#16 / Right Wing / Florida Panthers
May 29, 1985
|2009 - Nathan Horton||65||20||37||57||-1||42||7||2||4||0||159||12.6|
Drafted third overall in 2003, Ontario native Nathan Horton has become a dependable 40+ point scorer for the Florida Panthers, who are reportedly ready to part ways with the 25-year-old right winger and the three years and $14M remaining on his six-year contract. Horton's best seasons came in 2005-06 and 2007-08, when he accumulated 62 points and was +15 in both seasons.
His counting stats have dipped recently, however, and he has missed thirty-two games due to injury over the past two seasons, including seventeen with a broken leg last season. Horton scored 20-37-57 in 65 games last season and was -1 while shooting 12.6%, a career-low SH% for the winger, who has enjoyed success in that department over the duration of his career. The year before, he scored 22-23-45 and was -5 in 67 games. Nothing to sneeze at to be certain, but probably not full value for his annual $4M cap hit, which explains why the Panthers could be looking to ship him out.
On special teams, Horton played the second most PP time of all Panthers forwards at 237:48, about 3:39 PP minutes per game, but scored only 7PPG and 11PPP. He played 76:37 in SH TOI, about 1:10/game, and chipped in with two short-handed goals.
Horton's underlying stats may lend a little more credence to his salary, however. Horton played the second toughest minutes amongst all Panther forwards, and had the best Corsi rating relative to his Quality of Competition in the same group. He scored 2.58 ES points/60, leading the forward corps in that department, and the Panthers scored 3.43 goals/60 with Horton on the ice, the most of any Florida forward, but also allowed the second-most at 3.19 GA/60, which probably has something to do with his circumstances and the opposition he faced on a regular basis. On a team where the easiest zone start amongst all regular forwards was just 50.0% (belonging to former Flame Cory Stillman), Horton started in the offensive zone on 46.2% of his shifts beginning in faceoffs, and finished there on 51.5% of them.
The Panthers did get outshot with Horton in the ice--allowing 31.9 shots/60 while generating 26.2--and as such, his possession figures this past season aren't anything special ( Shots F/A: 435/556, Shots%: .449, Fenwick%: .464 Corsi%: .465) with a PDO of 103.8. Horton's underlying stats make me wonder to what extent he is being helped along by noted tough minutes out-scorer Stephen Weiss, who is comparable to a younger Daymond Langkow, and the circumstances associated with playing in the Southeast Division--not that the Northwest is much better these days.
The Flames likely don't and won't have the cap space or the assets to acquire Horton, as Sutter has stated that he doesn't wish to part with any more draft picks in an interview last week, and I should hope that the majority of the organizations' younger prospects are considered 'untouchables.' That leaves roster players and older prospects as possible trading chips; the Panthers have a fairly young blueline, and as Robert suggested in his piece earlier this week, pawning Cory Sarich off on a team like Florida may not be entirely impossible. They also seem to have a penchant for Czech forwards...*enter Ales Kotalik.*
Florida is likely looking to shed salary without having to take much back in return, and is in the same boat as the Flames should be in that regard. Horton largely fits the bill for the Flames' needs--a big winger with offensive upside who is capable of playing tough minutes--and is potentially better than most wingers the Flames could acquire on the free agent market. What do you think?