Can still lift this... Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE
Conn Smythe-winning goalie Jonathan Quick's short summer has gotten even shorter. After enjoying his day with the Cup, he went under the knife:
The Kings announced that Jonathan Quick underwent a "minor surgical procedure" today to repair a disc fragment and an inflammatory cyst that had formed in his back. The team said that Quick will begin rehab in approximately one week and a full recovery is expected, with the recovery time a minimum of six weeks. - LA Kings Insider
Hammond also reports that the Los Angeles Kings were aware of Jonathan Quick's back issue at the start of the summer -- that would be before they inked him to a massive ten year, $58M contract -- but surgery was not believed necessary at first. When therapy proved less effective than they hoped, Quick had the procedure.
The bad news is that training camp is slated to begin in six weeks, and we can't know for sure how much recovery time Quick will need. The 'good' news is that it looks more and more likely that the owners will lock the players out, which would allow more time for him to get back in shape. Still, there's an uncomfortable lack of certainty here.
One thing's for sure: trading Jonathan Bernier right now would be nuts. Not only is he their only candidate to take over for Quick, none of their other prospects are considered ready for backup duty in the NHL.
Back Surgery Timetables
How big of a concern is Quick's surgery? Back injuries never sound good, but the projected recovery time seems to fit with a lower back issue, which is less serious than disc trouble higher up.
One possible comparable is the recent injury to Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros. He had surgery on March 21st to remove disc fragments from his lower back, with a projected recovery time of 6-8 weeks. He resumed practice late in April, and joined the Flyers for their final playoff game against the Devils on May 8th. That's a recovery time of almost 7 weeks. Since the Flyers were knocked out of the playoffs, it's difficult to tell if Meszaros was truly 100%.
We don't know what Quick's total recovery time will be, but that is at least one example of what happened after a similar surgery.
Cristobal Huet: An Emergency Backup?
If Quick isn't ready by training camp -- whenever that occurs -- the Kings cannot afford to rush him. He their long term investment.
Just this week, Cristobal Huet said he had been in talks with both the Vancouver Canucks and the Los Angeles Kings. Some took this as a sign the Kings were about to trade Bernier. Now we know the Kings have been aware of Quick's injury for some time.
Could Huet take Quick's place if he had to? I have deep reservations about that. Though Huet has a wealth of experience as an NHL starter, his age is a serious concern. He may have a career .913 SV%, but his declining numbers in his final two seasons with Chicago (.909 in 2008-09, .896 in 2009-10) are not surprising. It's fairly common for an NHL goaltender to lose a starting job in his mid-thirties due to lower performance.
Jonathan Bernier posted a .915 SV% over the last three seasons as a lightly-used backup (age 21-23). He has just turned 24, which is closer to the prime age for netminders. It'd be a better option to give him more starts than it would be to go with a 37 year old goalie two years removed from the NHL. A chance to finally have consecutive starts could also potentially boost Bernier's trade value.
If the Kings did have talks with Huet, I hope it's only because they were putting a feelers out for an emergency backup. A veteran backup could fill a place in the depth chart without getting rid of Bernier at all. Justin Goldman believes the Kings could use a veteran presence in Manchester. However, Huet's goal is clearly to get back into the NHL.
We expect Lombardi will hang onto Bernier and hope for the best. Now, more than ever, they need an insurance policy in net.
And we'd better pray Quick's issue really is minor.