Jonathan Drouin (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
Jonathan Drouin is back in the AHL's Crunch lineup, but barring a reconciliation between him and Steve Yzerman, the youngster is expected to be dealt by the NHL Draft.
Following a failed holdout attempt to force a trade prior to the Feb. 29 trade deadline, left winger Jonathan Drouin is back with the Syracuse Crunch, the Tampa Bay Lightning's AHL affiliate. Drouin, 20, received permission last week from Lightning GM Steve Yzerman to return to the Crunch. He picked up an assist in a 5-2 win over Bridgeport last Friday, marking the first time he's seen game action in nearly two months.
With the trade deadline passed and Yzerman willing to wait until the off-season to move him, Drouin had no choice but to return to the Crunch. Remaining on the sidelines for the rest of the season would only further damage his reputation and trade value.
Drouin could be recalled by the Lightning over the remainder of regular season or the playoffs. While his fractured relationship with Yzerman could be repaired, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun believes the winger's trade request remains on the table.
The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Minnesota Wild had interest in Drouin leading up to the trade deadline. The asking price was apparently a good young defenseman, as Garrioch claims the Lightning were interested in Ottawa's Cody Ceci and Minnesota's Matt Dumba.
Barring a reconciliation between Drouin and Yzerman, the youngster is expected to be dealt by the NHL Draft in late-June. It's unlikely the Lightning GM will pry Ceci away from the Senators or Dumba from the Wild, but he could find other clubs willing to pay his asking price leading up to the draft weekend.
YOUNG PLAYERS IN LINE FOR BIG RAISES
ESPN.com's Craig Custance recently included Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones, Nashville Predators left winger Filip Forsberg, Toronto Maple Leafs rearguard Morgan Rielly and Winnipeg Jets blueliner Jacob Trouba among several pending free agents he considers in line for big raises.
The four are completing the final seasons of their respective entry-level contracts. They could seek lucrative long-term deals, but lack arbitration rights and hold little leverage. That could make some of them tempting targets for offer sheets from rival clubs.
In the past, offer sheets were a largely toothless threat. However, the Jackets have nearly $65 million invested in 18 players for 2016-17, while the Predators and Jets are considered budget clubs that spend well below the league cap ceiling.
Should the cap ceiling fail to significantly increase, the Jackets could find themselves squeezed for sufficient room to re-sign Jones to a big raise. A very expensive offer sheet to Forsberg or Trouba could prove far more than their cost-conscious clubs are willing to pay.
The threat of an offer sheet could lead to one of those young players getting traded. It was among the factors last summer that led to the Chicago Blackhawks shipping left wing Brandon Saad to the Blue Jackets.
Of the four, Rielly seems most unlikely to receive an offer sheet. The Leafs not only have plenty of salary-cap room, but also a deep-pocketed ownership willing to invest in retaining their best players.
Of course, those young players must be receptive toward the notion of signing an offer sheet. If they are, it could make this summer's trade market considerably more interesting.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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