Canucks forward Manny Malhotra is out for the season. (JOCELYN MALETTE/QMI Agency)
VANCOUVER - Manny Malhotra's playing days may be over. At least it is for the rest of this season.
The Vancouver Canucks announced Thursday that the centre has been placed on injured reserve and will miss the remainder of the year.
The decision, one made by the club, stems from an eye injury suffered in a game on March 16, 2011. At the time, it forced the centre to miss the rest of the regular season and most of the playoffs before he returned to the Canucks lineup for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final.
But since the incident, and after multiple surgeries and having only regained 70% of the vision in his left eye, Malhotra was never the same player.
Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said Thursday the decision had to be made to shut down the 32-year-old for the season.
"For me, it was the hardest thing I've done in this job," Gillis said. "It's a situation that basically changed Manny's life in half a sec, an innocent play.
"It was (a decision) that has been thought about for some time. We came to the conclusion that for his long-term health, and for his long-term safety, that this was the best thing we can do."
Although Gillis came to the decision last year, he wanted to give Malhotra the opportunity to put his best foot forward and get in great shape heading into the shortened season. The face-off specialist was given 10 games for Gillis to "watch and see if there was any discernible changes."
However, through nine games in 2013, the Mississauga, Ont. native was pointless and a minus-3. Last season, he put up just 18 points through 78 games.
"There were certain instances where I felt that he was extremely vulnerable," Gillis said. "I was going to give him a period of time this year and if things didn't change I was going to have this conversation with him. I observed and watched every day and I didn't feel that there was a change and felt he was at risk."
The team has asked Malhotra, a valuable off-ice leader, to stay with the organization, but his role has yet to be determined.
"We're going to sort through the particulars of that over the next couple of days," Gillis said, adding the door is closed on Malhotra returning anytime this season. "His personality, his courage, his leadership doesn't change because he's not going to be playing hockey."
Although Malhotra didn't speak to media, Gillis said it was also a difficult resolution for the forward. However, he understood where the GM and team was coming from.
"I took it out of his hands and I wasn't going to move forward the way it was going," Gillis said. "He's also a very proud guy, and he had goals, and they won't be fulfilled on the ice but hopefully, they will be fulfilled off the ice."
While Malhotra has been absent from practice the past few days, and missed Tuesday's game against the Minnesota Wild, the news still came as a surprise to his teammates.
"Just being around him everyday you wouldn't have thought there was an issue," goalie Roberto Luongo said. "We all feel bad and obviously wish him all the best. It's unfortunate."
Added defenceman Kevin Bieksa: "His limitations, only he knows. He's not a guy that's ever going to complain about anything. He's a hard worker and he's never let anything be an excuse. Certainly it's a tough situation. We're going to miss him."