Lightning’s playoff injuries: Point’s quad tear, a ‘mangled finger,’ more

Lightning's playoff injury list: Point's quad tear, a 'mangled finger,' more
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In learning about Brayden Point‘s injuries and other gnarly issues Lightning players fought through to try to three-peat as Stanley Cup champions, two questions come to mind.

Are players going too far in playing injured — not just hurt — during the Playoffs? And how hurt will the Tampa Bay Lightning be as they enter the 2022-23 regular season?

Point, Kucherov, other Lightning players fought through nasty playoff injuries

The Athletic’s Joe Smith listed off the Lightning’s array of injuries, including what ailed Brayden Point and limited Nikita Kucherov:

Ryan McDonagh‘s “mangled finger” is one of those phrases that can dance around the brain for years.

The thought of hockey culture maybe instilling some pressure to fight through injuries too regularly comes to mind when Brayden Point … compared his tears.

After gaping in awe at the strangeness of grading different muscle tears, consider that Brayden Point was on-point. While he courageously suited up for Game 1 and 2 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final, his mobility was severely limited. Point’s high hockey IQ was intact, but the Lightning had their hands full (and needed to keep their legs moving) against the speedy Avalanche.

Following the end of the Lightning’s push for a Stanley Cup in Game 6, Jon Cooper offered early perspective on their injuries. He opined that, if it was a regular season game, “half of their AHL team” would have been called up.

As you can see from the list above, Point (quad tear), Kucherov (knee), Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (knee), Anthony Cirelli (shoulder/collarbone), Corey Perry (shoulder), Brandon Hagel (foot) and Ryan McDonagh (finger) all were especially noted. It sounds like Cirelli suffered multiple shoulder injuries, and will need surgery.

Considering all of the shot-blocking, there may be other Lightning players with lingering playoff injuries. Erik Cernak seemed increasingly doubtful as the 2022 Stanley Cup Final went along. Steven Stamkos started to really pile up shot blocks.

As far as the Avalanche go, we might get playoff/Stanley Cup Final injury updates later this week. In the meantime, speculate about what gnarly thing happened to Valeri Nichushkin‘s foot.


Free agent losses could threaten absences, not just injuries; Annual Lightning salary cap questions

Combine injuries with flat-out fatigue, and you wonder if the Lightning may begin the 2022-23 season on a slow start.

The Lightning also could be without some key players, depending upon free agent decisions.

  • Ondrej Palat, 31, continued to pile up “clutch” goals. Can the Lightning continue their run of “How did they keep that free agent?” signings with Palat? Evolving Hockey’s contract projections spit out a possible three-year contract with a $5.56M cap hit. Would Palat take even less to stay with the Lightning? Would another team offer quite a bit more (in years and/or term) to get a first-line Lightning asset?
  •  While the Lightning traded for someone under team control in Brandon Hagel, they also landed a great trade in Nicholas Paul. After playing for some bad Senators teams, Paul clearly valued this Lightning run. That said, this run also likely put Paul on plenty of extra radars. He said the right things about coming back, but who knows?

[Palat and other players who drove up their value during the playoffs]

To their credit, the Lightning don’t just look at the short-term when making salary cap decisions. That’s key, as the Lightning could extend three enormously important players as soon as this offseason: Anthony Cirelli (24, $4.8M cap hit), Mikhail Sergachev (24, $4.8M), and Erik Cernak (25, $2.95M).

Each one of those players is worth a lot more than those cap figures. With the Lightning eternally scraping the salary cap ceiling, it’s tough to imagine them keeping Cirelli, Sergachev, and Cernak without losing one or more of Palat and Paul.

It all shapes up to be a real challenge for the Lightning to climb that playoff mountain once again. They very well might be taking those first steps quite gingerly.

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    Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

    Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

    The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

    Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

    Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

    Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

    The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

    Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

    Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

    These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

    In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

    “Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

    Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

    “He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

    Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

    “I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

    Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

    “I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

    Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

    “I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

    Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

    The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

    One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

    “It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

    Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

    Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

    Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

    Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.