The Tampa Bay Lightning will get one of the League's most prolific goal-scorers, Steven Stamkos, back in the lineup Thursday after he was sidelined for nearly four months due to a leg injury.
But with this promising fantasy update comes with some bad news in the form of Martin St. Louis' departure via trade. Stamkos will no longer have that familiar face beside him on the team's top line after St. Louis was dealt to the New York Rangers for Ryan Callahan and two draft picks.
The Rangers add a top-10 point producer to the fold. The Lightning, meanwhile, are bound to see a dip offensively. Callahan has a chance to step in and fill the void left by St. Louis, but that's a major downgrade from a playmaking standpoint. While Stamkos will remain a top-five fantasy asset entering next season, his production could take a hit down the stretch considering the lack of chemistry on his line and his ongoing recovery from injury.
Steven Stamkos is set to return for the Lightning, but how will his fantasy value be affected by the trade of linemate Martin St. Louis to the Rangers for Ryan Callahan? (Photo: Scott Audette/NHLI, Scott Levy/NHLI)
While Stamkos was sidelined, St. Louis picked up his goal-scoring (tied for fifth in the NHL with 29) and held down the fort alongside rookie standouts Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson. But now, with Stamkos returning at center and St. Louis out of the picture at right wing, Tyler Johnson's value is likely to take a hit and the team needs to decide whether to move Palat to the third line or give him a trial with Stamkos.
The team's second line of Alex Killorn, Valtteri Filppula and Teddy Purcell has been very productive and is expected to remain intact, but could certainly be altered if the team lacks top-line continuity over the next few games.
Stamkos and St. Louis have a well-documented history together on that line. Stamkos has had three career 90-plus point seasons, each coming alongside his veteran linemate. Since 2011-12, only Washington Capitals wing Alex Ovechkin (113 in 184 games) has more goals than Stamkos (103 in 147), largely due to his sidekick. Even in the 17 games Stamkos played alongside St. Louis this season, the duo had a hand in 12 team goals -- among the League's best point pairs at the time of Stamkos' injury on Nov. 11.
Callahan's style of play could prove to be a temporary fix to the team's top line, but he's a far cry from a difference-maker of St. Louis' caliber. He also has an expiring contract, which means he's not likely a long-term fit with the Lightning. That said, Callahan's stock can rise if -- and only if -- he sticks with Stamkos, considering the former Rangers captain contributes hits (132) and shots (109) regularly and is now playing with an elite-level finisher.
So if you see Callahan (43 percent owned in Yahoo leagues) on the waiver wire in your league, take a shot on him. For Stamkos owners, at least your prized scorer is back in the fold -- even if he's not as explosive in the short-term without St. Louis.