Anytime there is a major free agent signing one of the first things talked about in the media is did the team pay the player too much? As always you will have people on both sides of the argument saying the team did or did not overpay the player, but the most important things to look at when you see a free agent signing that involves tons of money or lengthy years is…
How old is the player? What is their career stats? Playoff stats? And how have their statistics been recently in both regular season and post season? You also have to consider the depth of the free agent market and what other players of similar ability are getting money wise and length wise. So in our utter bliss of signing an NHL All Star, let’s stop,take a breath, and evaluate whether this was a free agent steal or a buyout waiting to happen.
The Blue Jackets signed Nathan Horton to a $37.1 million contract at a $5.3 Million cap hit per year for 7 years. The length is an immediate concern as Horton is 28 yrs old currently, although the contract is front end loaded and Horton will actually make the bulk of this money before he’s 34, he will still count as a $5.3 million cap hit until he’s 35 when his contract is up. Right away I didn’t personally like the length of the contract, especially with Horton’s injury history.
The next issue is to tackle is the money, $37.1 Million total, $5.3 million a year. Nathan Horton‘s career regular season statistics over 9 NHL Seasons are 591 games Played, 198 goals, 204 Assists, and 402 Points. His playoff stats in 2 NHL Post season appearances with the Bruins were 43 games Played, 15 Goals, 21 Assists and 36 points. A $5.3 cap hit per year with these stats and such a thin free agent market, I think this signing money wise was an absolute steal! Not to mention good power forwards aren’t exactly growing on trees these days.
Don’t believe me? Lets look at the Leafs signing of David Clarkson. Clarkson is a year older than Horton, 29, and his career regular season stats over 7 NHL Seasons are 426 Games Played, 97 Goals, 73 Assists, and 170 Points. While his post season stats in 5 Playoff appearances with the Devils are 44 Games Played, 5 Goals, 9 Assists and 14 Points. It should also be pointed out that Clarkson hasn’t had Horton’s injury history, and did outproduce him the last two seasons, but has also not being nearly as effective in the playoffs. Clarkson got a nearly identical contract to Horton from the Toronto Maple Leafs signing a $36.75 million contract over 7 yrs at a $5.25 cap hit per year.
So basically the Blue Jackets got a player with double the regular season stats, double the playoff stats and a year younger than a player that got virtually the same contract. The contract length for both teams is a concern, as both players will count as a high cap hit as they would be expected to be out of their prime by the last 2 years of their respective contracts (see: Vincent Lecavalier).
With free agency comes competition, if Columbus hadn’t given Horton 7 yrs, someone would have, same with Toronto and Clarkson. As far as the money goes, Horton was a bargain, and as far as the years go it was a necessary evil. I do however find it curious that while watching the TSN Free Agency Special on NHL Network, that even though TSN analysts complimented Columbus on the signing, they were critical of the length, just as I am, but when Toronto signed Clarkson, they weren’t critical of the length at all. Maybe they’re just looking at different statistics than I am?
- Nathan Horton
- Age 28
- Career Regular Season Stats- GP:591, Goals:198, Assists:204, Points: 402
- Career Post Season Stats- GP:43, Goals:15, Assists:21, Points:36
- Total Contract: $37.1 Million For 7 Yrs
- Cap Hit Per Year: $5.3 Million
- David Clarkson
- Age 29
- Career Regular Season Stats- GP:426, Goals:97, Assists:73, Points:170
- Career Post Season Stats- GP:44, Goals:5, Assists:9, Points:14
- Total Contract: $36.75 Million For 7 yrs
- Cap Hit Per Year: $5.25 Million.
I think we know who the clear winner of free agency was.