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Outlook for Horton’s ailing back getting bleaker

Columbus Blue Jackets v Nashville Predators

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 08: Nathan Horton #8 of the Columbus Blue Jackets plays against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on March 8, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Frederick Breedon

There have been numerous reports -- almost all of them expressing pessimism -- about the status of Nathan Horton’s back injury, but the latest from the Columbus Dispatch might be the most negative of all.

From Aaron Portzline:

“Nathan is a frustrated kid right now,” said his agent, Paul Krepelka. “This is normally a really easygoing guy, a happy guy, but he’s just so frustrated by all of this.

“He signed with Columbus to make an impact, to play a big role on a team that’s on the rise. He was so excited about doing it. The fact that he hasn’t been able to make any meaningful contributions is just extremely frustrating to him.”

While the Blue Jackets are preparing for three games in California, starting Thursday at the San Jose Sharks, Horton is resting in Columbus, as he has been for weeks. He has not been available for comment.

“He’s going to rest it and see if it responds,” general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said.

Horton has been troubled by a sore lower back for several seasons, sources said, but it became significantly worse during the offseason. Kekalainen said Horton was experienced extreme discomfort while jogging in Florida this summer.

According to Dispatch sources, Horton has been diagnosed with “degeneration” of the entire lumbar region of his spine, while TSN’s Bob McKenzie said it’s believed Horton has a L5-S1 herniated disc (both are lower back ailments). Regardless of the diagnosis, the fact remains that Krepelka said Horton is in “constant pain” and “constant discomfort,” casting real doubt if the 29-year-old will be able to play this year... or ever again.

In the second of a seven-year, $37.1 million deal, Horton is eligible to be put on long-term injured reserve, though that’s not Columbus’ primary concern. The club is already $7M under the salary cap ceiling, and would much rather have Horton in the lineup, cap hit and all, than him watching from the sidelines.

Horton is big loss for #CBJ. Expect Kekalainen to pursue a top-6 forward, because team feels it is ready to win

— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) October 21, 2014