Report: Jonathan Drouin is taking a year off his entry-level deal by sitting out

Jonathan Drouin’s holdout is impacting his contract, according to a report. Drouin, who is in the second season of his entry-level deal, will burn a season of his contract by not playing this campaign, meaning any team acquiring Drouin would only get him at his entry-level cap hit for one season.

It’s been nearly two months since Jonathan Drouin last suited up in a professional game, but his holdout from the Tampa Bay Lightning may be scaring some teams off for another reason entirely.

According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, regardless of whether or not Drouin plays again this season, a season will be burned off of his entry-level contract, meaning any team that were to acquire him in the off-season would only be getting him at his $894,167 cap hit for one season. Following his first season with a new team — and it appears likely he will play elsewhere in 2016-17 — Drouin will be up for restricted free agency, and that could mean a hefty raise depending on his performance next season.

Johnston was told by NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly that the Lightning don’t have the option to toll Drouin’s contract, which is to say extend it by one season, because the league has never allowed the practice for what Daly called “partial season breaches.”

“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,” Daly told Johnston.

Finding a trade partner willing to give the same return for Drouin with one year remaining on his entry-level deal as they would if he had two seasons remaining is going to be difficult and, in all likelihood, it has probably changed what the return will be for the Lightning. With a salary cap that hasn’t moved much in the past few seasons compared to the early years of the cap era, having two seasons of Drouin at his entry-level cap hit is much more attractive than one year with the possibility of a hefty raise.

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There is, however, one interesting wrinkle here. Johnston reported it is “almost certain” Drouin won’t be eligible for unrestricted free agency until 2022. Previously, Drouin would have been a UFA in 2021, but he is unlikely to get credit for this season towards his free agency status. He has was only with the Lightning for 38 of the 40 games necessary to be credited with an “accrued season,” per Johnston.

Heading into the trade deadline, there was speculation Drouin would be dealt, finally putting an end to the holdout with Tampa Bay. Instead, the deadline came and went with Drouin still a member of the Lightning, which was followed by GM Steve Yzerman commenting post-deadline that the door is open for Drouin to return to the team should he so choose. Drouin remains suspended by the team, however.

“I’m not enjoying the situation, it’s certainly not how I wanted this to play out,” Yzerman said, via the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith. “I’m not purposely dragging this out for everyone. I’m trying to do what the right thing for the team and when the right thing for the team comes along I’ll do that.”

In 19 games with Tampa Bay this season, Drouin scored two goals and eight points. He added two goals and three points in seven games with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch.