The second year of Jonathan Drouin’s entry-level contract will be burned off even if he doesn’t play another game this season, Sportsnet has learned.
Some around the NHL had wondered if the Tampa Bay Lightning might elect to try and toll the suspended forward’s contract, but deputy commissioner Bill Daly says they don’t have the option to do so.
“We haven’t previously had a practice of allowing clubs to toll partial season breaches,” Daly wrote Thursday in an email. “Had this been the last season of the contract, however, we may have entertained an argument for some form of remedy or relief in this situation.”
As a result, any team that trades for Drouin will be acquiring him with one year left on his deal. Had it been tolled – the legal term for extending a contract when a player doesn’t satisfy its terms – the 20-year-old would arguably have been a more valuable asset since he’d be cost friendly for two more seasons.
A number of NHL players have had deals tolled after missing a season. Nashville did it when Alexander Radulov bolted for the KHL in 2008, Detroit did it when Jiri Hudler followed suit in 2009 and St. Louis is currently doing it with Vladimir Sobotka.
My colleague Elliotte Friedman raised the possibility of Tampa tolling Drouin’s deal in his most recent “30 Thoughts” column and rival teams have been keeping an eye on this situation from afar.
Drouin appeared in just 26 games this season – 19 with the Lightning, seven with AHL Syracuse – before walking away from the Crunch on Jan. 20. He’s been suspended without pay ever since.
After failing to satisfy the player’s request to be dealt prior to Monday’s trade deadline, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman indicated that the “door is open” for him to report back to Syracuse and start playing games again.
"That's up to him," said Yzerman.
It’s unclear if Drouin is considering the offer.
He’s currently back home in Montreal working out and skating every day. His agent, Allan Walsh of Octagon Hockey, declined comment on the situation when reached Thursday afternoon.
One interesting aspect of the Drouin situation is that his eventual date for unrestricted free agency is almost certain to be pushed back to 2022 from 2021 because he’s not in position to get credit for an accrued season in 2015-16. A player must spend at least 40 games on a NHL roster to do so and Drouin was with the Lightning for 38.
With the trade deadline now gone, he’s not likely to be moved until the draft in late June. That’s a disappointing outcome for everyone involved.
"I'm not enjoying the situation, it's certainly not how I wanted this to play out," Yzerman told the Tampa Bay Times this week. "I'm not purposely dragging this out for everyone. I'm trying to do the right thing for the team and when the right thing for the team comes along I'll do that."