It looks like Jonathan Drouin is going to start playing hockey again.

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced on Monday afternoon that the team has lifted Drouin's suspension and that he will be reporting to the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL on Tuesday. He had been suspended by the Lightning without pay since late January when he failed to report to an AHL game.

Drouin, who had requested a trade from the Lightning as far back as November, was sent to the AHL during the season. Just before a January game against the Toronto Marlies, Drouin's agent, Allan Walsh, released a statement saying that the Lightning had informed him that a trade involving Drouin was moving closer to completion and that they (Walsh and Drouin) felt it would be best if Drouin did not play in the team's upcoming games to avoid a potential injury that would prevent the trade.

When the Lightning refused to accept that request, Walsh said that "there is no reason for Jonathan to continue with the Tampa Bay Lightning organization in any capacity."

He has not played in an NHL game since. As the NHL trade deadline approached, it seemed possible, if not likely, that a Drouin trade would get completed before then. But the deadline came and went without a deal, leaving Drouin with little option other than to eventually return to the team.

Following the trade deadline Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said the fact that Drouin was not playing was a concern to interested teams, while also adding that the door was still open for Drouin to return to the team. That is still probably the best possible outcome at the moment for Tampa Bay. Drouin's value to them as a player at this point is still probably far greater than his value as a trade chip.

Given the Lighting's future salary cap situation as it needs to find way to possibly extend Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman over the coming seasons, having a young, skilled player with top-line potential like Drouin come through on a cheap contract would be a huge asset for them. When you combine the fact that he wasn't playing hockey at the moment and hasn't yet produced like the top-three pick that he was, it would have been hard for the Lightning to get equal value back in return, even if it is mostly based on potential. 

Where this situation goes from here -- whether it's a sign that Drouin is prepared to make it work with the Lightning or if he's just returning because he has no other option and continues to wait for a trade -- remains to be seen.

Yzerman said on Monday that he would not rule out Drouin earning a call-up to the Lightning before the season is over.

In 89 career NHL games over two years he has scored six goals to go with 34 assists. He had two goals and one assist in seven AHL games before the suspension this season.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have lifted Jonathan Drouin's suspension. (USATSI)
The Tampa Bay Lightning have lifted Jonathan Drouin's suspension. (USATSI)