Columbus Blue Jackets Free Agent Hits and Misses
Why, have you heard something? Yeah, we’re not including the two big signings that happened this season, despite the genuine possibility of both showing up on this list eventually. Johnny Gaudreau and Erik Gudbranson should play a game for the Jackets before we leap to judgment, either way. So, them aside, who are the best and worst Columbus Blue Jackets free agent signings?
Best Signing: Sam Gagner
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) August 1, 2016
Best Signing Honourable Mention: Vaclav Prospal
Worst signing: Riley Nash
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) July 1, 2018
Now, don’t get us wrong. Riley Nash is a player with some value, especially in 2017-18 when he scored 15 goals and 41 points for the Boston Bruins. That’s solid depth scoring for a middle-six forward, and he was only making $900K per year. There were plenty of teams bidding for his services, and Columbus won with a three-year, $2.75 million offer.
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Unfortunately, the goals and points from 2017-18 weren’t just career highs. They were more than Nash would score in the duration of his contract with Columbus. In three years, Nash scored 10 times and had 33 total points. He was flipped to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a conditional sixth-round pick. That’s not the end result that anyone had in mind. That makes him the worst of the Columbus Blue Jackets free agent signings.
Worst Signing Honourable Mention: Nathan Horton
More a hard-luck story than a bad signing, the Nathan Horton contract is still an example of hope over sense. Horton was a physical specimen – 6’2″ 239 lbs – and was happy to use it. But his physical play was already catching up with his body. That he had suffered two serious concussions in two years was bad enough. Add to that recurring back issues and the seven-year, $37 million deal looked like a higher risk than most teams could stomach.
But that’s why he signed in Columbus. The history of the Blue Jackets free agent signings is brief and inglorious – until this year – and they wanted to make a mark. If Horton remained healthy, even for a few years, this deal could have paid off handsomely, probably. He chose to leave both his previous teams, the Bruins and Florida Panthers. Would that pattern have continued in Columbus? Maybe, maybe not. Columbus was the first destination he chose for himself after nine years, so that may have gone better.
The last year of Horton’s career was his first with the Blue Jackets. He played just 36 games, scoring five goals and 19 points.