With the Philadelphia Flyers scooping up Vincent Lecavalier on Tuesday, Nathan Horton becomes arguably the top winger available on the free-agent market.
Horton opted not to return to the Bruins after three seasons in Boston, and it has not taken long for teams to come calling.
Horton was in Columbus on Wednesday to meet with the Blue Jackets, his agent confirmed to The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline.
The Jackets, who will shift to the Eastern Conference next season as part of the NHL’s realignment plan, took a big step toward shoring up their goaltending situation Monday, signing Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky to a two-year extension.
But while Bobrovsky enjoyed a breakout season, Columbus’ offense struggled, ranking 25th in the league in goals scored (2.4 per game). Even though 2012-13 was a down season by Horton’s standards, his 13 goals and 22 points would have tied for first and fourth, respectively, among Blue Jackets scorers.
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun also speculated Wednesday that Horton would gravitate toward a “non-traditional hockey market” to enjoy a quieter life, and Columbus certainly fits that criteria.
The Blue Jackets finished tied with Minnesota for eighth in the Western Conference this season, but the Wild earned the final playoff spot by virtue of a tiebreaker. Columbus has reached the postseason just once since the team’s inception in 2000 — falling to Detroit in a first-round sweep in 2009.
Teams cannot officially sign free agents until July 5.