Reaction to Jonathan Drouin’s suspension, the latest on the Maple Leafs and Canucks, and making the case for the Penguins to shop Phil Kessel in your NHL rumor mill. 

Latest on Jonathan Drouin.

Lightning have suspended left wing Jonathan Bernier.

Lightning have suspended left wing Jonathan Drouin.

SPORTSNET: Following the Tampa Bay Lightning’s suspension of left wing Jonathan Drouin for not reporting to a Syracuse Crunch game and returning home to await a trade, Chris Johnston examines where the two sides could go from here. Johnston noted the statement from Drouin’s agent Allan Walsh explaining his client’s decision, based upon the club’s refusal to let him sit out upcoming Crunch games until an anticipated NHL trade was finalized. According to Walsh, his client didn’t want to risk an injury that could jeopardize a trade.

Johnston suggests this could give Lightning GM Steve Yzerman a means of boosting Drouin’s trade value by applying via arbitration to toll the 20-year-old’s contract forward if he remains suspended. If successful, that means Drouin would have two years remaining on his entry-level deal instead of one, plus push his UFA eligibility ahead one year, from 2021 to 2022. Johnston anticipates the Drouin camp will vehemently fight to prevent that from taking place.

Though Walsh claimed a trade could be close, Johnston noted Yzerman holds all the leverage in this case. The Lightning GM could leave Drouin in limbo beyond the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Tom Jones feels Drouin is acting like a petulant spoiled brat, blowing whatever sympathy he may have garnered. He also suggests this could hamper the Lightning’s efforts to honor Drouin’s trade request, as it now gives the youngster a bad reputation as a high maintenance whiner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Drouin and Walsh are playing chicken with Yzerman in hopes of forcing the Lightning GM to speed up trade efforts. This could go one of two ways. With a trade potentially close before Drouin’s suspension, Yzerman could move quickly to settle this deal and get the troublesome young winger off his hands. Or he could simply leave Drouin twisting in the wind for months while attempting to toll the youngster’s contract.

My guess is Yzerman will continue trade talks to find the right deal, but this move by the Drouin camp could hurt those efforts. While Drouin has potential as a playmaker, he’s now getting a bad reputation. This could give some interested parties second thoughts about the youngster, raising concerns that he’ll become difficult to re-sign or create problems if unhappy with his role. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. 

Latest Leafs speculation.

THE STAR:  Mark Zwolinski lists goaltender James Reimer, defenseman Roman Polak and forwards Leo Komarov, Michael Grabner and Joffrey Lupul as the five Toronto Maple Leafs who could attract the most interest in the trade market. He thinks Reimer could interest the Montreal Canadiens and St. Louis Blues, fetching either a first- or second-round pick. The Chicago Blackhawks, New York Islanders, New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings could be among those with interest in Polak, who could draw a second-round pick. Komarov could also draw a second-round pick from the Washington Capitals, Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks. The Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning and Minnesota Wild could use Grabner, who might be worth between a third and a fifth. Ditto Lupul, who might interest the Kings, Sharks and Blues.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of these five, Polak and Grabner seem most likely to be dealt. Can’t say I disagree with the possible trade destinations for Polak, though the Rangers biggest need seems to be depth at right wing. The Blues and Wild need more established scoring, but I don’t think they’re that keen on the inconsistent Grabner, while the Bolts’ offensive struggles were due largely to key players being sidelined for lengthy periods.They also seek a right-handed defenseman to anchor their power play.

Given Bernier’s inconsistency, I think the Leafs are interested in re-signing Reimer, but his injury history probably means they’ll want an affordable short-term deal.If they do trade him, I doubt the Habs and Blues are interested,as Carey Price and Jake Allan are expected to return in February. Besides, those two clubs seek scoring, not goaltending.  I still think the Leafs prefer to retain Komarov, who has term left on his contract and is a team leader. Lupul’s $5.25 million cap hit through 2018 and his injury history makes him very difficult to move. He’s too expensive for the Kings, Blues and Sharks. 

Should the Penguins shop Kessel?

SI.COM: Allan Muir believes the Pittsburgh Penguins should admit to themselves acquiring winger Phil Kessel was a mistake and try to trade him. Muir notes the Montreal Canadiens, Minnesota Wild and Anaheim Ducks are among the teams struggling to score this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kessel’s contract will be difficult to move, while his struggles with the Penguins certainly won’t help his trade value. After all, if he can’t score skating alongside superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, that’s going to raise concerns over how well he’ll fit on another roster. 

Latest Canucks speculation.

THE PROVINCE: Jason Botchford wonders if a potentially deep UFA class might prompt the Vancouver Canucks into shopping goaltender Ryan Miller and defenseman Dan Hamhuis. Miller has another season left on his contract at a cap hit of $6 million, while Hamhuis is eligible this summer for UFA status. Other trade options include pending UFA winger Radim Vrbata and winger Alex Burrows.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hamhuis and Vrbata are coming off the books anyway, though shopping them will bring in draft picks. Moving Miller and Burrows would free up additional cap space to go after some free-agent talent this summer. However, GM Jim Benning seems to be rebuilding on the fly, bringing in younger assets whilst trying to maintain a competitive roster. If the Canucks remain in playoff contention by the Feb. 29 trade deadline, he could retain those veterans. If not, I believe he’ll shop his pending UFAs, but I think he retains Miller. He’ll have a tough time shopping Burrows, who has a year left on his contract with a $4 million cap hit.