Report: Carolina’s Pitkanen (heel) not close to returning

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Joni Pitkanen missed all of last season recovering from a severely broken heel, and it doesn’t sound as though the recuperation process has advanced much.

In a brief interview with Finnish news outlet Kaleva, Pitkanen said he’s a “long way” from returning to play, noting that the injury hasn’t shown much improvement and he also hasn’t resumed skating.

This development comes as a bit of a surprise. In March, a statement — which seemed totally unprompted — was released by the ‘Canes on Pitkanen’s behalf, the first real comment issued by the Finn since shattering his heel in a game against Washington in April of ’13:

“I’ve been working with Raleigh Orthopaedic throughout this season with the hope of returning to play hockey. There is no timetable as of now, but I’ve been making progress with my rehab and it remains my goal to resume my professional hockey career.

“It’s been frustrating to be away from the ice, but I want to thank all of the people who have expressed support throughout the season.”

Further compounding Pitkanen’s situation is the fact his three-year, $13.5 million deal with Carolina expired on July 1, meaning he’s currently an unrestricted free agent.