Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov
The Lightning have handled Steven Stamkos' lengthy absences well, but his injury frees up as much as $8.5 million of cap space, should they need it.
With Steven Stamkos sidelined four-to-six months by knee surgery, the Tampa Bay Lightning once again face coping without their captain. He missed most of 2013-14 to a broken leg and all but one game of their 2016 playoff run due to blood-clot surgery.
The Lightning have handled Stamkos' lengthy absences well. They secured a playoff berth in 2014 and marched to within a game of the 2016 Stanley Cup final. Given their considerable depth, they shouldn't have much difficulty adjusting once again to life without their sidelined captain.
With Stamkos on long-term injury reserve, GM Steve Yzerman has some wiggle room to pursue additional depth later in the season. The Bolts are currently pressed for cap room, but TSN's Pierre LeBrun reports Stamkos' absence frees up $8.5 million.
LeBrun notes Yzerman's sought a right-handed defenseman for some time. While he's not actively shopping for one right now, LeBrun feels the Lightning GM could look at who's available near the March 1 trade deadline.
It's also less likely Yzerman will shop goaltender Ben Bishop. Though Bishop, an unrestricted free agent next summer, was the subject of off-season trade talk, Yzerman said at the start of the season his preference was to keep his tandem of Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy intact.
If Stamkos remains on LTIR until the playoffs, Yzerman could pursue a rental player at the March 1 trade deadline without having to free up cap room by shipping out Bishop.
SHATTENKIRK LIKELY TO STAY PUT IN ST. LOUIS
The trade chatter that dogged St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk throughout the summer has largely died down. Nearing the end of November, the 27-year-old is the Blues' best rearguard. With 14 points in 20 games, he's second in team scoring and on pace for a career-high 60-point performance.
Still, the Shattenkirk trade talk hasn't completely disappeared. In a recent mailbag segment, CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty was asked if there was any truth to recent internet speculation linking the blueliner to the Boston Bruins.
During the summer, the Bruins were believed to be among several clubs pursuing Shattenkirk. Haggerty, however, hasn't heard if they're revisiting that interest. He feels that Shattenkirk's performance and the Blues' Stanley Cup aspirations probably means he won't be dealt at this point in the season.
While the Bruins' need to upgrade their defense, they're getting solid performances from veteran Adam McQuaid, rookie Brandon Carlo and call-up Joe Morrow. Sidelined Kevan Miller will also be returning to the lineup soon.
As long as the Blues remain a playoff club, they won't part ways with Shattenkirk. GM Doug Armstrong prefers to retain his pending UFA stars for the playoffs, even at the risk of losing them to free agency.
As for the Bruins, their best bet to land Shattenkirk is through free agency, provided they're willing to pay up to $7-million annually for his services.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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