The Tampa Bay Lightning said star center Steven Stamkos will be ready for the 2020-21 season, finally revealing details of the injury that limited him to just one game in their Stanley Cup championship run.
General manager Julien BriseBois said Stamkos suffered a compensatory injury while rehabbing from sports hernia surgery, which he underwent on March 2. Stamkos "fully recovered" from that surgery and participated in Phase 2 of the NHL's return to play protocols, working out at team facilities.
"He did a tremendous job rehabbing during the pause and getting himself ready," BriseBois said. "As it happens sometimes with injuries, and particularly with this injury, sometimes your body compensates. It eventually triggered what we believe is a compensation injury that has developed into -- or turned out to be -- related to this injury."
BriseBois said he didn't know all the specifics of the injury -- the Lightning and Stamkos are consulting with a specialist next week to examine the ailment. "We fully expect him to be ready for next season," BriseBois said.
Stamkos missed 24 of Tampa's 25 playoff games en route to the second Stanley Cup in franchise history. His one appearance was legendary: Playing just 2 minutes and 47 seconds in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Dallas Stars, Stamkos scored a first-period goal on his only shot of the playoffs. He left the game because of injury and did not play in the final two games.
"To be honest, I didn't think he was playing at all in these playoffs," coach Jon Cooper said after the game.
BriseBois said that having the NHL postseason inside secure bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton hindered his ability to get further evaluation on Stamkos' injury.
"You couldn't send him anywhere to see specialists. If you send him out of the bubble, he has to quarantine again. What's the tradeoff? He wants to be around the team. We want him around the team. It really complicated matters," he said.
BriseBois said the team anticipates this is "potentially another injury" that will require weeks, not months, of rehab, and that Stamkos will be ready for the start of training camp.
The NHL hasn't determined when the 2020-21 season will begin, although commissioner Gary Bettman said he wouldn't be surprised if the proposed Dec. 1 start was pushed later into the month or into January 2021.
Stamkos, 30, was the second-leading scorer on the Lightning in 2019-20 with 29 goals and 37 assists in 57 games. He's sixth among active players with 422 goals. He is signed through 2023-24.