The Carolina Hurricanes will be without defenseman Joni Pitkanen for the 2013-2014 season, general manager Jim Rutherford said Wednesday.
Pitkanen suffered a broken heel bone in early April and underwent surgery. It was believed the veteran from Finland would recover in time for preseason training camp, which began Wednesday, but the team first learned a few weeks ago that Pitkanen had experienced a setback in his physical rehab.
"It's unfortunate. Joni is a good player who was able to play a lot of minutes for us and he will be missed," Rutherford said. "We'll now have to deal with it and move forward. We'll explore all options and decide on how we'll proceed."
Pitkanen, 29, was injured in an April 2 game against Washington and missed the Hurricanes final 13 games of the season.
Pitkanen talked with Rutherford during the summer and Rutherford said the player sounded optimistic about being on schedule with his rehab. But Pitkanen's agent called a few weeks ago to say Pitkanen had not recovered.
Pitkanen returned to Raleigh last week and underwent a CT scan. Rutherford said Wednesday the scan results indicated the surgery was successful.
"We were taken a little by surprise, three weeks before training camo, to learn that it was not progressing better than it was," Rutherford said. "I suspect Joni was hoping it would get better and that he could begin putting more weight on it. But the stability was not there."
Pitkanen has scored 57 goals and earned 225 assists in 535 career NHL regular-season games with Philadelphia, Edmonton and Carolina, since beginning his NHL career in 2003-04. Since the teams relocation in 1997, he ranks third among defensemen in assists (116) and points (140), tied for fourth among club defensemen in goals (240) and eighth among team blueliners in games played (266).