Pittsburgh Penguins – Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang will undergo surgery for a herniated disc in his neck, the team announced today.

The recovery period is expected to be 4-6 months.

“Kris underwent an MRI in February that revealed a herniated disc in his neck,” General Manager Jim Rutherford said. “Our neurosurgeons examined him and recommended conservative treatment in an attempt to correct the condition without surgery. Kris had been making progress and was hopeful of returning for the playoffs until about a week ago, when the progress plateaued. He underwent another MRI, and, at that point it was determined that surgery was needed.”

Letang has not played since February 21, missing the Penguins’ last 20 games. The 29-year-old native of Montreal contributed five goals and 29 assists for 34 points in 41 games this season.

In 11 NHL seasons, all with the Penguins, Letang has registered 87 goals and 299 assists for 386 points in 603 games. Last season he set personal highs with 16 goals, 51 assists and 67 points while earning NHL Second-Team NHL All-Star honors as the Penguins won the Stanley Cup.

Letang is a two-time Stanley Cup champion and also was an NHL Second Team All-Star in 2013. He played in the NHL All-Star Game in 2011, 2012 and 2016.

I’m not gonna lie. This blows. This blows real bad. I’m not really sure if I have the words right now to accurately describe how important Letang is to the Penguins because I’m so caught up in emotions. Letang is an absolute minutes eater that is equally as good on both sides of the ice. In my opinion, the guy should be a perennial Norris Trophy candidate, but for some reason he always slips under the radar because hockey writers are too busy touching themselves to the offensive numbers that guys like Brent Burns, Drew Doughty, and Erik Karlsson put up each year. He’s arguably just as important to the Penguins as any of these other guys are to their teams, and he plays way better defense.

Don’t get me wrong, the additions of Mark Streit and Ron Hainsey, along with the fact that Justin Schultz has been playing out of his mind this year, softens the blow a little bit. But it’s still going to be pretty hard to replace a guy that averaged 29 minutes per game in last year’s Cup run. I’d be lying if I told you I don’t think this affects the Pens chances of repeating this year. It definitely does, and that sucks. You have to have a little luck with injuries if you’re gonna go on a Cup run, and right now the odds are starting to go against us. I don’t think Letang being out affects the Pens match up with the Blue Jackets in Round 1 if last night was any indication, but this definitely has me worried about a potential Round 2 rematch against the Caps.

P.S. – This is probably the first time I’ve been ever worried about the Caps in my life and that kills me.