Today has been a big day for news surrounding the Vegas Golden Knights, with coach Pete DeBoer being relieved of his duties this morning. That run of news now continues thanks to GM Kelly McCrimmon’s press conference today, where he revealed that captain Mark Stone, who battled injuries all year, would “most likely” be undergoing back surgery this offseason. McCrimmon did note that they expect Stone to be ready for training camp this fall, but this is nonetheless unwelcome news for a team looking to rebound from the most disappointing season in the history of their young franchise.
Stone, who just turned 30, struggled to stay healthy this season and only managed to get into 37 games. Stone’s back injury bothered him all season, leading to his placement on long-term injured reserve in early February. Stone did eventually return from LTIR in order to help the Golden Knights in their ultimately unsuccessful playoff push, but it now seems likely that his late-season activation from LTIR was more about trying to keep the team’s playoff hopes alive than it was about Stone’s back being fully recovered. If the cap-strapped Golden Knights have any hope of returning to contention next season, getting their captain back to 100% health should be a top priority, and it seems that they have elected a back surgery as the best way for Stone to get there.
Now for some other bits of news from across the NHL:
- The goaltending situation of the Minnesota Wild has been a major storyline surrounding the team ever since they acquired the legendary Marc-Andre Fleury at the deadline. It was a move that would end up costing the incumbent number-one goaltender, Cam Talbot, his chance to be the team’s unquestioned starter come playoff time, and There has been much speculation devoted to whether or not the Wild could manage to return that tandem for next season. Today Fleury spoke to the media and clarified his thoughts on the matter. Fleury said, per Michael Russo of The Athletic, that a return to the Wild would be “very appealing,” but that he will test free agency to at the very least see what his options are. Fleury went 9-2 in his 11 regular-season appearances with the Wild, and although he eventually ceded the crease to Talbot by the end of the Wild’s first-round loss to the St. Louis Blues, it’s clear that he was a good fit in Minnesota. Whether or not he continues that arrangement will be a storyline to watch going forward, as his comments do indicate clear interest in a return.
- While this will give no solace to Pittsburgh Penguins fans still reeling from the team’s season-ending overtime loss to the New York Rangers, their team failing to advance in the playoffs does have one (very small) benefit. As CapFriendly notes, because of the Penguins’ elimination, they will retain the 2022 seventh-round pick they surrendered to the Winnipeg Jets as part of their trade for defenseman Nathan Beaulieu at the deadline. Beaulieu was acquired with the intention of being a reserve defenseman for the playoffs, and although he did end up activated from LTIR during the playoffs he did not skate in any games. For the Jets, this outcome is likely their favored one as had the Rangers lost to the Penguins, the Jets would lose their chance at landing a first-rounder as part of the Andrew Copp trade.