Brett Pesce may not be able to start skating again until late August, forcing the Carolina Hurricanes to decide whether to include the defenseman on their roster for Phase 4 of the NHL Return to Play Plan.
Pesce had surgery on his right shoulder in early March with an expected recovery time of 4-6 months. He is listed as an injured player on Carolina's roster for Phase 3, training camp, which begins Monday.
However, teams can bring no more than 31 players into Phase 4, the resumption of play, which begins Aug. 1 with the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. The rosters must be submitted to the NHL by Monday, but Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said he's been told they can be adjusted before the teams travel to the hub cities -- Toronto for the Eastern Conference, Edmonton for the Western Conference -- on July 26. Rosters can't be adjusted once the teams are in their hub city.
"From what I understand, and I just got more information today from the doctors, he probably would start skating toward the end of August with contact, so we've got to make a decision here," Waddell said. "I'm not sure if it's going to make sense if he's going to be ready sometime late September. We're just going to take these next couple days to see how things go."
Video: CAR@NYR: Pesce, Wallmark link up on two-on-one
The Hurricanes (38-25-5, .596 points percentage) enter the qualifiers as the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference and will play the No. 11 seed, the New York Rangers (37-28-5, .564), in a best-of-5 series that begins at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Aug. 1.
The winner will advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the loser will have a chance to win the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery, which will be determined Aug. 10.
The first round of the playoffs is scheduled to begin Aug. 11 and the second round will start Aug. 25. The conference finals will begin Sept. 8 and the Stanley Cup Final on Sept. 22 in Edmonton.
Under that timeline, it's likely Pesce wouldn't be cleared to play until the Eastern Conference Final, which the Hurricanes advanced to last season before being swept by the Boston Bruins.
"We're talking about it daily, but we've got some time left to make that decision," Waddell said. "The first week of September will be six months [since his surgery]. Under the current guidelines we have now time is not on our side. We're just going to keep our options open."
Pesce scored 18 points (four goals, 14 assists) in 61 games this season and averaged 21:53 of ice time per game, third on the Hurricanes behind defensemen Jaccob Slavin (23:24) and Dougie Hamilton (23:17).
After Pesce was injured against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 22, Carolina traded for defensemen Brady Skjei (Rangers) and Sami Vatanen (New Jersey Devils) two days later with the idea that Pesce was not going to be available until next season.
As a result, the Hurricanes have nine defensemen on their Phase 3 roster, including Hamilton, who is healthy after recovering from a fractured left fibula that caused him to miss Carolina's final 21 games before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. At the time of his injury, he was tied for second among NHL defensemen with 14 goals.
Joel Edmundson, Jake Gardiner, Haydn Fleury, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Jake Bean are also on the roster.