Lightning assistant coach Wayne Fleming, who is battling brain cancer, is not expected to be with the team when the season opens in October, general manager Steve Yzerman said.
Yzerman is hopeful, though, that Fleming will be able to watch games on television and provide observations and insights via text messages and phone calls as he did during last season's playoffs.
"Absolutely, we hope he has the energy to do that. But that's up to Wayne about what he can do," Yzerman said Monday.
Fleming, 61, has been in Tampa for about a month after spending almost three months in a California hospital recovering from surgery in May to remove a malignant tumor.
The coach, to whom Lightning players dedicated last season's run to the Eastern Conference final, still is undergoing chemo and radiation treatments through Moffitt Cancer Center and is in a wheelchair as he rehabs to regain his motor skills, Yzerman said.
"His progress has been up and down," Yzerman added. "It just wears on him. With all the chemo and radiation and physical therapy and trying to get back walking, it just takes a toll on him."
That said, Yzerman called Fleming's spirits "really good" and added, "The majority of times I've spoken with him, if you didn't know his condition, you wouldn't know there was anything wrong with him. His mind is sharp."
That is why Yzerman, who reiterated he will not hire a replacement for Fleming and is leaving the door "wide open" for his return, hopes Fleming will contribute even if not physically with the team.
"He wants to be involved, and it's good for him to be involved," Yzerman said. "We hope he can be."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.