Kevin Weekes announced on Thursday afternoon that superstar goaltender for the Tampa Bay Lightning Andrei Vasilevskiy is expected to miss 8-10 weeks due to a successful back surgery.
In a statement released shortly after the initial reports came out, general manager Julien BriseBrois said “Vasilevskiy is expected to miss approximately the first two months of the regular season”.
Per Erik Erlendsson, his back injury first arose in August, but after weeks of unsuccessful treatments, Tampa Bay felt surgery was the right course of action. The team is also confident that there will be no long-term effects.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Major setback
This is a significant blow to the Lightning, as Andrei Vasilevskiy is one of their most important players. He’s also widely considered one of the best goaltenders in the world as he’s won the Vezina Trophy once, the Conn Smythe Trophy once, two Stanley Cups, and has been named to five all-star games since 2018. Although 2022-23 was a down year for him, he’s recorded a 0.915 or better Save % and 2.70 or fewer Goals Against Average in the past seven seasons.
Between the 2020 and 2022 postseasons, Vasilevskiy recorded an impressive 48-23 record with a 2.09 Goals Against Average and 0.928 Save % en route to two Stanley Cup titles and three Stanley Cup Final appearances.
He’s only suffered one other significant injury in his NHL career, a broken foot in November of 2018 that knocked him out for a month.
Behind Vasilevskiy, the Tampa Bay Lightning have 28-year-old Jonas Johansson, 22-year-old Hugo Alnefelt, and 29-year-old Matt Tomkins.
Johansson has made 35 career appearances in four NHL seasons and has a 0.887 Save % and 3.32 Goals Against Average. Alnefelt has made one appearance in the NHL for Tampa Bay in the 2021-22 season and surrendered three goals on ten shots in 20 minutes of relief action. Tomkins has spent his entire professional career in the AHL, ECHL, and SHL and has zero regular season or postseason experience in the NHL.
Over the first two months of the regular season, the Lightning’s most notable matchups include their divisional rival Toronto Maple Leafs twice, reigning President’s Trophy winners Boston Bruins once, 2023 Eastern Conference runners-up Carolina Hurricanes thrice, and the Erik Karlsson/Sidney Crosby led Pittsburgh Penguins twice.
Since Andrei Vasilevskiy will be out at least 24 days and 10 games, he will be placed on Long-Term Injured Reserve, meaning his $9.5M cap hit will be off the books until he is activated. In his absence, the Lightning may opt to trade for another goaltender or claim one-off waivers, but the team must become cap-compliant once he returns. The team is currently about $73K over the cap with a roster of 23, per Cap Friendly. With Vasilevskiy headed to LTIR, Tampa Bay will have about $9.4M in cap space to work with until he returns in December.
Additional updates will be provided when available.