One week after the Tampa Bay Lightning failed to fulfill his long-standing trade request prior to the NHL’s deadline, embattled forward Jonathan Drouin has decided to return to the AHL.

Drouin will report to the Syracuse Crunch for practice on Tuesday and resume his career, the Lightning confirmed in a brief statement.

The news was first reported by TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger.

Drouin, 20, has not played a game since Jan. 18. With more than half the NHL’s teams expressing serious interest in acquiring the 2013 third-overall pick, scouts will be glued to Drouin’s every move over the final 17 games of the AHL regular season.

Syracuse returns to action on Friday night when they host Bridgeport.

Drouin was suspended by the Lightning on Jan. 20, without pay, for failure to report for a game against the Toronto Marlies. His agent, Allan Walsh, said in a statement then that the Lightning “advised a trade was moving closer to completion,” and Drouin was unwilling to accept the risk of injury by playing.

Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman refuted that, saying he never told Walsh or Drouin that a deal was close, kicking off a battle of semantics.

That battle raged on last Monday, when Yzerman put the onus back on Drouin by saying that “the door is open” for Drouin to come back and play.

Yzerman was then forced to clarify a day later, noting that the invitation was only extended to Syracuse. A return directly to Tampa Bay was never on the table. Yzerman told reporters Monday he would not “exclude” the possibility of Drouin earning a call-up to the NHL this season.

The Lightning also issued a statement on Monday, announcing they had lifted Drouin’s suspension. The team had little choice but to do so, given that Drouin is under contract and he would have been fulfilling the obligations of his deal by reporting. By upholding a suspension, the Lightning could have been subject to a grievance.

Now, Drouin can focus on hockey again. On the ice, he has proven to be a productive player, even at the NHL level. He finished his 19-year-old season with 32 points in 70 games last year. He was a healthy scratch for 20 of Tampa Bay’s 26 Stanley Cup playoff games, but his primary point production (goals and primary assists) at even-strength is on par with elite players such as Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau and others in his age range when his limited ice time is factored in.

Drouin has two goals and six assists in 19 games with the Lightning this season. He had two goals and an assist in seven games with Syracuse before his suspension.

Drouin has been training and skating daily outside of Montreal with his former midget team, the Lac St. Louis Lions, since late January. 

Yzerman and the Lightning proved they were in no rush to deal Drouin. Yzerman has a set price in mind, one that could even rise depending on how well Drouin plays now. His absence didn’t affect the Lightning, so there was no real rush. Tampa Bay has won nine straight games - their longest streak since capturing the Stanley Cup in 2004 - and has overtaken Florida for top spot in the Atlantic Division.

With so much interest in him, teams weren’t shaken by Drouin’s decision-making process throughout his 47-day holdout. In fact, some teams were intrigued by Drouin’s confidence to bet on himself, that his play would ultimately do the talking for him.

Reconsidering his options could serve as a sign of his maturity. A second chance awaits.

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Frank Seravalli can be reached at