This is Stone’s second major back injury concern in as many seasons. He was limited to just 37 games last season with back issues, which Stone noted caused severe nerve pain. Stone underwent an offseason back surgery and came back ready to go for the 2022-23 campaign.
The Winnipeg-born winger is in the fourth season of an eight-year, $76MM contract extension he signed with Vegas in March 2019. Considering Stone’s impact on the team and franchise, Vegas’ acquisition price of Oscar Lindberg, Erik Brannstrom, and a 2020 second-round pick to get Stone from the Ottawa Senators seems tame in hindsight.
With just over two months left in the regular season, it’s a fair bet to say Stone won’t play again in the regular season. It opens the possibility for Vegas to place Stone’s $9.5MM cap hit on long-term injured reserve, which would total north of $23MM of cap relief when including the contracts of Shea Weber, Robin Lehner, and Nolan Patrick.
Vegas’ organizational depth is dwindling due to some monster trades in the past few seasons. Does general manager Kelly McCrimmon have something left in the tank to acquire a bona fide top-six piece in Stone’s absence?
With 38 points in 43 games, Stone remains Vegas’ second-leading scorer at the time of writing. His offensive production is hard enough to replace, but the added loss of his leadership creates a gargantuan hole in the Golden Knights lineup.
Since Stone exited the lineup on January 12, the team is just 1-5-2 and averages just two goals per game. They’ve lost their grip on the Pacific Division to the Seattle Kraken and risk falling even further down the standings if their scoring doesn’t heat up. If Vegas can’t manage to string some wins together in the week after the All-Star break, it could add pressure on McCrimmon to make a trade sooner rather than later.