Friday, July 19, 2013
Horton's risk vs reward
By Luke Lapinski
When the Columbus Blue Jackets locked up Nathan Horton with a seven-year, $31.7 million contract earlier this month, it caught everyone's attention around the hockey world. On the one hand, it's good to see talented free agents looking the Blue Jackets' way -- especially with the struggles they've endured on the ice since they joined the league. And it's good to see the organization make a push and be willing to pay for the sort of player that could help them take the next step as they switch over to the Eastern Conference.
On top of that, Columbus seems to be building something in the wake of the Rick Nash deal. A year ago at this time, they were enduring the harsh reality of trading away the face of their organization. Since then, however, they've added Marian Gaborik, seen their young netminder emerge as a Vezina winner and developed some of the players they got from New York in exchange for Nash into quality assets. Adding a big player like Horton -- who is coming from a winning environment in Boston -- could be just what they need to get back into the postseason and hunt down the first playoff series win in franchise history.
The move isn't without some risk for the Jackets though. Signing a deal like this rarely is. In fact, Rob Vollman of Hockey Prospectus contends this could be one of the riskier decisions of the summer, due to the length and money involved, as well as the fact that Horton is coming off shoulder surgery. The upside is there though, and the reward could be significant if all goes well.
Rob VollmanPivotal power play production
"Horton's offensive production is really the key to this deal, given that he doesn't kill penalties, is typically among his team's leaders in offensive zone starts and has had an average quality of competition that has ranked no higher than ninth among this team's forwards in four of the past five seasons. Achieving some power play success will be critical for Horton, who has failed to reach three points per 60 minutes with the man advantage in three of the past four seasons, including just 0.7 last year."