Lightning center Mitchell Stephens suffered what appeared to be a significant lower-body injury last Saturday against Columbus with the expectation of an extended absence. Today, head coach Jon Cooper revealed to reporters, including Joe Smith of The Athletic (Twitter link) that Stephens is expected to miss at least the next two months.
The 23-year-old had cracked Tampa Bay’s roster this season after splitting last year between the Lightning and AHL Syracuse and had slotted in on the fourth line where he had an assist and a faceoff win percentage of 65.4% in four games before suffering the injury.
Tampa Bay has already transferred Stephens to LTIR where he joins wingers Nikita Kucherov and Marian Gaborik plus goaltender Anders Nilsson; all three of them are out for the season. The move allows them to add his $737.5K cap hit to their LTIR pool which is now approaching $18MM with their combined spending (regular cap spending plus LTIR) just shy of $99MM.