The Tampa Bay Lightning have placed Steven Stamkos on long-term injury reserve, reports CapFriendly (Twitter link). To maximize their potential space, the team recalled prospect defenseman Ben Thomas from Syracuse over the weekend for one day and then sent him back down. By bringing Thomas up before placing Stamkos on LTIR, the Lightning were within $40K of the cap at the time of his placement which increased the amount of LTIR room to work with. As a result, Tampa Bay has a little over $8.45MM in cap space to work with while Stamkos is out of the lineup.
If Stamkos progresses well in his rehab from surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee and is projected to return late in the year, it’s unlikely that GM Steve Yzerman would make a bigger move to replace Stamkos as they wouldn’t be able to activate him until they’re back in cap compliance which would be difficult if they added a high salaried player to take his spot.
However, if they feel it’s likely that he’ll be out for the remainder of the season – a realistic possibility considering the four-to-six month projected recovery time – then they could add a bigger salary or two between now and the trade deadline. There is no salary cap in the playoffs so even if the Lightning’s postseason roster was over the cap ceiling, it wouldn’t constitute a cap violation. Chicago executed that to perfection a couple of years ago with Patrick Kane’s LTIR placement allowing them to add Antoine Vermette late in the season.
It will still be a while before Tampa Bay can realistically expect a revised timeline for a return date for their captain so in the meantime, it’s likely that they will look to fill his spot from within. One player who it looked like was going to get a chance was right winger Erik Condra but that doesn’t appear to be the case now as the team announced that they have sent him back to Syracuse of the AHL before he appeared in a single game for the Lightning.
[Related: Lightning Depth Chart]