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Lightning unlikely to trade Drouin now

Yzerman says 'what's best for the team' is having forward on it

by Corey Long / Correspondent

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman on Friday all but closed the door on trading forward Jonathan Drouin.

"He makes us a better team, it's as simple as that," Yzerman said. "I always say I will do what's best for the organization. I think what's best for the team right now is Jonathan Drouin being on it."

Drouin, who returned to the Lightning on April 7 after time in the American Hockey League that included a two-month suspension for refusing to continue his reassignment, scored their goal in a 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday and had five goals and nine assists during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I love the way [this season] ended," Drouin said. "It was a different year and a weird year, but this is definitely somewhere I want to play."

Video: TBL@PIT, Gm7: Drouin whips puck past Murray

Drouin's agent, Allen Walsh, revealed a request to be traded made in November after Drouin was demoted to Syracuse of the AHL on Jan. 2. He chose not to play to avoid an injury that would prevent a deal, and the Lightning suspended Drouin on Jan. 20. It appeared a messy breakup was bound to happen.

Yzerman said he was actively looking to trade Drouin, but he did not prior to the NHL Trade Deadline of Feb. 29. The suspension was lifted March 7 and Drouin returned to play for Syracuse.

When a spot on the Lightning roster came open after forward Steven Stamkos had surgery to remove a blood clot from his right collarbone on April 4, Drouin was called up and a scored a goal in his first game back.

Drouin scored his first NHL playoff goal in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the New York Islanders; it turned out to be the game-winner in a 4-1 victory.

"He's playing with confidence now," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Friday. "He knows he belongs in the League and he's been through the process, he's had the growing pains. He understands what you have to do to be a successful player in the NHL. He's going to be a big part of what we do here."

Drouin, 21, was named Friday to the roster for Team North America in the World Cup of Hockey. He is part of a young core of Lightning players that includes 22-year-old forward Nikita Kucherov, 21-year-old goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, and 22-year-old defenseman Slater Koekkoek, who worked his way into a top-six spot during the playoffs.

Drouin said he no longer thinks about the past and is looking forward to playing a full season with the Lightning. The No. 3 pick of the 2014 NHL Draft has eight goals and 34 points in 91 games.

"We've got great young players here, very exciting young players, but we've also got a lot of great veterans," Drouin said. "I love the mix of guys we have in the locker room. It's a good situation to be in and I enjoyed having the opportunity to play with them."

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