin‘s holdout and subsequent suspension are over.

The disgruntled winger will be returning to the Syracuse Crunch, AHL affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and will practice with the club Tuesday morning, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman announced.

The Crunch have 17 games remaining this season, beginning with Friday’s game versus the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Drouin had to report Monday in order to qualify for the AHL post-season. Syracuse is currently outside of the playoff picture.

“If he wants to play hockey, his options are, go to Syracuse,” said Yzerman on a Tampa radio station last week. The GM failed to find a suitable trade partner for Drouin by the NHL deadline. “I frankly don’t expect him to want to come back.”

In exchange for Drouin, Yzerman wanted a player that could be with the Lightning long-term, preferably one that could give his power play a boost. No one like that was available, said Yzerman, who reasserted his control by not giving into deadline pressure.

When Drouin refused to report to a Crunch game in January, Yzerman suspended the player indefinitely. That suspension was lifted Monday.

Yzerman told Tampa reporters Monday that Drouin reached out to him last week and expressed an interest in getting back on the ice.

As for Drouin’s getting called up to the Lightning, “I certainly wouldn’t exclude that possibility,” Yzerman said.

Still on his entry-level contract, the 20-year-old was sent down to AHL Syracuse on Jan. 2 for what Yzerman described as a conditioning assignment and registered two goals and an assist in seven games with the Crunch.

Upon Drouin’s holdout, agent Allan Walsh released a statement: “We will have no further comment as we await the Tampa Bay Lightning to conclude a trade that involves Jonathan.”

A third-overall draft pick, Drouin scored six points in his first five games this season, then missed 19 games due to a groin injury and has just two points in his past 14 games at the NHL level.

The native of Ste-Agathe, Que., joined the NHL after consecutive 100-point seasons QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads. He has six goals and 34 assists in 89 NHL contests. Drouin squeezed into just six playoff games during the Lightning’s run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final and failed to register a point.

Drouin’s three-year, $9.675-million contract expires on July 1, 2017, at which point he will become a restricted free agent.

Despite the passing of the NHL’s trade deadline, Drouin could still be traded this season.