Has Steven Stamkos played his last game for the Tampa Bay Lightning?

Has Steven Stamkos played his last game for the Tampa Bay Lightning?
A rising salary cap could impact free agent negotiations, like those with Steven Stamkos (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

Steven Stamkos missing Saturday’s game against the New Jersey Devils with an ailment classified as an upper-body injury was surprising. The news after the 3-1 Lightning win was much more shocking – and serious.

The Tampa Bay Lightning captain will miss the next one to three months with a blood clot in his arm that will require surgery, the team announced. Per the Lightning, the surgery is to treat a type of Vascular Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, or Effort Thrombosis, near his right collarbone. The surgery is scheduled for Monday.

“He’ll remain on medicine to aid in the breaking down of the blood clot. We expect Steven to make a full recovery from this,” Lightning GM Steve Yzerman told reporters after the game. “We do not anticipate any negative impact upon his return on his playing career moving forward.”

Yzerman said Stamkos first noticed something wasn’t right after the Lightning lost 3-0 at home to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.

“After Thursday’s game, Stammer went in to see the doctor. He had some discomfort in his arm, some swelling, some tingling in his fingers,” Yzerman said. “Yesterday morning, we had him assessed by doctors locally. It was determined he had a blood clot in his arm.”

Yzerman noted Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy dealt with the same issue late last the summer. Vasilevskiy didn’t play his first game until Nov. 1.

Before Saturday, Stamkos hadn’t missed a game since March 2014. That’s when he returned to the lineup after fracturing his right tibia in November 2013, an injury that forced him to missing the Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Stamkos has 36 goals and 64 points in 77 games for the defending Stanley Cup finalists. His absence is a huge blow considering he leads the team in goals and is tied for the most points with right winger Nikita Kucherov. Tampa Bay is already missing top-pairing defenseman Anton Stralman because of a broken fibula, suffered March 25.

If Tampa Bay is looking to infuse skill into its lineup with Stamkos out, one option is disgruntled left winger Jonathan Drouin. Drouin demanded a trade from the Lightning in November, which was made public in January after he was demoted to the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch. He later left the Crunch to await a trade, which led to a suspension by the organization. The Lightning did not move Drouin before the trade deadline and he eventually returned to the Crunch. Yzerman said at the time he wouldn’t rule out a promotion to the big club for Drouin. Drouin has scored in each of his last five games, recording six goals over that span.

As for Stamkos, the blood clot means his time with the Lightning could be over. The 26-year-old can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and rumors of a long-term, high-priced contract with several teams, including Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, are plentiful.

Daniel Nugent-Bowman thehockeynews.com

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Dusty Fields

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