Will he move or not before Monday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline?
It's a question even Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman can't answer yet.
Speaking with Lightning beat reporters Erik Erlendsson and Joe Smith on Wednesday, Yzerman expressed that he'd rather get Drouin dealt before the deadline than wait until the offseason, if he had his druthers.
It wasn't meant to be headline-making material. It's just kind of the obvious conclusion, Yzerman told ESPN.com Thursday morning.
"We're close to the trade deadline, we're trying to make the playoffs, if I can trade him and put a player on my team and make us better, isn't that common sense?" Yzerman said over the phone.
"I'm not going to wait just to wait, but I'm not going to trade him just to trade him," Yzerman added. "If there's something in the next four to five days that helps us now, sure, that would be my preference."
But -- and there's always a but -- Yzerman will not settle just for the sake of settling. He maintains that he's only going to trade Drouin, 20, if the deal meets the standard Yzerman has set for trading Drouin.
"We're trying to give ourselves the best chance to make the playoffs, and if we do make the playoffs, give ourselves the best chance of being successful," said Yzerman. "If that means a deal involving Drouin, I'll do that. But it doesn't mean it's going to happen."
In my mind, the time is now for the long list of teams that have shown interest to play their best hand if they want Drouin before the deadline. Yzerman wasn't sure if the deadline would change those offers or not. That's hard to predict.
"I've been talking to teams for months, every team knows what I'm looking for, I know what they're willing to do," Yzerman said.
By now, nobody should question Yzerman's patience in the matter. Drouin's trade request went public Jan. 3, and while some people wondered if that might pressure the Tampa Bay GM into a quick trade, guess again.
"Stevie has handled this smartly," said one rival Eastern Conference GM.
Is Yzerman asking too much in return for Drouin? That's for the potential buyers to decide, but it's clear he believes Drouin will be a special player. He doesn't want to live to regret this trade.
Until Yzerman gets the deal he wants, I don't think any of us should question his willingness to be patient. Could Drouin be dealt before Monday's deadline? Definitely. That's Yzerman's preference, all things being equal.
But could it wait until the summer? Definitely, if the deals offered in the coming days don't meet the standard set.
Step up if you want him, boys.
An interesting tweet from my Vancouver-based TSN colleague Farhan Lalji on Thursday morning:
Not surprised to see Dan Hamhuis linked to Chicago, because I had heard a few murmurs over the past few days. The Hawks can use an addition on defense. The problem is that we still don't know if pending UFA Hanhuis is willing to waive his no-move clause. It's a decision Hamhuis has surely been wrestling with all week. He went home to British Columbia years ago and took less money to sign with the Canucks because he wanted to be home. He's earned the right to refuse a trade if he wants. Or does he join a contender to potentially enhance his value on the free-agent market this summer?
The surprising part to me is that Canucks teammate Radim Vrbata would be involved. I think Andrew Ladd or Mikkel Boedker would make more sense as additions on the wing for Chicago. Vrbata hasn't had a very good season, but also remember that he hasn't had the chance to play with the Sedin twins much, either.
My take: If Hurricanes GM Ron Francis goes to Staal over the next few days and asks him if he'd waive his no-trade clause, I believe Staal might agree. However, only for a few teams, so Francis would have a limited field to work with. The New York Rangers are probably on that list, given that Eric would have a chance to play with his brother, Marc Staal, in New York.
After that? I would think the Chicago Blackhawks, where Eric would have a chance to play left wing on a line with Jonathan Toews and join a team with a chance to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Maybe another team or two, but it would be a short, tight list. No question it's weighing on Eric. His team began Thursday just two points out of a playoff spot. He's having a blast playing with another brother, Jordan Staal, in this playoff race. Tough call for everyone involved.
The long-term injury to Ben Lovejoy only adds to the potential for the Pittsburgh Penguins to add a blue-liner before Monday's deadline. It's a thin market for defensemen right now, so there's no guarantee Pens GM Jim Rutherford will be able to find a fit. He may stand pat and just use his AHL options for depth, but adding a D-man is the focus right now.