After the 2016 NHL trade deadline last week, some chatter started to pick up about Jonathan Drouin. The disgruntled forward hadn't been dealt by Lightning GM Steve Yzerman. Yzerman stated publicly that the door was still open for Drouin to return to the organization and Drouin's agent, Allan Walsh, quickly returned with a statement that the door was shut and Drouin would not be returning to the organization in any capacity.
It would seem Drouin has had a change of heart. The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced that Drouin's suspension has been lifted and he will return to practice with the Syracuse Crunch.
LIGHTNING LIFT SUSPENSION OF FORWARD JONATHAN DROUIN
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have lifted the suspension of forward Jonathan Drouin and he will report to the Syracuse Crunch for practice tomorrow morning, announced vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman today.
We should expect that remarks will come out from Steve Yzerman later today, but for now, this is all the information we have. It appears that Drouin will return to the Crunch and play. This is the best case scenario right now for both Drouin and the Lightning.
Drouin didn't exactly tear up the AHL when he was assigned to the Crunch to start 2016, scoring two goals in his first period of play in his first game and then only adding one assist in the following six games.
If the relationship can be salvaged and he comes back working hard, it may even be possible for Yzerman to bring him back to Tampa. That would certainly be to Drouin's benefit as he only needs to play in 2 more NHL games this season to accrue a full season towards unrestricted free agency. If it can't be salvaged, then a strong showing in the AHL should only help increase his trade value as team's evaluate him going into the offseason when more teams will be available to trade for him closer to the NHL draft.
The Crunch have 17 games remaining on their schedule, their next game coming this Friday at home against Bridgeport. The Crunch don't look to be in a good position to make the playoffs and would have to climb a large hill to do so. If somehow Drouin can spark this team to continue on it's current streak (Syracuse has won three in a row), then it's still possible they could sneak into the playoffs.