Jonathan Drouin situation draws sympathy from NHL GMs

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 10: Jonathan Drouin #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the Ottawa Senators during second period at the Amalie Arena on December 10, 2015 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Arizona Coyotes general manager Don Maloney has talked to Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman about Jonathan Drouin.

Not so much about acquiring the young winger in a trade, but more as someone who understands Yzerman’s plight in dealing with Drouin’s situation with the team.

Maloney was in a similar spot with Kyle Turris in 2011. Like Drouin with the Lightning, Turris was a No. 3 overall draft pick and wanted out of the Coyotes organization. He demanded a trade that summer and held out the first six weeks of the regular season as an unsigned restricted free agent. Turris eventually came to terms with the Coyotes and then Maloney dealt him to the Ottawa Senators later in the year.

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Drouin was suspended by the Lightning from mid-January through last week for a failure to report to the team’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse. He’s had a trade request into the organization since November.

“I empathize with him because it’s a very difficult position to be in,” Maloney said. "I do think the player made the right decision to come back, get back playing, continue to work on (his) game. He’s a good talent and he’s a good asset for Tampa and so fortunately for them, the bridge wasn’t completely burned down and he kind of realized ‘sitting out isn’t the best thing for my interest long-term.’”

According to general managers, this happens more often than most realize. The difference between the Drouin situation was that it was made public. Drouin’s agent Allan Walsh made the announcement of Drouin’s trade request, which then forced Yzerman to deal with the situation in a more visible forum.

“I think what’s troubling is when something becomes public and when it becomes public it becomes an issue and the team has to do what’s right,” Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello said. “(The player is) drafted. It’s their responsibility to play and if they ask for something and it’s fair for the team and them I’m sure a team will accommodate it. But when a player goes public it puts a lot of pressure.”

Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray noted that younger players sometimes feel like they’re not getting an opportunity, which leads to this situation. He said he was put in such types of spots when he was the assistant general manager of the Ottawa Senators.

“Young kids want it now,” Murray said. “I haven’t had anything yet in Buffalo, but I’m sure that day will come and we’ve had guys in Binghamton after a year and a half or two years thought they should be in Ottawa. You can’t accommodate everybody or they’re not ready and you have to deal with an agent and you have to deal with a player and I think every team goes through that.

Yzerman has often said that he will do what’s best for the Lightning and right now that’s keeping Drouin playing and potentially calling him up for the team’s stretch run.

“Ultimately I go back to when he was first assigned to the AHL. It wasn’t a demotion, it was simply to go down, though not on conditioning, was strictly as conditioning to get some games after missing a lot due to injury,” Yzerman said. “The plan was for him to go down and play and come back, so with the situation right now, if it is good for our team and it is the right thing to do, he will be recalled. So it’s very realistic.”

Maloney seems to believe that playing games could ultimately benefit Drouin if he wants to get traded. Maloney had few takers for Turris during his holdout, but when he returned more teams starting calling Maloney to gauge his interest in trading Turris.

“He’s back, he’ll play, whether he goes to Tampa or not we’ll all see him,” Maloney said. “It’ll be a lot easier for Steve to do a deal, if that’s what he wants to do, in the offseason versus him never playing again.”

Overall, general managers aren’t worried that Drouin’s play to move from Tampa will become a more normal occurrence for higher draft picks. They note it’s happened in the past, such as with Eric Lindros not wanting to play for the Quebec Nordiques, but ultimately it’s pretty rare.

“Not many players, entry-level, non entry-level walk away from their team midseason,” St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. “I think Jonathan Drouin made an individual choice and Steve Yzerman reacted to it and he’s back playing.”

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

 

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