After undergoing successful surgery on his broken finger, Johnny Gaudreau has been given a recovery timetable of six weeks, according to GM Brad Treliving. The speedy forward was injured on a slash from Minnesota forward Eric Staal in the third period of last night’s game.
A huge blow to the offensive hopes of a team reeling already, Gaudreau represented the best goal scoring option on the team. The 23-year old held out most of the offseason in a contract negotiation, before signing a massive six year, $40.5MM deal just prior to the start of the year. Coming off a 78 point season he and fellow youngster Sean Monahan were expected to form one of the league’s top duos and help Calgary get back to the playoffs.
Not so fast, as the Flames have struggled out of the gate and Gaudreau and Monahan had been split up for much of the year. Now facing more than a month without their sniper, they’ll look to other players to step up. Perhaps one of those will be Matthew Tkachuk, the sixth-overall pick from this year’s draft who has stepped into a bigger role recently. Another option is Kris Versteeg, who though injured at the moment is “close to returning” according to Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet. Versteeg provides some veteran experience that can play in any situation and slot into any of the top three lines if need be.
One thing is for sure, if the Flames are insistent on making it back to the playoffs this year, their team defense needs to get better. They’ve allowed a conference-worst 60 goals through 18 games, trailing only the Philadelphia Flyers for the league-wide lead.