How Will Injuries Affect the NHL’s Central Division?

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How Will Injuries Affect the NHL’s Central Division?

Courtesy of Flickr

Courtesy of Flickr

Courtesy of Flickr

Courtesy of Flickr

Chris Hennessy, Contributing Writer

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In the past few weeks, there has been a lot of news coming out of the Central Division revolving around injuries and a big-time contract extension.

Let’s start in Nashville, where the captain of the Predators, defenseman Roman Josi, was awarded an eight-year, $9 million average annual value (AAV) extension. The contract begins next season and goes through the 2027–2028 season, when Josi will be 38 years old. This will keep him on the Predators for his whole career after he was drafted to Smashville in 2008. The contract makes Josi the third highest-paid defenseman in the league.

On the surface, it’s a lot of money for an aging Josi. The Predators will be paying him deep into his thirties, a time where defensemen usually fall off (see Marc Staal). The market continues to grow and see astronomical annual averages, captained by Erik Karlsson’s $11.5 million contract in San Jose. This was the contract that Josi was going to get from some other team this summer had he made it to free agency, and the Preds took matters into their own hands. It’s a lot of money, but the cap will grow at the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, and they are certainly not the only team with a similar contract on the books.

Now onto the injuries. Starting with the biggest one in the entire league, let alone the Western Conference, and that’s Vladimir Tarasenko’s shoulder injury and subsequent surgery. St. Louis says it will re-evaluate its star forward in five months, which means he’ll be back in late March/early April, right as the regular season is ending. Of course, there is the possibility that the evaluation does not go to plan and he misses the playoffs. But, let’s say all goes well. The Blues have a talented forward corps without Tarasenko, but not having their star will certainly make the playoff push more difficult. Assuming they make the playoffs and Tarasenko is ready for the title defense, it adds a dimension to the Blues offense that will only make them more dynamic. For now, they will lean on Ryan O’Reilly and company to get them back in the playoffs.

Moving to Colorado, both Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog are missing time with various injuries. The 23-year-old Rantanen has not played since Oct. 21 and is listed as “week-to-week” with a lower-body injury. It appears that Rantanen will be back within the month, but the lack of specificity could point to a longer injury.

Remember, we all thought Luis Severino would be back in May and didn’t see him until September. The captain Gabe Landeskog is listed as “out indefinitely” with another lower-body injury. Again, lack of specificity makes it difficult to analyze, but “out indefinitely” does not sound good. No longer how long the two are out, it will greatly impact the entire Central Division. Colorado lacks depth scoring, and missing two of their big forwards puts a lot of pressure on Nate Mackinnon and company.
These three injuries will impact on the early season standings in the Central Division and will certainly affect who makes the playoffs come April.