The Jonathan Drouin saga continued Thursday with the news of him being called up by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Where things go beyond this season is anyone’s guess — and Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston isn’t counting out any possibilities.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure that we’re going to see this guy traded after all this,” Johnston said during an appearance on Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
“I got a sense from being around the situation that maybe some of the, whatever bad blood there was, or hurt feelings or whatever you want to term it as… everyone’s been able to set that aside,” he said.
The public drama surrounding Drouin began in January, when news broke that he’d requested a trade from Tampa back in November. Drouin was sent to the team’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse, and soon after was suspended indefinitely for failing to report. But he ended his holdout on March 7. He registered 11 goals and 13 points with Syracuse, including a nine-goal run in his last nine games.
Whether or not the Lightning attempt to trade the 21-year-old winger at, say, the 2016 draft, is a question that will hang around throughout the playoff run.
“The focus, I believe, is much easier to have when you bring him up this close to the playoffs,” added Johnston.
Drouin himself said as much after practice Thursday, telling reporters, “I’m just here to help the team, help the guys clinch home ice.”
“You’re not so much worried about the business side of the game or the trade request or any of that nature right now,” Johnston continued. “I think it’s very easy in a playoff situation for them to just focus on the day-to-day, and they have a shared mutual interest in having the Lightning do well and try to compete for the Stanley Cup that they were very close to winning last year.”
Speaking of business, if Drouin does in fact stay on the team’s roster for the final two games of the season, he’ll burn a year off his entry-level deal.
The call-up helps fill a void for the Lightning up top, with captain Steven Stamkos out one to three months with a blood clot. The injury-ravaged club is also currently missing Anton Stralman, Victor Hedman and Ryan Callahan.
“After all the sort of meandering route here, he ends up… probably where he belongs,” said Johnston. “He’s going to start on the second line for the Lightning, and we’ll see how this goes.”
Turns out, things started well for Drouin, who scored in his first game back with the Lightning against the New Jersey Devils. (See the goal at the top of this post.)