EDMONTON — Capitals defenseman John Erskine underwent “a successful” surgery Wednesday to repair a disk in his neck, the team announced.
Initially listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury, Erskine did not travel with Washington on its western Canada trip. The Capitals revealed earlier Wednesday that Erskine had been placed onto regular injured reserve, before later posting news of the surgery on their website.
According to the Capitals, Dr. John Starr at the Bethesda Surgical Center performed the operation and Erskine “is scheduled to begin an intensive rehab program within the next few weeks.”
Erskine had been a healthy scratch for Washington’s first five games this regular season before suffering the injury, the team said, in a recent practice. His agent, Pat Morris, did not immediately return a telephone message seeking further comment.
Per the NHL’s latest collective bargaining agreement, players placed onto regular injured reserve must remain there for at least seven days, as opposed to the 24 days/10 games lower limit for long-term injured reserve.
Coach Barry Trotz had said after practice Tuesday that Erskine’s injury was a pre-existing condition that “sort of got irritated.”
“He came in [to training camp] in really good shape,” Trotz said. “He’s been battling. He’s one of those old-school, hard-nosed defensemen. We’ve had no injuries basically on the back end, and we’re going to add a guy. He’s trying to get back in the lineup. This probably sets him back a bit, but he’s been really quality in terms of attitude and understanding where he is right now, based on how we’re going and what our needs are and who we’re playing.
“Could get aggravated more as he keeps going, if he doesn’t take care of it now.”
Even when healthy, blue line minutes were at a premium given Washington’s offseason signings of Brooks Opirk and Matt Niskanen, which pushed Erskine further down the depth chart. The pending return of Dmitry Orlov (wrist) next month will only cloud the situation more.
Erskine is currently on the second year of a two-year deal worth $1.9625 million per season. He will become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
NOTE: Contrary to what was reported earlier based off comments from Trotz, forward Brooks Laich was not placed onto injured reserve and remains on the active roster. This is virtually negligible, given that Laich won’t return until after an injured reserve stint would’ve passed anyway.