“As Jo said at the end of the season, he wants to be back in Tampa next year,” Walsh emailed ESPN. “It’s a tight-knit group, and going forward, he’s happy being part of it.”
Drouin’s mid-season trade request came while on assignment in AHL Syracuse, a situation that eventually led to a team-issued suspension after Drouin failed to report for a Crunch game.
There were widespread rumors Bolts GM Steve Yzerman would move Drouin by the trade deadline but, when a deal wasn’t reached, Yzerman said there was potential for the former No. 3 overall pick to return to the Lightning organization.
Drouin was recalled in early April, and scored goals in both of Tampa Bay’s final two games of the regular season. That proved a foreshadow for the playoffs, where Drouin played exceptionally well and racked up 14 points in 17 games.
Most assumed the reconciliation process had come full circle after Tampa’s elimination in the Eastern Conference Final, when Yzerman said “the best thing for this team is Jonathan Drouin being on it.”
Looking ahead, it’s worth noting that Drouin has one year left on his entry-level deal, meaning this is a pivotal campaign for his next contract — which should be an interesting negotiation between Walsh and Yzerman.