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Canes’ Joni Pitkanen lost for season; who fills the void?

Sean Leahy
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Training camps are open and all 30 teams face questions of some sort heading into the season. For the Carolina Hurricanes, one of their questions heading was the health of defenseman Joni Pitkanen.

During an April 2 game against the Washington Capitals, Pitkanen suffered a broken heel bone while retrieving a puck. And on Wednesday, General manager Jim Rutherford announced that the 29-year old Pitkanen will miss the entire 2013-14 season.

After undergoing surgery on the bone in April, Pitkanen suffered a setback just a few weeks ago and he underwent a CT scan last week.

From Chip Alexander of the News Observer:

Pitkanen talked with Rutherford during the summer and Rutherford said the player sounded optimistic about being on schedule with his rehab. Pitkanen returned to Raleigh last week and underwent a CT scan, and 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."

Making matters worse is that Pitkanen's contract is up after this season.

Rutherford also said he's exploring all options to fill Pitkanen's place in Carolina's top six. Currently, Tim Gleason, Justin Faulk, Jay Harrison, Andrej Sekera and Mike Komisarek are slated for the blue line. Youngsters Ryan Murphy and Brett Bellemore could factor in now that a spot has opened up.

There is also the trade route, with the Toronto Maple Leafs potentially looking to possibly shed some salary -- John-Michael Liles, anyone? -- while trying to re-sign Cody Franson. Liles still has three years and $11.625 owed to him, so that would appear unlikely. Enticing Leafs GM Dave Nonis with a trade offer for Franson would be cheaper.

If Rutherford wants to go with a little more experience than in-house kids, names such as Ron Hainsey -- who the Canes have spoken with recently -- and Tom Gilbert are still on the free agent market, and the Hurricanes have room under the salary cap (perhaps even more if Pitkanen goes on LTIR). It's also 20 days before opening night, which is a good time to cut a deal with a player currently without a job.

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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