At the end of this shortened NHL season, Nathan Horton will become an unrestricted free agent. His six-year, $24 million contract will expire and the Boston Bruins will have to make a big, important decision about his future.
The fact that Horton is enthusiastic about the Bruins and said he loves being in Boston might help sway the decision-making.
Coach Claude Julien described Horton as always smiling when he comes to the rink, aiming to have a good time and hoping that everything falls into place. That mellow, stress-free philosophy seems to be serving him well on the ice.
He has four goals and three assists so far this season, which may not seem that exciting, but he tends to be in the right place at exactly the right time. For example, he scored in the very late stages of the team's huge comeback against the New York Rangers, allowing Brad Marchand to come in and score the tying goal to force overtime.
There is the question of his health to consider--two concussions in as many years have caused him to miss some time and important games--but that's something Horton prefers to not think about and to put behind him.
Another Bruin who loves the city and the team is Andrew Ference, also set to become an unrestricted free agent when this season ends. He's on a three-year, $6.75 million deal. His return is slightly more questionable due to his age, but he's been a part of the Bruins' core for years now and general manager Peter Chiarelli has always prioritized keeping the band together.
Last season, he had his best offensive output (six goals and 18 assists) since the 2005-06 season. In his case, the fact that his family lives with him in the city may help argue the case for a new deal.
Now that the Bruins have freed up some salary cap space by sending Tim Thomas to the New York Islanders, they do have some more room to consider the details of new contracts for these players. However, they also need to re-sign both Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin, which will be their first priority.