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Horton happy he's found home with Blue Jackets

by Corey Masisak

The Columbus Blue Jackets signed Nathan Horton to a seven-year contract Friday, one of the biggest deals on the first day of NHL free agency.

TSN's Bob McKenzie reported its total is $37.1 million, an average annual value of $5.3 million. He also reported Horton will receive $30 million in the first five seasons. The $37.1 million is the most total money any unrestricted free agent received Friday.

"We went into the market looking for a scorer, a proven scorer, that can bring offensive skill and power forward type to our team," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen. "We found the No. 1 guy on our list and got him signed."

Horton, 28, spent the past three seasons with the Boston Bruins. He had 13 goals and 22 points in 48 games in 2012-13, then had 19 points and a League-best plus-20 rating in 22 Stanley Cup Playoff games. The Bruins lost the Final to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.

Horton helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011, scoring series-clinching goals against the Montreal Canadiens in the opening round and the Tampa Bay Lighting in the Eastern Conference Final.

"I want to bring what I can to the team. I think that scoring goals, battling, bringing pucks to the net, like a power forward does, that's what I want to do," Horton told reporters at Nationwide Arena. "But again, I'll do anything it takes, wherever I'm slotted and wherever the coach wants me to be, that's where I'll play and I'll be happy to do it because I want to get back and be in the playoffs, obviously, and everyone else does. I think we've got the team to do it. I think that's why we're so excited here. There's a buzz going around and I've felt it since I got here."

McKenzie reported Friday shortly after the deal was announced that Horton will need offseason shoulder surgery and might not be ready to play for the Blue Jackets until December. Horton confirmed he needs the surgery and the recovery time will be four to six months.

He was playing through a shoulder injury during the Final against the Blackhawks.

"I've just been kind of waiting to get it done," Horton said. "I'm definitely going to have surgery. Hopefully in the next week, early week, we can figure that out and get something done, and the sooner the better. I think the recovery is four to six months. I'm hoping four, and I think everyone else would in my situation. I just want to be 100 percent and come back and never have a problem with it again."

Horton also has multiple documented concussions in his career. He was knocked out of the 2011 Final on a hit by Vancouver Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome early in Game 3 of that series and did not return.

Horton sustained another concussion in January 2012 against the Philadelphia Flyers and missed the rest of the 2011-12 season. Horton returned for the start of 2012-13 and played in 43 of 48 games.

He visited Columbus on Wednesday.

"I walked around the city a little bit, you know, drove around and looked at all the places," Horton said of his visit. "When you're a player you come in and you don't get to see too much of the outside, and I got to do that a little bit. From what I see it's definitely a place I want to enjoy with me and my family. I want to be here a long time."

The 6-foot-2, 229-pound right wing completed a six-year, $24 million contract he had signed with the Florida Panthers. He has reached at least 26 goals and 53 points four times in his career, the last coming in 2010-11.

Horton likely will join Marian Gaborik as the top two right wings for the Blue Jackets and coach Todd Richards. Gaborik, acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline in April, could move to the left side to make room for Cam Atkinson in the top six, but Gaborik was less productive at that position during his time with the New York Rangers.

"This is the place I wanted to be. Once I heard it was an option, this is where I wanted to be," Horton said. "Obviously with [president John] Davidson and Jarmo, I think it's in the hands of the right people and it's headed in the right direction. They've got a lot of players that make this thing great."

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