Nathan Horton visited the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, July 3rd. Two days later, Horton agreed to a seven-year, $37.1 million contract. That must have been one productive meeting.
Horton, one of the better free agent options in an incredibly weak field, will carry an average cap hit of $5.3 million, but he'll earn $30 million in the deal's first five years. The contract is a big gamble for Columbus. If he's healthy, Horton will give the Blue Jackets an upgrade on the wing, but the number of years and Horton's injury history make this a risky signing.
Speaking of Horton's injury history, the forward is expected to have shoulder surgery this summer and he won't be able to play until around December. There's nothing quite like signing a player to a seven-year deal and having him miss the first few months of the contract's first year.
Then there's one of the scariest words in hockey: Concussion. Horton suffered a severe concussion in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. On January 22nd of 2012, Horton sustained another concussion and missed the remainder of the season. Giving a seven-year deal to a player with such a colorful shoulder and concussion history is a bold strategy.
If Horton is able to put his health issues behind him, the 28-year-old might help round out a Columbus offense led by Marian Gaborik. Unfortunately, that's a pretty big if.