Injuries from last season make for cloudy projections regarding the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2017-18 expectations, and that especially applies to a situation likely to spill over with Steven Stamkos.
Back in November, he underwent surgery on his knee, which essentially derailed his 2016-17 campaign. The good news is that all signs point to Stamkos’ rehab going quite well, according to Joe Smith, who covered the topic in a mailbag for the Tampa Bay Times.
Smith included a short-and-sweet update from Stamkos’ agent.
“He’s doing great,” agent Mark Guy said. “No issues.”
This goes along with general thumbs up from the player and GM Steve Yzerman, who in fact told Smith that Stamkos should be good to go for Lightning training camp and the start of 2017-18.
Of course, knee injuries are tricky, and it’s plausible that Stamkos will be limited even if he’s on the ice.
His healthiness could have a big impact on Tampa Bay’s ceiling after missing the playoffs.
Yzerman made the bold move to trade Jonathan Drouin, saving some cap space and getting a promising (but not guaranteed to be NHL-ready) defensive prospect in Mikhail Sergachev. Yzerman invested heavily in the Lightning core with deals for Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, while also adding veterans in Dan Girardi and Chris Kunitz.
Going after those veterans, in particular, would lead you to believe that this team still has high expectations.
A near-full-strength Stamkos stands as one of the – if not the – most important pieces of that puzzle.