COLUMBUS – There were always whispers out there that there was more to the story of Nathan Horton leaving the Bruins organization for a seven-year, $37.1 million free agent deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets this summer. Clearly the Bruins front office was surprised by Horton bolting, judging by their words afterward and by the scene from “Behind the B” where Peter Chiarelli is dropping an F-bomb after getting the news confirmed by Horton’s agent, Paul Krepelka.
Horton said the move was about a “quieter lifestyle” for his family rather than the hustle and bustle of Boston city life, but the Bruins playoff hero confirmed it was about more than that on Saturday. Horton said the Bruins never approached him in his final year with the team before unrestricted free agency, and he couldn’t wait around for an answer when other teams showed major interest.
“All year, nothing happened. I waited for a long time,” Horton said of last year in Boston. “When you wait until the last minute, what am I…I’m not going to wait around. I’m happy with the way things turned out. It just came down to, at the end, for my family, I wanted a place where my kids could be outside.
“That’s kind of what it came down to. I heard a little bit about Columbus. It’s not the Columbus that everyone knows. Columbus is up-and-coming. They’ve got a great team and great people in charge. It’s kind of what I was looking for.”
Horton said he’s still “got a little bit” left in a slow rehab from shoulder surgery, and is expected to be ready to return at some point in January. He looked noticeably lighter than last year while needing to stay away from the weights following surgery to the trouble right shoulder that bothered him throughout last year’s playoffs.
It’s doubtful the Bruins were going to sign Horton to a seven year deal either way, so perhaps he would have always gone to Columbus in the end once free agency hit last summer. But it seems pretty clear Horton wasn’t happy last season when the Bruins took a wait-and-see approach with the power forward coming off a lost season due to a pair of recent concussions.
Horton finished with 15 goals and 36 points in 43 playoff games with the Bruins – including a Stanley Cup title – and spoke positively about the lessons he learned along the way in Boston.
“Obviously I enjoyed my time in Boston. I still talk to [Milan Lucic] and most of the guys on the team,” said Horton. “When you win a Stanley Cup with everyone, you never forget it. It’s a big part of your life.
“The two years I was actually playing we made it to the Stanley Cup Final. It was a great experience and it taught me a lot about hockey. There’s no better feeling than being in the playoffs, and getting a chance to win the Stanley Cup.”
Despite the memories, Horton was clearly ready to move on from Boston and the Black and Gold following three notable seasons. But it doesn’t appear he’ll be healthy enough to play against them this year with the season series over between the two teams at the end of November.
So warm, cherished Cup memories, and perhaps a grudge or two, will be on Horton’s mind for a bit longer as he starts over in Columbus.