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Khan profiles an injury-prone Wings free agent target in Nathan Horton

MLive's Ansar Khan's penned his second "free agent focus" article, following up a summation of David Clarkson's pluses, minuses and asking price with a profile of a player whose "upside" is vast and whose injury history is downright scary. Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton's a 6'2," 229-pound, 28-year-old winger who's proven himself to be a 20-goal-scoring, 50-to-60-point-registering player (mostly)...

But he's also battled concussion issues, and now everybody but the Boston Bruins themselves will acknowledge that Horton's got some sort of left shoulder injury that probably needs surgical repair--though, somewhat ironically, Horton spending 3 or 4 months on a team's long-term injured reserve list probably allows teams with less cap space than more (like the Wings) to make a $5-to-6-million bid for Horton's services (if Horton's worth that much to begin with).

Here's Khan's profile of Horton:

Strengths: He has good size and scoring ability. He skates well and has a good shot. He has appeared in the playoffs only twice (2011 and 2013), but has come up big both times.

Weaknesses: He has been plagued by concussion issues in recent years and hasn't been particularly durable. Doesn't kill penalties. His points per game average this season (0.51) was his lowest since his rookie year (0.40).

...

Why he would interest the Red Wings: He has many qualities the team desires: size, finishing ability, a right-handed shot and a knack for stepping up at playoff time.

How he could fit in with the Red Wings: He would play on a top-two line and on the power play.

There's obviously much more to read in Khan's article as he discusses Horton's career history and statistical averages, but the bottom line is spot-on:

What it might take to get him: This is tricky. He had a huge salary this past season (the prorated portion of$5.5 million due to the lockout, because of a back-loaded contract that had a $4 million cap hit). He wouldn't merit a raise based on his mediocre regular season. But his huge playoff performance, coupled with his age and a thin free-agent market, could get him $6 million a season.

This is just me, but I'd rather see the Wings pay $3.5 million for Bryan Bickell or David Clarkson. Horton's injury situation, and as Khan notes, he had a rough regular season.

He's almost the Valtteri Filppula of goal-scoring forwards, someone who can certainly be counted on to put 20 pucks behind goalies, but someone who also, as the Sports Forecaster puts it, is frustrating to watch:

Assets:  Can shoot the puck at will and skates very well for a big man. Has excellent goal-scoring ability and can get hot for long periods of time. Has the total package for a hockey player.

Flaws:  Is not a consistent performer in any area of the game. Needs to do a better job of keeping his emotions in check, and his head up at all times (since he has concussion issues).

Career Potential:  Big, skilled but fragile scoring winger.

Sure, Horton's big, skilled and sometimes tough, but he's inconsistent and injury-prone. He's a scary proposition, especially at $5+ million per season.

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Comments

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George, do you feel at all wary of signing a guy like Bickell to a multi-year contract at 3.5 million? aside from big goals in this years playoffs, he has never realy been a goal scorer.

Posted by letsmakeit12 on 06/24/13 at 11:17 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I don’t think that there are any no-brainer options out there—Bickell’s one playoff run removed from being a 4th-line player, Clarkson’s two seasons removed from being nothing more than an enforcer, Horton gets hurt and one never knows about Michael Ryder’s ability or inability to score, depending on the season—so it’s definitely a market of consolation prizes as opposed to marquee names.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/24/13 at 11:40 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.