Saturday, June 19, 2010

Thinking Out Loud: Horton

We're now a week until the Entry Draft and the Florida Panthers keep coming up as the team with the most to move and a laundry list of trades to make.  The name really making headlines again is Nathan Horton, who I had singled out because of some rumours last September, including one interesting rumour that would have seen him move to Vancouver.  Not surprisingly, that didn't work out and he played the entire season with the Panthers and had a decent season, despite missing 17 games to a fractured leg.

So, now the Panthers have some new management in Dale Tallon and he has the ability to shape the team the way he wants and he has a track record of great success and great patience, just look at the Chicago Blackhawks and all the good work he did there.

Reading the rumours this morning, Horton has links to Boston, but Boston has links to just about everywhere for all sorts of re-tooling.  It's almost like the Bruins are in panic mode after giving up the 3-0 series lead to the Flyers in the 2nd round of the playoffs.  I've seen some thoughts about Horton moving West again, with a possibility of Calgary making a pitch for him, sorry I don't have any links to it here right away.

Horton has been a curious case to say the least though.  As the 3rd overall pick in 2003, he hasn't quite lived up to the billing of being such a high draft pick, but there are plenty of valid arguments that the Panthers have not been able to give him the right talent or help around him to get him to flourish.  Horton has topped out at only 62 points (twice) and in 2010 would have likely beaten that at his scoring pace, if it wasn't for his injury, so there is still some potential left in him to be a top end player.  With a salary cap hit of $4 million over each of the next three seasons, if he does start to score at a reasonable pace, he could end up being a bargain.

Remarkably, according to my spreadsheet, which is somewhat incomplete, but should be good enough for this statement, there are 13 players in Horton's draft year (2003) that have earned bigger contracts than him, including the two that were taken above him.  11 players drafted after Horton, have earned bigger deals, including Thomas Vanek, Dion Phaneuf, Mike Richards, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Jeff Carter, Ryan Kesler, Patrice Bergeron, Shea Weber, Milan Michalek and Loui Eriksson.  I think in this case, Horton might be considered a bit of a bust.

Don't get me wrong though, the Florida Panthers talent argument should be in play to a certain degree, since a number of those player have had some help in their career to achieve some pretty good goals, so if Horton was to move to an NHL city with some more scoring punch, I think we could measure him a little more soundly.  For now though, his price tag is kind of low and I would wager that there are a number of teams that wouldn't mind a 2nd-line centre like Horton, take the pressure off and possibly turn him into a real scoring threat.

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