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Lightning GM Yzerman had same knee injury as Stamkos

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) battles along the glass against New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech (50) during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa on Thursday evening (11/10/16).
Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) battles along the glass against New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech (50) during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa on Thursday evening (11/10/16).
Published Nov. 20, 2016

PHILADELPHIA — Captain Steven Stamkos missing about four months after Thursday's knee surgery is a big blow to the Lightning.

But to GM Steve Yzerman, that doctors could repair Stamkos' torn lateral meniscus in his right knee is a blessing. "It's really, really good news," he said.

Yzerman wishes he could have had the surgery. The Hall of Fame center had the same injury to the same knee in 1995. Yzerman's meniscus couldn't be repaired, so all the cartilage had to be removed.

Yzerman played nine more seasons after that, but he dealt with degeneration in the knee and had to have realignment surgery in 2002. Even now, Yzerman, 51, says he has pain in the knee when he jogs.

So if Stamkos wanted advice on having the surgery, he didn't have to go far.

"We talked about it," Yzerman said. "Stammer is pretty wise. He does a lot of reading and research, and talked to a lot of people. I think he understands it. I didn't really need to give him advice."

Stamkos, 26, could have had the torn part of the meniscus removed, and his recovery time would have been much shorter, maybe a month. But former Lightning team physician Seth Gasser said that route could lead an athlete to having a higher chance of developing arthritis

Though repairing the knee makes for an extended absence, it's the best decision for the long-term health of Stamkos' joint. And Stamkos is in just the first year of an eight year, $68 million deal signed in June.

"You have to look at it as really the best outcome," Yzerman said. "He'll work hard on his rehab and come back and be as good as he was before."

Yzerman said Stamkos could potentially return before the playoffs. He wouldn't be surprised if Stamkos beats the four-month time line.

"You never know," Yzerman said. "Stammer, on every injury (he also has had a broken leg and a blood clot), has been very determined, and he's proven to be a good healer."

TRADE TALK: Don't expect the team to use a trade to make up for the loss of Stamkos.

Putting Stamkos on long-term injured reserve would create some salary cap flexibility, allowing the team to exceed the cap ceiling by around $8 million, according to the cap website capfriendly.com. But that would be only temporary. When Stamkos returns, the team would have to clear cap space to put him back in the lineup. Currently, it has about $725,000 of cap space.

"At this time, it's not realistic to think I can go out and acquire (someone)," Yzerman said. "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 the 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."

NUTS AND BOLTS: Don't read anything into Yzerman putting his Davis Islands home up for sale. Yzerman, under contract through 2018-19, is just selling one home and buying another. … You would think red-hot forward Tanner Richard, with seven points in his first nine games with AHL Syracuse, could be among the next callups.