Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Nathan Horton has been diagnosed with degeneration of the entire lumbar region of his spine and his career could be in jeopardy, The Columbus Dispatch reported Tuesday.
Horton has yet to play a game this season and was limited to 35 games in 2013-14. Horton did not play for the Blue Jackets in their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Reporter Aaron Portzline cited sources who said surgery has not been scheduled or ruled out but is viewed as a last resort.
Horton has 202 goals and 218 assists in 626 games with the Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins and Columbus. He helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011, scoring eight goals and nine assists in 21 playoff games.
Horton, 29, signed a seven-year, $37.1 million contract in the summer of 2013.
"Nathan is a frustrated kid right now," his agent, Paul Krepelka, told the newspaper. "This is normally a really easygoing guy, a happy guy, but he's just so frustrated by all of this.
"He signed with Columbus to make an impact, to play a big role on a team that's on the rise. He was so excited about doing it. The fact that he hasn't been able to make any meaningful contributions is just extremely frustrating to him."
The Blue Jackets also are without forwards Brandon Dubinsky (abdominal surgery) and Boone Jenner (broken hand). Each is expected to miss at least another month.
Columbus (3-2-0) plays at the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.