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Under Pressure: Nathan Horton

Aug 26, 2014, 2:49 PM EDT

Columbus Blue Jackets v San Jose Sharks Getty Images

The Blue Jackets made a big splash in the summer of 2013 by signing Nathan Horton to a seven-year, $37.1 million contract, but he wasn’t able to do much to help Columbus in the first season of that deal.

Of course, when the Blue Jackets signed him, they did so knowing that he would need shoulder surgery and consequently miss at least the first two months of the season. It proved to be worse than that though as he wasn’t able to make his Blue Jackets debut until Jan. 2 and was eventually shut down again in April, this time so that he could undergo abdominal surgery. The end result was that Horton played in just 35 games and missed the playoffs entirely.

He’s had a full summer to train and hopes that will lead to him having a strong campaign. Given that he’s projected to be the team’s highest paid forward in 2014-15 (keep in mind that Ryan Johansen‘s still a restricted free agent), the Blue Jackets need for that to be the case.

Horton does have a significant injury history even if you ignore what happened last season, so he’s not a mortal lock to stay healthy even if he’s available for the start of the preseason. Moving past that though, there are questions about how high his ceiling is.

He’ll turn 30 in May and has been a relatively consistent producer throughout his career when healthy. He’s averaged about 55 points per 82 games, which is good, but not remarkable, especially given his contract. At the same time, he’s excelled in the playoffs, which begs the question: Can he step up in the regular season as well to be an offensive leader for a Blue Jackets team that doesn’t have much in the way of top-tier goal scoring threats beyond Johansen?

Keep in mind that while the Blue Jackets made the playoffs last season, it’s going to be a fight for them to get back there. Being able to perform in the playoffs is important, but the Blue Jackets also need Horton to play a key role in getting them there in the first place.

If he can manage that, then Horton will be giving them plenty of bang for their buck.

  1. lowenni - Aug 26, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    I know Horton came up clutch a few times for the Bruins in the playoffs, but I didn’t think this was a good contract when they signed him to it and I still don’t. He was never an awe-inspiring regular season performer even when playing next to guys like David Krejci and I don’t think he will be with Johansen either…that is, if he’s even healthy. He’s really going to need to step it up because if this team wants to make a deep playoff push they need to show that some of their top-six guys are more than just glorified third liners and Horton needs to show he can be the guy they signed, not a guy made of glass with a good shot.

  2. ballistictrajectory - Aug 26, 2014 at 3:00 PM

    …Under Pressure: Nathan Horton…

    Yep, got that right.

  3. 19to77 - Aug 26, 2014 at 3:17 PM

    Guy’s under pressure to string together a week’s worth of hockey games without needing a month-long IR stint, let alone actually live up to his ridiculous contract.

  4. thefranchise777 - Aug 26, 2014 at 3:59 PM

    I think his contract is similar to what they had to do with Wiz from a few years back, as Columbus is still a team that needs to overpay free agents to draw them here. Time (and winning) will hopefully change that, but in the interim you end up paying a $4.5 million player $5.5 mill to draw him here, and hopefully help draw additional bodies around him.

    Jury is definitely still out on this deal, but if he can chip in enough alongside workhorse players like Dubinsky, it should net rewards in the end.

  5. charastein - Aug 26, 2014 at 5:09 PM

    Maybe the Blue Jackets should ask for a refund?

    Kidding aside, Horton was a real clutch performer for the B’s, but it remains to be seen if he will ever return to that form, given his history of injuries since his concussion in the Finals. Since then, he just hasn’t been the same player…

    Shoulder injuries, abdominal injuries, concussion history….can he really move past all that and be an elite player again?

    Time will tell.

    • govtminion - Aug 26, 2014 at 5:33 PM

      Obviously the injuries aren’t helping, but Horton always had a habit of making a big impact when it was needed most- and not until then-in Boston. He’d be quiet for stretches of time, and then suddenly explode in a big game or in the playoffs. (Claude Lemieux used to have the same tendency).

      Does that mean he’s worth the money? Probably not. But if he steals a couple of playoff games this year for the Jackets, we’ll at least know if he’s back to his usual streaky self.

  6. bleedrangerblue - Aug 26, 2014 at 6:53 PM

    F’ing A right he has pressure. Earn your money somewhat …

  7. bigbadbruins77 - Aug 26, 2014 at 8:59 PM

    Good luck horty!!

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