9 Biggest NHL Injury Recoveries To Watch This Offseason

9 Biggest NHL Injury Recoveries To Watch This Offseason
Photo: © Don Wright-USA TODAY Sports
When the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Nashville Predators for their second straight Stanley Cup a little over a week ago, the last batch of injuries from the 2016-17 NHL season became public.
 
During the six-game series, Pittsburgh forwards Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin were dealing with a broken tibia and partially healed broken fibula, respectively. Meanwhile, Nashville forward James Neal played through 12 playoff games with a broken hand.
 
Though most of the players injured in the 2017 postseason will avoid going under the knife, some will require procedures, either serious or minor, to continue to play at the game's top level.
 
Below are nine of the biggest names whose recovery timelines put them in jeopardy of missing the start of the 2017-18 season.
 

Sami Vatanen 

D, Anaheim Ducks | Injury: Shoulder

There hasn't been much released in regard to Vatanen's exact injury other than the obvious limitations he had shooting and passing during the playoffs. The 26-year-old's 5- to 6-month recovery time frame means he isn't slated to return to action until late November to early December.
 
He has been a powerplay ace for the Ducks and recorded 21 goals and 75 points between 2014-2016 before scoring just three goals and 24 points this past season.
 

Erik Karlsson

D, Ottawa Senators | Injury: Foot, Ankle

Karlsson broke his left foot, which forced him out of Ottawa's final three games of the regular season. He returned in the playoffs and acknowledged he was playing through two hairline fractures in his heel.
 
The game's most potent offensive blue-liner tallied two goals, 18 points and a plus-13 rating in 19 playoff games, knowing all along surgery was awaiting him. Doctors repaired damaged muscles and tendons and gave the two-time Norris Trophy winner a four-month time frame, which pegs him to be ready right around the start of next season.
 

Derick Brassard

C, Ottawa Senators | Injury: Shoulder

Another Senator on this list, Brassard was diagnosed with a torn labrum shortly before Ottawa was eliminated by Pittsburgh. Brassard was brought in from the New York Rangers in an acknowledgment that the Senators believe their time to win is now.
 
He had a rough debut, posting just 14 goals and 39 points, his lowest in each category since 2009-10, excluding the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season. The 29-year-old was given a 4-5 month recovery timeline, which will force him to miss the first handful of games next year.

Andrej Sekera

D, Edmonton Oilers | Injury: Knee

The Oilers signed Sekera to a six-year, $33 million contract last summer to be a solid puck-mover and veteran presence on a young defensive unit. The 31-year-old finished second in defensive scoring after the blossoming play of Oscar Klefbom.
 
Sekera tore his ACL during the team's playoff run and underwent surgery that requires 6-9 months of recovery, meaning the Slovak won't return to the lineup until mid-November at the earliest but also possibly as late into the season as February. Edmonton has some cap room to potentially find a short-term replacement for the first part of the season.
 

Joe Thornton

C, San Jose Sharks | Injury: Knee

With three games to go in the regular season, Thornton tore his ACL and MCL in his left knee. The longtime Shark kept playing and posted three assists in the last four games of San Jose's six-game series with Edmonton while undergoing periodic numbing injections.
 
There hasn't been a released recovery timeline for Thornton, but the soon-to-be 38-year-old is expected to be ready for next season. He is set to hit free agency on July 1 and won't struggle to find another contact, but major knee surgery at his age leaves the timeline of his recovery a bit more up in the air.
 

Ryan Ellis

D, Nashville Predators | Injury: Unknown

Ellis took a beating during Nashville's trip to the Stanley Cup Finals and seemingly played through more injury than anyone else. GM David Poile said he expected Ellis' injuries to become public when he was done undergoing tests, making it sound like Ellis was about to become "The Six Million Dollar Man" afterward.
 
The 26-year-old will enter 2017-18 after a career year offensively and the Stanley Cup just slipping out his grasp. Nashville was a work in progress last season and hinted at the team's bright future at every position. Only time will tell if he's there to start the season.
 

Ryan Kesler

C, Anaheim Ducks | Injury: Hip

Kesler's time frame of three months following hip surgery means he shouldn't miss the start of next season. However, the 32-year-old underwent hip surgery in 2011, too, and was a shade of himself upon his return to the lineup.
 
The then-27-year-old went from consecutive 70-point seasons to scoring just 49 in 77 games. It could have been the heartbreak of coming within one game of a Stanley Cup, mixed with other surgeries and gradual age, but it leaves enough to wonder whether his body will be as ready to start 2017-18 as his mind.
 

Tomas Tatar

LW, Detroit Red Wings | Injury: Shoulder

The Red Wings' leading goal scorer found the back of the net 25 times last season and did it with lingering shoulder issue, suggesting there's more ability to light the lamp than shown.
 
The exact procedure is unknown, but Tatar said it's nothing too major and that he expects to be ready for the start of next season even with the 4-5 month recovery date. The restricted free agent will be negotiating a new contract and is coming off his third straight 20-plus goal season after scoring 29, 21, and 25 in the last three years, respectively.
 

Hampus Lindholm

D, Anaheim Ducks | Injury: Shoulder

Lindholm is the second Ducks defenseman who underwent shoulder surgery this summer. The 23-year-old has played beyond his years during his four seasons, amassing an impressive plus-74 rating.
 
He'll undoubtedly be the same commanding possession player when he returns following his 4-5 month recovery time frame. There's still untapped offensive potential to his game, and Lindholm should only see more ice time and a bigger role going forward.
 
Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @JMessing23.
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