The Columbus Blue Jackets were among the first teams to make a big free agent splash with the free agency period getting underway on Friday, adding a weapon to their forward ranks in signing Nathan Horton. It’s a signing that can make an impact on a few different levels, provided he’s healthy.
Given the market, it’s probably what many would have expected Horton to get as a free agent. But there’s little doubt that the Blue Jackets vastly overpaid for Horton here, especially given his injury history. But if he can stay healthy, this is a signing that has the potential to work out wonderfully for the up-and-coming franchise.
Horton wanted a contract in a smaller market to enjoy something of a quieter lifestyle, after spending so many years with the Boston Bruins. He got that in his new deal with the small market Columbus team, signing a seven-year deal that will carry a cap hit of $5.3 million.
It’s not a terrible number for a player who is capable of bringing to the table what Horton can. He had a pretty terrible regular season in 2013, but was an asset in helping the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup Finals. He has a nose for the net, and can create that net presence and will play down around in the corners as well. He’s the type of player that will be a tremendous asset to this Blue Jackets team.
Especially when you add in that experience factor. This is a young team overall, and one without a ton of postseason experience. Horton has experience of going deep into the playoffs. That alone is valuable, in addition to his ability to contribute on the offensive side of things.
However, the dark cloud looming over all of this is the health issues. Horton has a history of head injuries and during the playoffs we heard about his chronic shoulder separation. He’ll have shoulder surgery this summer, and probably won’t be ready to start the season until December. That’s a gigantic question mark in this deal right now.
The Blue Jackets may end up regretting throwing so many years, on top of the money, at Horton, if he can’t remain healthy on a consistent basis. If he can prove that the head and shoulder injuries are behind him, though, this is a good signing for a team that is looking like it could be a real threat in the very near future.