Kris Letang will have surgery on a herniated disc in his neck and will be sidelined 4-6 months.
Impact: On the bright side, at least it's not another serious concussion. Then again, if a head injury is the most serious – the neck has to be right there at number two. Letang had reportedly tried to correct the issue without surgery and was initially making some progress, but then it "plateaued" and surgery was at that point recommended. The recovery time of between four and six months definitely takes him out of the playoffs even if the team were to go to the Final. Worst-case scenario is that he misses training camp and begins the season a week or two late. Likely scenario is that he's ready in time to begin training camp with his team.
The 29-year-old had 67 points last season and this year he has 34 points in 41 games, which is a 68-point pace, indicating that he still has a lot to give. The oft-injured Letang has dealt with at least three concussions, a shoulder injury, a frightening heart ailment and a knee injury. Perhaps the added rest will allow the rest of his body to fully recuperate.
There have been many players who have dealt with surgery on a herniated disc and came back to play hockey – Jason Spezza, Ilya Kovalchuk and Mario Lemieux, among others. But those injuries were in the back and not the neck, and they returned at somewhat less of a player they once were. In the 90s, John Cullen had a herniated disc in his neck that caused him to miss time, and he returned still relatively productive and even play 70-game seasons on two occasions.
Fantasy Players Impacted: Believe it or not, this negatively impacts the production of Justin Schultz. In 32 games without Letang in the lineup, Schultz managed just 17 points. Yet he had 32 in 47 games when Letang played. Mark Streit isn't the answer either – Streit has never played with Letang, and has managed just five points in 17 games since joining the team. In fact, the only player who benefits from the lack of Letang is Conor Sheary – who gets the freed up PP spot (and one could actually argue it is because of the Evgeni Malkin injury and not the Letang one). The bottom line is – no Letang in the lineup is a drag on the production of everybody, other than perhaps Sidney Crosby and perhaps Malkin when he returns.
Kris Letang profile, advanced stats and game logs here.
Justin Schultz profile, advanced stats and game logs here.