While the NHL may be edging closer to a labor agreement and a start to the regular season, the Carolina Hurricanes have learned they would have to play it without forward Tuomo Ruutu.
General manager Jim Rutherford said Wednesday that Ruutu, one of the Canes most physical players, recently underwent hip surgery in Colorado and would be out until April at the earliest.
Were not sure how long he will be out, Rutherford said. Certainly through the regular season, if we play it. Maybe longer.
Ruutu, 29, was used primarily on the second line last season and was the Canes fifth-leading scorer with 34 points, scoring 18 goals and adding 16 assists in 72 games. He led all Canes skaters with 151 hits.
Rutherford said he did not know how Ruutu sustained the hip injury, noting the Finn passed his year-end physical after last season. Ruutu skated with teammates in some informal workouts in September at Raleigh Center Ice before the lockout.
In August he started complaining about it, Rutherford said. He tried a number of things to rehab it but it got to the point the doctors recommended surgery.
There was really nothing that had signaled surgery might be necessary. It just flared up. Like most athletes, hockey players have a lot of wear and tear on their hips.
Ruutu had shoulder surgery in March 2010 that required several months of rehabilitation.
While the playing of the 2012-2013 season still is in doubt, the NHL and NHL Players Association held collective bargaining meetings for the third straight day Wednesday in New York. The union offered a response to the counter-proposal made Tuesday by the league as both sides remained mum on the offers and how close they may or may not be to a CBA agreement.
The NHLPA had until 11:59 p.m. Wednesday to decide on the use of a disclaimer of interest that would effectively dissolve the union and allow the players to seek anti-trust litigation against the league. The players have authorized the unions executive board to file a disclaimer, which the league claims is a negotiating ploy and bad-faith bargaining.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr would not comment Wednesday afternoon on the disclaimer. The two sides met again Wednesday night at the NHL offices in Manhattan.
None of the details of the proposals have been released or leaked to the media. The league last Thursday forwarded an offer on a 10-year CBA, and the union responded Monday with a counter-offer. The back-and-forth on propoals then continued Tuesday and Wednesday.
The union has proposed an eight-year CBA with assurances that existing player contracts will be honored.
The players have been locked out since Sept. 15, when the CBA expired, and all games have been canceled by the league through Jan. 14. If a CBA can be approved within the next week, the season could begin by Jan. 19 and a 48-game regular season be played.
While the CBA negotiations continue in New York, the pace has quickened among the Canes players skating at Raleigh Center Ice.
Whether it happens or no, its going to happen really soon, Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal said Wednesday. We need to be prepared for whatever. Just get in the best shape we can and see what happens.
NOTE: Tickets are being sold for the Charlotte Checkers AHL game Sunday against the Norfolk Admirals at PNC Arena. The game has a 1:30 p.m. start.