The Tampa Bay Lightning need to win two straight games in order to defend their back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, including a pivotal Game Six tonight. Today, Lightning coach Jon Cooper told the media that the Lightning would be without star center Brayden Point, just as they were for their Game Five victory. Cooper called Point’s injury “severe,” but did not rule him out for Game Seven, should the Lightning manage to keep their season alive.
Point was originally injured in Game Seven of the Lightning’s first-round playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Point has only gotten into two games since his injury, both in the Cup Final. He has one assist since the injury and five total points in his nine playoff games this year. Point is an elite center (he had 58 points in 66 games) but it’s clear he’s been operating at a significantly diminished level since the injury. Winning the Stanley Cup is obviously the first priority for the Lightning, but looking ahead to next season one can only hope that the attempts to re-integrate Point into the lineup don’t in any way set back his recovery. The Lightning have shown they can still win without Point, as they did against the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers, but his absence could ultimately come with a cost if the Lightning do end up narrowly losing the Stanley Cup to the Avalanche.
Now for some other notes from across the league:
- Earlier today, Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell was the pending UFA of focus, and now we have some news on another netminder set to headline this summer’s open market: Ville Husso. Andy Strickland of Bally Sports Midwest reports that the Blues will “make a real effort” to re-sign Husso, specifically mentioning Husso’s “great relationship” with Jordan Binnington as a factor at play in negotiations. Husso is coming off of a breakout season where he posted a 25-7-6 record, .919 save percentage, and 2.56 goals-against-average. The Helsinki native even got some down-ballot Vezina consideration and is expected to have multiple suitors on the open market as a 27-year-old free agent. Strickland reports that the Blues will attempt to get him back, although it’s difficult to imagine they’ll be able to offer him the sort of long-term deal he may be able to get from elsewhere. The Blues already have Binnington under contract at a $6MM cap hit, and with important extensions for Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas needing to be inked next offseason, it’s not likely that the Blues will be able to give Husso a huge extension. What is possible, though, is Husso taking a short extension in St. Louis with the hopes of having another similar season to this past year in order to secure an even bigger free agent contract in the summer of 2023, when he would theoretically have that extra season’s worth of starts to pad out his currently thin NHL resume.
- The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy reported today that “at least two Eastern Conference teams are seriously interested in acquiring Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nicolas Hague.” The Golden Knights are facing a major cap crunch this offseason and the signing of Reilly Smith to an extension didn’t help matters on that front. Hague, 23, was the 34th overall pick in 2017 and has come into his own at the NHL level. His size (he stands six-foot-six and weighs 230 pounds) combined with his reliable, physical style (he averaged nearly 19 minutes of ice time per game in 2021-22) make him an intriguing defenseman for teams to target. Hague is out of a contract and is a restricted free agent, and as uncommon as it may be he is the exact sort of player that could be targeted by an offer sheet in the second-round compensation range. Dealing Hague could help the Golden Knights solve their salary cap woes, and if that’s the route they choose to take it seems, per Kennedy, that they will have some teams interested in acquiring the blueliner.