News broke from several outlets Monday, Sept. 23 that Raffi Torres injured his knee. It was big enough news that CSN Bay Area wrote four pieces on the injury and impact it will have on the San Jose Sharks in the six hours that followed.
For most teams, losing even a good checking-line forward would not mean much. For San Jose, losing another forward from a unit already thin could be devastating.
Once the swelling reduces, Torres will find out how bad the ACL injury is. If it requires surgery, he could miss up to four months—about two-thirds of the season. If not, he could be back in six weeks and miss as few as 13 regular season games.
One of the reasons this puts the Sharks in a bind is they already will be without Martin Havlat, also for an indeterminate length of time. At one point the enigmatic, incredibly skilled forward was headed for double pelvic reconstruction and long-term injured reserve (LTIR), possibly never to play again for San Jose. By the time training camp began, he was saying he could play already if he had to.
Coach Todd McLellan took issue with Havlat's claim, and the Sharks are clearly planning to start the season without him. If they are now also without Torres, they have only six forwards that can realistically register double-digit goal totals in a full season.
It can be argued that they would be better off if both players miss more time. Once their stay is long enough to qualify for LTIR, San Jose can get salary cap relief for the time they are out. If both missed half the season, the Sharks would get $3.5 million in cap space to add players.
If they do not qualify for LTIR, the Sharks are down two forwards without any cap space to replace them. Even if they do qualify, they cannot move anyone until the season starts.
Since there are already few impact players left on the free agent market, space would almost certainly be used to trade youth (young NHL players, prospects or draft picks) for proven veterans. Those kinds of moves are seldom made early in the season, when the Sharks would need replacements.
They could really help add a player late in the season, allowing the team to develop a young player until Torres and Havlat return. Then any trade made from the space they got from LTIR would actually be used on an added player.
In the meantime, look for five players to vie for a role as the sixth or seventh forward.