After leaving last night’s game with an apparent lower-body injury, the Tampa Bay Lightning have announced that All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman will be out for three to six weeks. That’s a huge blow for the Lightning, who use Hedman in all situations for nearly 26 minutes of ice time a night. Still, it’s a better diagnosis than some were expecting since the damage appeared to be to his knee.
As we wrote recently, even before Hedman’s injury one of the places the Lightning could get better was the back half of their defense corps. Now with his injury, that group will be tested more than ever to try and keep the club at the very top of the Eastern Conference. In Hedman’s absence last night, Jake Dotchin led the club with almost 23 minutes (which didn’t include even a second of powerplay time), easily his highest mark of the season. It’s not clear how the team will cope with the loss of Hedman, but Dotchin and young Mikhail Sergachev will likely be leaned on even more than they had been.
The team does have the left-handed Slater Koekkoek waiting in the wings, but he’s never shown an ability to take on much of a lead role for the club. Instead, the team could go out and make an addition with the assets we’ve outlined previously. While a three week absence would have Hedman missing just seven games, there’s no telling how long it will take him to get back to full strength. The team already had some question marks on the bottom pair, and could use this as another reason to improve their defense corps through trade.
For another player in the Atlantic it provides a different opportunity. Hedman was ticketed to represent the Lightning at home during the upcoming All-Star weekend, meaning someone like Morgan Rielly, Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, or Keith Yandle could be selected to replace him. While it’s unfortunate that Hedman won’t be able to participate in front of his home crowd, but Tampa Bay fans are just pleased it’s not something more long-term.