There was just one game on the NHL docket last night and it impacted the world of fantasy in a major way.
Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos broke his tibia when he was backchecking in the second period. He wound up having his leg smash into the goalpost and that was enough to break it. Stamkos is tied for the league lead with Alexander Steen of the Blues for the league lead with 14 goals. He was also tied with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby with 23 points so far in the season.
Let’s face the fact. Stamkos is done for most of the season. The Lightning are saying he is out indefinitely but the realistic answer is the don’t expect him back before March. He’s expected to have surgery tomorrow to repair it.
Keep this in mind: the tibia is a weight-bearing bone in the leg and an optimistic recovery time for the surgery alone is 12 weeks. That would put him out through mid-February which is when the Olympics would be going on in Sochi, Russia. Factor the Olympics in and March 1st would be a possible return date, should everything go well with his recovery.
From a fantasy standpoint, Stamkos himself is irreplaceable. There is no free agent you can sign to replace his production and there is nothing you can trade him for to get someone of similar value. If you own Stamkos, you’re really painted into a corner.
The smart move is to hold him on your roster. If your league has an IR spot, then times like this are why it was invented. If not, it’s going to cost you a roster spot but it’s worth it for arguably one of the world’s best players. Dropping him is not an option as of now. If you do, someone else will pick him up and stash him away.
If we get a few weeks into the recovery and an infection develops, it becomes a different situation. We’ve already seen an infection take down Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators. His was in his surgically-repaired hip and he was told he’d be out a month. All you can do now is wait…and wait…and wait.
As for the rest of the Lightning, this has a profound impact on the team.
The first question is who will take Stamkos’ spot on the top line between Martin St. Louis and Teddy Purcell? The answer might be Valteri Filppula but I want to see what head coach Jon Cooper comes up with after a few games. He won’t find the final answer before the team’s next game.
I also wonder how this will impact the Tampa power play. Most of the time they have run their man advantage with four forwards. Ryan Malone has been out there a bit with Purcell, Stamkos and St. Louis but someone is going to move into that top group and get a little boost with the extra power play time.
The other question is who will the Lightning call up to fill the hole in the roster while Stamkos heals. The Syracuse Crunch of the AHL is the team’s top affiliate and someone will be coming up. The player who makes the most sense is Nikita Kucherov, 5-foot-11, 178 pound right wing from Russia. Stamkos is a center and Kucherov is a wing but players are able to adjust.
Kucherov has been the team’s go-to guy this season in Syracuse and leads the Crunch with 12 goals and 10 assists…in 13 games. Six of his goals have come on the power play and the big club could use some of that spark on the man advantage. If he comes up, I would look to get a hold of him. He’s not going to be a full-on Stamkos replacement but he can help to take some of the sting off losing him.
It would make a lot of sense to call up the AHL’s leading goal scorer and second-overall point-getter.
Boston won 3-0 but that seems secondary to this. The Lightning visits Montreal Tuesday night.