29-Year-Old Right Wing – Columbus Blue Jackets
Nathan Horton Contract Information:
Signed a seven-year, $37.1 million deal with the Blue Jackets in July of 2013.
Horton is bracing for the possibility of career-ending surgery to rectify his degenerative spinal condition, Jimmy Hascup of USA Today reports.
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Nathan Horton: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Horton's gritty playoff performance (19 points in 22 games despite a shoulder injury that required offseason surgery) helped earn him a huge free agent payday, but it was still a surprise to some that he decided to leave a hockey mecca like Boston for the anonymity of a relative backwater like Columbus. His rough-and-tumble style of play seem like a very good fit for the Blue Jackets, even if it too often takes its toll on his body. While he'll probably miss the first chunk of the 2013-14 season rehabbing his shoulder, Horton should be up to full speed by Christmas, if not sooner. The big contract and shoulder injury will have him labelled as an overrated fantasy asset, but there's no reason he can't produce something close to the 25-goal, 60-point pace he usually managed with the Bruins. The biggest question with Horton in Columbus is the same as it was in Boston -- how often can he stay on the ice and out of the infirmary.
Horton hasn't played an NHL game since suffering a concussion back on Jan. 22, but reports are that he is well on his way to returning to the Bruins' lineup this coming season, where his nice blend of size and skill is a tremendous asset to the team's attack. Assuming his health, which hopefully will be confirmed in training camp, Horton should pick up where he left off, that is, patrolling right wing on the Bruins’ top line. Prior to being shut down last season, Horton, whose offensive presence was sorely missed by the team in the playoffs, notched 17 goals and 32 points in 46 games. He’s a difference-maker for the Bruins when he’s on the ice and a successful return on his part figures to help the team remain among the league’s elite squads and one of the favorites to be in position for a Stanley Cup run.
Horton, whose postseason was cut short by a nasty concussion, was also dealing with a shoulder injury throughout the playoffs. He's expected back at full strength next season and is slated to once again skate on the B's top line. While his 26 goals and 53 points in 80 games weren't eye-popping, he was one of the Bruins' most dangerous forwards all season long, while also recording a plus-29 rating. Horton has a terrific blend of size and skill and whatever character drive/questions he had previously attached to him as a Panther seem to have evaporated. A 30-goal season while being a key member of a balanced attack in Boston seems to be a reasonable expectation for Horton in 2011-12, assuming he's past the head injury.
Horton, who scored 20 goals and 37 assists in 65 games in 2009-10, has had his work ethic questioned at times, but the talent is there and perhaps a change of scenery from Florida to Boston will be the jump-start he needs. The 25-year-old projects as a top-6 forward with the Bruins, one who can use his big body (6-foot-2, 229-pounds) to play a power/skill combo game when he is on.
After consecutive 82-game seasons, the injury bug finally caught up with Horton in 2008-09, taking a big bite out of his production. But don’t let the paltry line of 22-23—45 (his worst totals since he was a teenager) scare you away. Horton has reportedly lost a chunk of weight in the off-season in the interest of becoming a little more nimble (always good for a sniper), and that could also lead to a healthier campaign. The result could be another 60-70 points at a discounted price because of the lousy preceding year.
Say what you will about this once third-overall pick being a draft bust, but just remember that he’s still only 23 years old entering his fifth NHL season. His numbers leveled off last season with a 62-point total that matched his production in 2006-07, even if he dropped a few goals. But if anyone on the Panthers figures to benefit from Peter DeBoer’s uptempo style, it’s Horton — a sniper in any sense of the word. Thirty-five goals and 70 points don’t seem out of the question.
Always a deft shooter, Horton grew exponentially last season by increasing his assist total to mirror that of his tallies. His plus/minus rating also improved to a plus-15, which will ensure enough confidence from coach Jacques Martin to increase the youngster’s ice time in key situations late in games. But most of all, Horton finally proved he can stay healthy. Dogged by shoulder and wrist injuries through his first several years as a pro, Horton played all 82 games in 2006-07. The pundits say the fourth year is fertile ground for a breakthrough season, so don't be surprised if Horton threatens the 80-point plateau.
Horton matured beautifully last season by putting up 28 goals, despite being mired in spells of inconsistancy typical of young power forwards. If he can stay relatively healthy for a second season in a row, 35-30-65 is easily within reach.
Panthers fans got a glimpse of how good Horton can be when he put up 14/8/22 in just 55 games during his rookie season. Unfortunately, they also saw how injury prone he can be when he missed the rest of the 2003-04 season and most of the 2004-05 season with shoulder injuries. With Florida stocking up on veteran depth, there is a slight chance the Panthers will shift Horton's development back to the AHL for a little while. If Horton proves up to it, he'll stick with the big club and play a prominent role. The future is very bright for Horton if he can stay healthy.