Oh, you thought that just because the trade deadline happened on Monday we're done talking about Jonathan Drouin? THINK AGAIN.
Via Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman's weekly 30 Thoughts column, emphasis ours:
3. Ottawa's Bryan Murray admitted he tried to pry Drouin loose. Don't know the potential return, but the Lightning spent a lot of time scouting Boston College centre Colin White, taken 21st overall in the 2015 Draft. A few sources said not to discount Philadelphia, even though the Flyers don't get mentioned a lot. They've got a lot of good, young prospects. No question the uncertainty over Steven Stamkos factored into Yzerman's decision. Another important factor: how will Nikita Kucherov's next contract affect Tampa's salary structure?
Drouin, of course, was not traded on Monday, almost two months after his agent went public with a trade request to the Tampa Bay Lightning. There were plenty of reports about his availability and the levels of interest in him that day -- according to TSN's Frank Seravalli, "nearly 15 teams expressed significant interest" in the 20-year old winger leading up to the deadline. And we already had reason to believe that the Flyers were one of those teams before Friedman dropped those two bolded sentences in his piece last night.
Now, it's unclear from Friedman's passage above whether "[a] few sources said not to discount Philadelphia" means that he believes that the Flyers were chief among those teams making a big push to acquire Drouin over the deadline weekend, or if he's been told to expect the Flyers to make another push in the offseason when Drouin will presumably be available again. It could well be both -- it'd make sense that if the Flyers were interested this past week they'd be expected to be interested in June.
Friedman's casually mentioning that the Flyers have "got a lot of good, young prospects" also leaves one to wonder just how much the Flyers were prepared to offer for Drouin. There were reports in the days leading up to the deadline that the Lightning -- a legitimate Stanley Cup contender this season -- were looking for immediate help in a Drouin trade. With the exception of rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who the Flyers were assuredly not offering Tampa in any Drouin trade, no one the Flyers have that could reasonably be called a "prospect" would provide a ton of immediate help to Tampa in their attempt to win a Cup this year before Steven Stamkos' impending free agency this summer.
That could all change in the offseason, when the focus for Tampa may shift from "how do we win a Cup in a few months" to "how can we contend to win a Cup long-term". It seems unlikely from here that any of the Flyers' top prospects -- think Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, or Travis Konecny -- are guys that Ron Hextall would dangle for Drouin, but it's likely that's who Tampa would ask for. Again, Friedman's passage makes it unclear whether league sources believe Hextall would offer a top prospect for Drouin or whether it's just something they think would make sense. But there are clearly folks in the league who believe there may be something there.
It remains to be seen what will happen with Drouin, whose situation took a mildly unexpected turn on Monday when he was not dealt. Tampa GM Steve Yzerman said on Monday that Drouin -- who was suspended by the team in late January for not reporting to a game in AHL Syracuse and hasn't played since -- is welcome to come back and play, but per that same Seravalli report above, it's believed that that offer solely extended to Syracuse, and not to the NHL squad in Tampa. Which makes some sense -- while not impossible, it'd certainly be difficult to see the locker room in Tampa accepting him back with open arms this quickly after he publicly asked out.
The fact that Drouin hasn't played since that suspension in January apparently hurt his trade value, and it remains to be seen whether or not he'll get back on the ice in the AHL before this season ends or if he'll continue to not report until he is finally traded. But it's now something else Tampa will have to worry about up to and through this offseason, as if they didn't have enough to think about with their best player on the brink of free agency.
In any case, it sounds like we should expect to be talking about this again once the offseason rolls around one way or another. Stay tuned.