Yzerman: Not 'realistic' to use trades to fill Steven Stamkos void
Losing captain Steven Stamkos for four months leaves a considerable void, taking one of the league's top scorers out of the lineup.
But don't expect the Lightning to use the trade route to make up for the loss.
Putting Stamkos on long-term injured reserve would create some salary cap flexibility, allowing Tampa Bay to exceed the cap ceiling by around $8 million, per CapFriendly,com. But it would only be temporary, as the All-Star is expected to return in mid-March. At that time, the Lightning would have to clear cap space to put him back in the lineup. Currently, the Lightning has about $725,000 of cap space.
"At this time, it's not realistic to think I can go out and acquire (someone)," GM Steve Yzerman told the Times. "Even if I could acquire a player with a significant cap number, I'd have to be scrambling when Stammer came back. So let's wait and see for time being.
"I'm certainly open to exploring anything. But at this time, let's give some of the guys who have been waiting for an increased role a chance."
Yzerman said he and assistant GM Julien BriseBois will talk in the next few days, see if the Lightning will add another forward from AHL Syracuse, such as a Cory Conacher, Tanner Richard, etc.
But Yzerman believes in this group, which has overcome the loss of Stamkos twice in the last three years, for 45 games in 2013-14 and the first two rounds of the playoffs last spring. The Lightning (11-6-1) has won three straight, including Thursday's 4-1 victory over Buffalo in the first game without Stamkos. Yzerman noted how Jonathan Drouin, Brayden Point and Vladislav Namestnikov, among others, will see increased roles, as will Nikita Nesterov and Slater Koekkoek on the blueline with Anton Stralman out.
"We're significantly a better team with Stammer in the lineup than without," Yzerman said. 'But in the past we've been able to overcome injuries to various players and still remain competitive and reached the playoffs. We've been fortunate players have stepped in and given an increased role, regardless of who's been out, and have done the job for us. We expect and hope that the guys who are in the lineup can handle the added workload."
Yzerman said Stamkos' surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee was successful. The thought is Stamkos could potentially return in mid-March, four months from now, though Yzerman noted Stamkos is a "quick healer."
And it sounds like it'll be up to the current group to pick up the slack.