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Report: Nathan Horton suffering from career threatening spinal degeneration

Russell LaBounty / USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nathan Horton's season and playing career is in jeopardy due to a degenerative ailment in the lower (lumbar) region of his spine.

As reported by Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch:

Horton, who signed a seven-year, $37.1 million free-agent contract with the Blue Jackets in the summer of 2013, has been diagnosed with “degeneration” of the entire lumbar region of his spine, or the lower back, sources told The Dispatch.

Surgery has not been scheduled or ruled out, but it is viewed as a last resort, sources said. It’s a delicate procedure, with no guarantee of relief.

"He's in constant pain," Horton's agent Paul Krepelka said. "He's in constant discomfort."

When healthy, the 29-year-old forward is one of the most dangerous net front players in hockey, and was expected to play a major role on an imposing, physical Blue Jackets club. Obviously those plans have been put on hold as Horton considers his options.

Portzline reports that the Blue Jackets have inquired around the league about finding a replacement for their top-six.

It's likely that Horton will be placed on long-term injured reserve, though it's not a pressing concern for a Blue Jackets club that doesn't spend to the upper limit of the salary cap. Insurance will cover the $6 million in salary that the club owes Horton once he misses his 21st game of the season on Nov. 25, according to Portzline.

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