“I definitely prefer to deal him sooner than later, it would be better for everyone,” Lightning GM Steve Yzerman told Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times Wednesday.
“A lot of things factor into it when making the trade, a lot of things to consider here. But No. 1 is, ‘Can I do something involving Jonathan that benefits the team that makes us better right now that helps us for the playoffs? I’d certainly like to do that.”
Drouin, 20, is currently serving an indefinite team suspension at home in Montreal for failing to report to a game for the team’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, in Toronto last month.
It remains unclear what the Lightning can expect in return for the No. 3 overall pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, but many have speculated the Lightning could be looking to address their blue-line.
However, that’s not the only area Yzerman is hoping to upgrade.
“We all have needs,” Yzerman said. “If I could do something to help our power play, I’d like to do that. And that’s going to be difficult to do.”
As of Wednesday, Tampa Bay’s power play ranks 22nd in the NHL (17.5 per cent).
According to generalfanager.com, the Lightning only have $1.5 million available in salary cap space so if the team is hoping for immediate help in exchange for Drouin, there isn’t much room to take on a contract of a veteran player.
“It’s not just our salary cap, it’s the team that you’re trying to make a deal with salary cap too,” Yzerman said. “That’s what everybody doesn’t really understand. When trying to make a deal involving players and contracts, it’s got to work for both teams. It’s not just mine. It proves challenging for everyone.”
Drouin has two goals and six assists in 19 games with the Lightning this season and totalled two goals and an assist in seven games with Syracuse after landing in the AHL.