At the end of the Tampa Bay’s season, Jonathan Drouin said he wants to remain a member of the Lightning. But if that wasn’t enough to put an end to Drouin’s trade request saga, the 21-year-old winger made it official by rescinding his trade request.
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported Thursday that Drouin’s agent, Allan Walsh, has told Lightning GM Steve Yzerman that Drouin doesn’t intend on playing elsewhere next season. And that’s a great thing for both Tampa Bay and Drouin, who was incredibly productive during the post-season and proved he was every bit the talent he was believed to be when the Lightning drafted him third overall in 2013.
"As Jo said at the end of the season, he wants to be back in Tampa next year,” Walsh said, via Lebrun. "It's a tight-knit group, and going forward, he's happy being part of it.”
Drouin’s 2015-16 campaign was a turbulent one.
It began well, with six points in his first five games, but what followed was Drouin watching his minutes dip as he failed to produce over the next five games and a subsequent lower-body injury. Out of the lineup for five games, Drouin returned to action and played four games in which he only eclipsed 14 minutes of ice time once before going back on the shelf for another six games. When he came back next, it was another four-game stint, again followed by nine games out of the lineup due to injury. He finally seemed healthy when he played in a Dec. 30 contest against the New York Rangers.
But even though he was healthy, Drouin was demoted to the AHL on Jan. 2. Days later, it became public that Drouin, growing frustrated with his role in Tampa Bay, had asked in November to be traded. Over the coming weeks, Drouin would play for the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch. However, with no resolution amidst rumors of an imminent trade, Drouin walked away from the AHL club and was indefinitely suspended.
Drouin would remain away until post-trade deadline, when he called Lightning GM Steve Yzerman and asked to return to the Crunch. Drouin did and racked up nine goals and 10 points in 10 games and found his way back to the NHL due in part to his play and in part because of a litany of injuries that had rocked Tampa Bay’s lineup as the playoffs approached.
There were questions about the youngster heading into the post-season, but he quickly quieted doubters. In his first game back in the NHL ahead of the post-season, Drouin scored. The next night, he repeated the feat. And in the playoffs, Drouin finished tied for third among Lightning players with five goals and 14 points in 17 games. He averaged more than 17 minutes per game, which was a full seven minutes more than he had averaged during the 2014-15 post-season.
Calling Drouin a “big get” for the Lightning wouldn’t quite be accurate — he has been their player since 2013 — but that he’s worked his way back into good graces with teammates, coaches and staff bodes well for his future. When drafted, he figured to be a major player for the Lightning for years to come. Yzerman made that clear by reportedly requiring a big return for Drouin. And his post-season performance was more than enough proof that, when relied upon, he can be an impact player.
So while the trade request saga for Drouin in Tampa Bay may be over, his story with the Lightning is far from complete. He’s got all the pieces to become a star, and if he continues to put them together, his one-time trade demand will be all but forgotten.