Bruins Closing in on Panthers Winger Nathan Horton?

Bruins Closing in on Panthers Winger Nathan Horton? On Wednesday, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli once again reiterated that he will explore the trade market to improve the team and, with a plethora of first and second round picks in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft next Friday and also in 2011, he is positioned well to do so.

“The fact that we’ve got a number of them this year and next year, I’m looking to the trade market to make some changes, and in all likelihood, it will involve some picks,” Chiarelli pointed out. “So it gives me some flexibility knowing we’re going to get a top-end talent, still have picks next year [and possibly get a current NHLer].”

Well, it appears Chiarelli could already have a trade in place that would bring a current NHLer to Boston.

While the parameters of the trade are unclear at this point, a very reliable source told NESN.com on Friday that the Bruins are closing in on a trade with the Florida Panthers that would see them acquire winger Nathan Horton, who was drafted third overall by the Panthers in 2003, but in six NHL seasons, has cracked the 30-goal plateau only once and — in the eyes of fans and media — failed to reach his potential and use his 6-foot-2, 229-pound frame properly.

There were no specifics on what else may come to Boston in the deal or what the return would be to Florida, but it has been well documented that Chiarelli would love to move into the top 5-7 picks overall to get one of the top defensive prospects available, so this could be a package deal involving roster players and picks.

According to this source, who stressed the Panthers were talking to numerous teams about Horton and could still accept another offer, “the parameters” of the possible trade were still being worked out as of late Friday afternoon, but “Horton believed he could be very close to being a Bruin.”

This source and two others shot down the internet rumor that was running rampant on Friday, in which Marc Savard, Blake Wheeler and the Bruins’ 15th overall pick would be dealt to Columbus for the fourth overall pick. According to these sources, the Bruins and Columbus are talking about potential deals, but nothing is concrete yet.

Horton, only 25, has plenty of time to still develop, but newly hired general manager Dale Tallon made it clear recently that everyone on the roster, with the exception of goaltender Tomas Vokoun, defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and left wing David Booth, is fair game to be dealt.

Horton and Panthers center Stephen Weiss have been the subject of numerous trade rumors since the new sheriff in town, Tallon, made it clear there would be some house-cleaning.

On Wednesday, the Florida Sun Sentinel reported that Horton’s agent, Paul Krepelka of the Orr Hockey Group — the same agency that represents to prospect Taylor Hall — believed “there’s a very good chance” his client would be dealt by July 1 when Horton’s no-movement clause kicks in.

The story also pointed out that it would be hard to deal Weiss because of the Panthers’ lack of depth at center, and because he is coming off his best offensive season, scoring 60 points.

Horton had back-to-back 62-point seasons in 2006-07 and 2007-08, scoring 31 goals in the former. This past season he had 20 lamplighters and 37 assists for 57 points in 65 games. The Welland, Ontario, native is due to make $4 million this coming season, $4.5 million in 2011-12 and $5.5 million in 2012-13.