Warrener's injury real deal

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

For all those doubting Rhett Warrener's injury, thinking it's a strategic way for the Calgary Flames to circumvent the salary cap, the defenceman has a pointed replay.

"Be as cynical as you want, but go talk to the docs," he said. "It's not a funny circumstance that just came up. It's not just, 'Oh, this is convenient.'

"It's documented."

It was easy to assume the Flames were playing some hanky panky when they unveiled their opening-day roster with Warrener on it before he was placed on the long-term injury list.

But the 32-year-old defenceman is battling a very real -- and career-threatening -- injury with his right shoulder.

"It's something that's been bothering me a long, long time. I keep re-hurting it," he said. "I'm trying to figure out what's the best way to go about this.

"Now, it's a good time to try and give it a good chance to heal up."

Warrener's US$2.5-million salary currently has the club over the cap.

For now, Warrener is hoping rehabilitation will eventually have him back in action because his surgery options are very limited.

"I think the only surgery that is available is replacement," he said. "People don't realize that, and I don't want to be 32 getting a shoulder replaced.

"I don't know the time frame, but I think we're going to let it heal and, hopefully, down the road it's better."

Warrener's long-term injury status -- which requires documentation and medical reports with the league -- allows the team salary cap relief.

Over a dozen NHL seasons, Warrener has skated in 714 regular season contests and collected 24 goals, 82 assists and 899 penalty minutes. He's played 101 playoff games and reached the Stanley Cup finals three times, including Calgary's 2004 run.

Warrener's status with the Flames was precarious going into training camp. It was no secret his salary -- with a US$2.35-million salary cap hit -- put him in a tough spot, with Calgary so close to the ceiling.

Still, the veteran blueliner gave all he could in the pre-season, even after his shoulder was re-injured after a hard hit against the Florida Panthers.

"That's what I was trying to do. I said to myself, 'Go out there and leave it out there,' " he said. "I think I did that.

"I certainly don't walk away wishing I had done more. It's too bad it's turned out this way."

He tried to play one final pre-season game to see if the shoulder was OK.

"I knew the situation I was in, but it didn't feel good."

Even with a long rest period and rehabilitation efforts, he understands this could be the end of the line

"But let's not talk that way," said Warrener, whose wife Christina is expecting around Christmas. "Certainly, it's crossed my mind. Especially when the doctors tell you that you're looking at shoulder replacement. It has to cross your mind.

"I can't imagine trying to play hockey with a fake shoulder.

"I'm just trying to stay as upbeat as I can."


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