Tampa Bay's hopes for repeating as Eastern Conference champs took a major blow on Saturday with the news that star forward Steven Stamkos will miss one-to-three months due to a blood clot found in his arm near the right collarbone. He will undergo surgery on Monday the team announced.
The condition is a type of vascular thoracic outlet syndrome called effort thrombosis, the same condition that plagued Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy just before the season began.
“Obviously this situation is extremely disappointing because I wanted to help my team clinch a playoff spot and prepare for the start of the postseason,” Stamkos said. “During my recovery I will do all I can to help my teammates, and I hope to rejoin them soon in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.”
The Lightning currently sit in second place in the Atlantic Division in a back-and-forth battle with Florida. With the news of Stamkos' injury, one would expect the Panthers to enter the postseason as the division champion.
This also begs the question as to whether we have seen the last of Stamkos in Tampa.
Stamkos is in the last year of his contract and the fact that he has not yet signed an extension has led many to speculate whether he would consider leaving the Lightning for a team closer to his native Ontario, such as Toronto or Montreal. If one month is the best case scenario, that would put his return sometime during the second period. Without their best player, there is no guarantee Tampa will be able to make it to that point, let alone farther should his recovery take longer.