Elliotte Friedman talks Jonathan Drouin, NHL expansion

The Hockey Central crew discusses the breaking news of the return of Jonathan Drouin to the Syracuse Crunch and the lifting of his suspension by the Tampa Bay Lightning. But why now?

Jonathan Drouin decided to return to the Tampa Bay Lightning organization Monday, and according the Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the timing was no accident.

Speaking with Bob McCown and Damien Cox on Prime Time Sports, Friedman pointed out that if Drouin had any ambitions of playing hockey this season, he needed to go back to the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch when he did.

LISTEN: Elliotte Friedman joins Prime Time Sports

“I think that he realized that if he was going to play this year it was going to have to be today,” said Friedman. “Today is basically the American Hockey League loan deadline, it’s sort of their trade deadline, and he knew that if he wanted to play the rest of the season it was going to have to happen.

“I think the Lightning made it very clear and other teams made it very clear that it wasn’t exactly helping his situation that he was refusing to play.”

While Drouin can still be traded post-deadline, the Lightning are the only team Drouin could play for in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Should Tampa feel the need to add some offensive punch to their lineup, bringing Drouin back into the fold is not out of the question.

“I’d be interested to see if he got on any kind of tear here, would the Lightning want to use him in the post-season.”

Regardless of how the Lightning use the 2013 third-overall pick in the coming months, Friedman suspects that ultimately Drouin’s career will be played out with another organization — though that largely depends on whether he can patch things up with Lightning head coach Jon Cooper.

“I think it’s 90 per cent he’s traded, I mean the biggest question is what’s the relationship between Drouin and Cooper,” said Friedman. “How do those two guys feel about each other?”

Friedman also touched upon rumours today that said Quebec City was out of the running for an expansion team, saying he asked the NHL Players’ Association if they received word that Quebec City was out of the running.

“They’re saying they haven’t, I think the whole expansion thing was kind of mucked up by what happened with Seattle,” said Friedman.

Seattle’s large metropolitan population and lack of NBA franchise has made it a popular target for expansion speculation. Gary Bettman called the city intriguing back in January, but right now the Chris Hansen-led group planning to build a new arena has its eyes set on attracting an NBA team first.

When it came time for prospective cities to bid on an expansion team, Quebec City and Las Vegas were the only two cities to bid.

“I expect that (Las) Vegas is going to get a team and I expect that Quebec City will be told, ‘Just hang on, we’ve got to work out a couple situations here and we’ll see,’ ” said Friedman. “But I think what this shows today is that sensitivity that if Quebec City does not get a team this time around, how is the NHL going to handle that?

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