For the second time in two days, a Hurricanes core player will require surgery due to a preseason injury. After yesterday’s announcement that captain Rod Brind’Amour will miss most of the preseason after having surgery on his recently-repaired ACL, ’Canes GM Jim Rutherford announced that All-Star right winger Justin Williams tore his right Achilles tendon and could be out until 2009.
Williams tore his ACL in December of the 2007-2008 season, which, when coupled with Brind’Amour’s injury, left the ’Canes without two of their top scorers and penalty killers. Before the injury, Williams notched 9 goals and 21 assists in 36 games. He returned for one game late in the season, but left after a few shifts and didn’t play again.
After this blow, there’s a good chance Rutherford will be forced to sign another forward or make a trade. This leaves a gaping hole wide open for comeback kid Jeff O’Neill, who is with the team on a try-out basis, or Matt Murley, who signed with the team last week. Several farm team prospects are also in the running, but O’Neill seems to be the one who could best pick up the scoring that the ’Canes lost the moment Williams’ doctor gave his or her diagnosis.
There is also a slim chance that Williams himself could be traded; weirder things certainly have happened. Trade rumors swirled over the summer that Rutherford would dump Williams’ salary, but the Cole-Pitkanen trade made that a nonissue. However, with Williams injured for such a significant amount of time and the ’Canes desperately pursuing a return to the postseason, Rutherford may not want to wait. Williams scored 76 points in 2005-2006 and led the team in goals the following season, but two years is a long time to wait for a player in his prime. In addition, this is Williams’ third major injury: he tore his ACL and MCL while playing for Philadelphia in 2003.