Meeting with reporters for the first time since the team announced they had suspended Drouin late Wednesday, Yzerman refuted a claim by the player’s agent Allan Walsh that a deal was “moving closer to completion.”
When asked about this, Yzerman shook his head.
“We’ve never said there was a pending deal or a deal close,” Yzerman said.
Tampa announced they suspended Drouin indefinitely because the winger said, through Walsh, that he doesn’t plan to continue with the Lightning “in any capacity.” Walsh’s statement indicated, Drouin didn’t want to play games anymore in Syracuse of the American Hockey League if a deal was close so a trade could be completed absent of potential player injury. Tampa sent Drouin to the minors in early January to get more playing time.
Yzerman also said the Lightning are “actively and aggressively trying to find a deal that works” to trade Drouin, and that there has been “significant” interest from teams, but the way this has played out has made a trade more difficult. Yzerman said he's acting in the best interest of the team.
“It doesn’t put added pressure on me to make a trade. I’m doing everything I possibly can now. It doesn’t help it. How much it hurts it? I don’t know,” Yzerman said.
There have also been questions as to whether the strategy for making Drouin’s November trade demand public in January was Walsh’s or Drouin’s. Yzerman said Walsh represents Drouin and has been following the player’s wishes.
“We all have choices and decisions to make, whether I agree with what they’re doing or not. Jonathan is a 20-year-old professional hockey player. He has to make his own decisions,” Yzerman said.
When asked about Drouin’s ability to handle adversity, Yzerman, a Hockey Hall of Famer as a player, made a blunt statement.
“I think if you ask every single player in that locker room, they’ve been frustrated by their situation and they persevered through it,” Yzerman said.
The Lightning face the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday evening and coach Jon Cooper also addressed the issue and took some blame as to why everything with Drouin has unraveled so quickly.
"I think in a situation like this, everybody's got to accept a little bit of responsibility, including myself," he said.
The Lightning selected Drouin with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. With the Lightning he has 40 points in 89 NHL games played. Since he was sent to Syracuse he had two goals and one assist in seven games. In that span, Tampa has gone 7-1-0.
“The situation isn’t in our locker room,” Yzerman said. “Jonathan isn’t here with the team right now. The guys are going out and playing. They have no control over it. It has no bearing on them right now.”
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