It appears the 2023-24 Tampa Bay Lightning season will kick off not only with a Big Boi concert, but also with a big dash of adversity. On Thursday the team announced that All-World goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy had undergone successful microdiscectomy surgery (good news!), but would likely miss the first two months of the season (bad news!).
In what will likely be a tightly contested Atlantic Division, not having the best player on the roster available until late November or early December is not exactly ideal. In his exit interview at the end of last season, Vasilevskiy had mentioned that his body kind of let him down midway through the season. Is it possible that the injury that required the surgery, a lumbar disc herniation, happened then? Possibly.
According to general manager Julien BriseBois, Vasilevskiy did receive a shot prior to training camp, but it didn’t resolve the issue. Rather than try and play through it, or rest and rehab, they decided the best cause of action would be surgery.
While longtime Lightning fans may wince at the words “disc”‘ and “hernia” as it brings back memories of the end of Daren Puppa’s days with the Bolts, things have come a long way since the late 1990s in terms of rehabbing and dealing with injuries. Mr. BriseBois seems convinced that there will be no long term lasting effects once Vasy is ready to go. Unfortunately, only time will tell that.
It looks like Lightning fans will get to know free agent signee Jonas Johansson a little better over the first few months of the season. The 26-year-old was brought in to back up Vasilevskiy, but will, barring any trades, likely be the number one starter on opening night. The question of who will back him up will likely be decided in training camp as Matt Tomkins and Hugo Alnefelt battle it out.
Due to the length of the recovery, Mr. BriseBois can put Vasilevskiy on Long Term Injury Relief and free up some cap space at the beginning of the season if he can work out a deal for a veteran or claim a goaltender that goes on waivers.
As of right now he has not indicated if he will be trying to secure the services of a new netminder or if he is going to roll the dice with what he has.