Jack Eichel may have been the first NHL player to undergo an artificial disk replacement surgery, but he certainly won’t be the last. The Chicago Blackhawks have announced that Tyler Johnson underwent neck surgery this morning and Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports that it was the same ADR procedure as Eichel. Blackhawks team physician Dr. Michael Terry released the following statement:
After trying to manage his neck pain conservatively for the past couple of weeks, Tyler underwent neck surgery today. The prognosis is good and his anticipated return to play is approximately three months.
Johnson, 31, has played just eight games this season for the Blackhawks after they acquired him in a trade this offseason that saw Brent Seabrook’s contract go to the Tampa Bay Lightning. He had three points in those games, but ended up on the wrong end of quite a few lopsided scores. In fact, Chicago lost all eight of the games Johnson participated in before he was taken out of the lineup due to injury at the end of October.
Now, as he faces a three-month recovery timeline, it’s unclear how many times he’ll actually get to suit up for the Blackhawks at all. The veteran forward has two more years on his contract that carries a $5MM cap hit but will be a prime buyout candidate this summer unless he really shows an increased ability down the stretch. It’s been years since he was the high-flying player that twice scored 29 goals for the Lightning, and he has just 25 points since the start of 2020-21. A serious injury like this won’t help his case as the Blackhawks will be looking to shed money in the offseason.
Of course, there is hope that this new surgery can help a player’s long-term outlook when compared to the traditional fusion procedure. Eichel was spotted back on the ice yesterday just three weeks out from surgery, and though there are obviously plenty of hurdles before he resumes play for the Vegas Golden Knights, hopefully, things are progressing well in that direction. Johnson now faces the same process of rehabilitation and won’t be helping the Blackhawks for the next few months. His contract was already on long-term injured reserve and it will stay there for the time being.