"I'm devastated by the news. It will take a long time for this to truly sink in," said Dorsett, who is signed through 2019 with Vancouver.
Dorsett, 30, underwent cervical fusion surgery in Dec. 2016, with general manager Jim Benning saying then that he was optimistic for a full recovery. The surgery, similar to what NFL quarterback Peyton Manning had before missing the 2011 season, was necessary after a neck injury left Dorsett with numbness in his arms.
After six months, Dorsett was cleared to return to the NHL. In 20 games this season, he had seven goals -- his highest goal total since 2014-15. But symptoms of neck and back stiffness presented again, and in a re-evaluation by team physicians it was determined he could not risk returning to play in the NHL.
"The latest evaluation of Derek's neck revealed that he's sustained a cervical disc herniation adjacent and separate to his previous fusion. Given his current condition and the long term, significant health risks, I advised Derek not to return to play," said Dr. Robert Watkins, Dorsett's surgeon.
"As hard as it was to hear, Dr. Watkins' diagnosis is definitive. There is no grey area, and it gives me clarity to move forward. I have a healthy young family and a long life of opportunities ahead of me. Hockey taught me a lot and it will help me be successful in whatever I choose to do in the future," Dorsett said.
The scrappy forward has played 515 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks, amassing 51 goals and 76 assists along with 1,314 penalty minutes -- twice leading the NHL in that category in 2011-12 and 2015-16.