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What will the Lightning do with Jonathan Drouin now?
@Real_ESPNLeBrun: And now, the game of chicken really begins. Where do you guys stand on the Jonathan Drouin-Tampa Bay Lightning standoff? Drouin was suspended without pay after failing to report for an AHL game, which now sets the stage for one of two outcomes: Lightning GM Steve Yzerman takes the best offer and ends this thing, perhaps concerned that Drouin is a diminishing asset while sitting out; or Yzerman digs in even more, knowing he can be patient because Drouin hasn't really been part of the team this season anyway, and he can let Drouin stew at home. If a trade happens within the next few days, people will say agent Allan Walsh played a strong card and forced Yzerman's hand. If the deal doesn't happen for a while, what you will hear is that Walsh and Drouin misplayed their hand, and here's why: I've already had a few NHL hockey execs tell me Drouin's refusal to play on in the AHL raises a red flag on the player's makeup, and makes them wonder about giving up the assets they were prepared to part with in return for Drouin. On the flip side, some teams will stick to the belief that a change of scenery is all the kid needs to flourish. I will say that Yzerman had no choice but to suspend Drouin once he refused to play. This isn't just about Drouin, but also about sending a message that agents and/or players can't strongarm the team. The question is, what do you do if you're Yzerman at this point? Make your best deal, or dig in and wait for a better deal?
@CraigCustance: At this point, you can't rush it if you're Yzerman. By suspending Drouin, the Lightning have doubled down on the attitude that they aren't going to be bullied into a timeline on this deal. One executive joked on Wednesday that Yzerman played for Scotty Bowman, so the GM can handle Walsh and Drouin. I certainly understand the idea that this raises a parade of red flags surrounding Drouin, but it was also pointed out to me that GMs are used to taking a long-range view of things. Teams' evaluations of Drouin aren't going to be based on only the past month. It's going to be on the complete package, including the fact that Drouin was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 draft, after all. Now, as one source pointed out, there's one notion that Drouin might have a hard time escaping, and that's the idea that he's quitting on his teammates. That's a cardinal sin in hockey. Players have a really good understanding of the business side of hockey, and from what I understand, his teammates in Tampa have been supportive of Drouin both publicly and privately. I can't help but wonder how the latest news impacts that support.
@ESPN_Burnside: Pierre, you pretty much covered all the possibilities, so I'll see you guys tomorrow. OK, just kidding. Anyone expecting a deal done quickly, just because Walsh put out a note saying Drouin wanted a trade, is dreaming in Technicolor. Travis Hamonic wants out of a New York Islanders uniform. Patrick Marleau wants to be somewhere other than with the San Jose Sharks. Those two are still waiting, and they are established players, grown men. "Boo-Hoo" Drouin has not only proved little as an NHL player, he has been a significant disappointment. If I'm a GM and I see a boy pouting and refusing to play in the AHL because he's mad (or even worse, because his agent tells him not to), then I offer as little as possible. And if I'm Yzerman (and I rarely pretend to be the Hall of Famer, outside of Halloween), I close the book on Drouin and don't reopen it until the offseason, as we head into the draft. Maybe down the road we'll barely remember this moment as Drouin grows into the NHL talent most believe he can be, but right now he's a spoiled kid who's driving his own value into the dirt.
@ESPNJoeyMac: Scotty, I couldn't agree more. What has this former can't-miss prospect accomplished in the NHL that makes him and his agent feel they can act like this? Deciding not to play in the AHL is disrespectful to the game, to the Lightning organization and to fans. Even if Yzerman completes a trade, I'm sure the majority of the players in the NHL would not want Drouin as a teammate right now. Most veterans in the league spent time in the AHL early in their careers. They rode buses and played three games in three days and never complained. I suggested in a column I wrote last week that the NHL and CHL should tweak their agreement to allow 18- and 19-year-old players in the AHL. It will make those young men better pros on and off the ice. Drouin is a perfect example of why rules should change. I also agree that Yzerman should wait to trade Drouin. Any 20-year-old "pro" who acts in this manner, especially with the agent in his ear, should have to deal with hockey purgatory until both get their acts together. There are plenty of 20-year-old pros working their backsides off in the minors who would give anything to play in the NHL. Drouin had his opportunity and he blew it. This latest incident is a joke. I don't care what the agent's excuse is, because his client had the opportunity and he wasted it.
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