Steven Stamkos is expected to be ready for the start of next season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, general manager Julien BriseBois said Thursday.
The forward had what BriseBois said was sports hernia surgery March 2, 10 days before the NHL paused the 2019-20 season due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. Though the Lightning captain was a full participant in Phase 2 of the NHL Return to Play Plan, he missed all but one game of Tampa Bay’s run to the Stanley Cup.
Stamkos is scheduled for a consultation with a specialist next week.
“Did a tremendous job rehabbing during the pause and getting himself ready, but as it happens, sometimes with all injuries but this injury in particular, sometimes your body compensates and it eventually triggered what we believe is a compensation injury,” BriseBois said. “We’re talking about weeks of rehab, not months of rehab, and we fully expect him to be ready for the start of training camp, whenever that will be.”
Stamkos returned for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Dallas Stars on Sept. 23. Playing his first game since Feb. 25, he scored a goal on his first and only shot of the postseason and had five shifts totaling 2:47 of ice time in a 5-2 victory. The Lightning won the best-of-7 series in six games.
“The whole pandemic certainly didn’t help his cause because you couldn’t send him anywhere to go see specialists,” BriseBois said. “If he goes out of the bubble, now he’s got to quarantine again. What’s the trade-off? He wants to be around the team, we want him around the team. It certainly complicated matters.”
Stamkos scored 66 points (29 goals, 37 assists) in 57 games this season, second on the Lightning to Nikita Kucherov (85 points; 33 goals, 52 assists), and 832 points (422 goals, 410 assists) in 803 NHL games, all for Tampa Bay. He joined teammates on the ice to celebrate winning the Stanley Cup and was handed the trophy by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
“These last six weeks have been really emotional for my family and I, not only on the ice, but off the ice,” Stamkos said after the game. “I just want to say to my family, I love you so much.”