Boston, MA – It is a moment that many Bruins fans likely thought would not come so quickly. After Peter Chiarelli made a draft day deal that rescued Nathan Horton from the purgatory that is the Florida Panthers and brought him to a relevant, cup-contending hockey organization three years ago, it seemed like a match made in heaven.
Horton, a big, skilled power forward with a goal-scoring prowess and plenty of grit to go along with that, quickly endeared himself to Bruins fans in his first season wearing the spoked-B. Three seasons, one Stanley Cup championship, and a second run to the cup finals later, Nathan Horton has decided he wants to look for a “new beginning” and will likely sign elsewhere once free agency officially kicks off.
With Horton taking off in search of a big-money contract, the B’s brass are left with the task of filling a large void left at right wing on the first line, alongside Milan Lucic and David Krejci. No small task.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at some potential replacements for the former #18 on that top line.
Tyler Seguin – The easiest and most natural solution for Chiarelli would be to fill the void left by Horton from within. And with that philosophy, the most natural candidate for promotion on the B’s roster is Tyler Seguin. Behind Horton on the depth chart, Seguin is the team’s second best (and arguably, most talented) right-winger. Two seasons ago he led Boston in goals and points, and despite a down year in 2013, Seguin still has the natural ability and most potential to take on the role of the Bruins’ resident first-line gunner. At times throughout the course of this past season, Seguin got some playing time on that top line and the trio had some success together. He certainly would add a dynamic of speed that the B’s top group hasn’t had, and if things clicked they could pick right back up where things were left off as one of the NHL’s best first lines.
Brad Marchand – This is a bit more of an “out there” kind of idea, I know, but if promoting from within is the topic at hand, then I ask you why Brad Marchand doesn’t at least deserve some consideration for Horton’s job? “The Little Ball of Hate” was the team’s second leading goal scorer two seasons ago, and followed that up by leading the B’s in goals and points during the 2013 regular season. He was solid throughout the playoffs, scoring big goals in both the Rangers and Penguins series, and has proven himself to be a solid, productive winger in the NHL. Of course the biggest question in this scenario would be how Marchand makes the transition from the left to the right side. With that last point in mind, it is probably unlikely that he gets the nod here to start next season.
Vincent Lecavalier –A former number one overall pick, Vinny has played his entire career to this point with the Tampa Bay Lightning, wearing the captains ‘C’ on his jersey for a good bulk of it. After signing a monstrous deal after a 50-goal season in 2006, the big center started a downward spiral in terms of his production and play over the course of the last seven seasons. The trend prompted Tampa to exercise one of their new amnesty buyouts on their former captain, cutting bait and sending Vinny out into the free agent waters. The Bruins were listed as one of a number of teams to meet with the 33-year-old veteran about a potential contract that would bring him to Boston, and while the chances of Boston signing Vinny are still an unknown, he has gone on record that he would be open to playing right wing, and you can’t help but get excited about this caliber of a player wearing black and gold, skating on the wing with Krejci and Lucic.
Jarome Iginla – Yes I know that Iggy snubbed Boston once already this year, opting to head to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline instead of coming to Beantown. Hasn’t revenge already been exacted though? Watching the B’s sweep the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals after all that happened during the regular season was simply too good. Now that it is all behind us, if Iginla were interested in signing here, I for one would welcome the future hall-of-fame winger with open arms. He brings a similar style of play as Horton with perhaps a bit more consistency while giving up some jump in the legs. He’d be a natural fit on that first line and would offer perhaps the easiest transition in terms of playing style for Krejci and Lucic to get used to.
Pascal Dupuis – Yes, another Penguin. I get it, we don’t like Pittsburgh. However Dupuis is another guy that I would welcome here in Boston, and is someone who could be a solid fit to play on the wing with Krejci and Lucic. He has manned the right wing on Sidney Crosby’s line for the bulk of his time in the Steel City, and is perhaps one of the NHL’s most underrated wingers. He is not your prototypical goal-scoring winger, but he has scored 20 and 25 goals respectively in the past two years, and is a versatile guy who is able to play on the penalty kill as well as the powerplay. He is a great skater who would give the B’s top line an element of speed that it has lacked and is a seemingly solid locker room guy and leader.
So these are just a few names that I would keep an eye on as the off-season continues to roll on. It will certainly be interesting to see just what Chiarelli does to replace a guy who has been a great Bruin during his three seasons here and who has helped turn that line into one of the most dominating trios in all of the NHL.