- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
It's no secret the Boston Bruins had difficulties putting the puck in the net during the 2009-2010 season, finishing dead last in league in that category.
After the team's historic collapse in the Eastern Conference semifinals, when Boston lost a three-game lead to the Philadelphia Flyers, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said he would make changes during the offseason in order to boost the club's offensive output moving forward.
The Bruins were looking for stability on the front end and received it Tuesday afternoon when they acquired forwards Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell from the Florida Panthers in exchange for defenseman Dennis Wideman and the 15th selection in Friday's NHL draft.
The transaction may not be the ultimate solution, but it's a start.
Horton, 25, scored 20 goals and added 37 assists in 65 games last season. He has scored 20 or more goals in each of the past six seasons, including a 31-goal campaign in 2006-2007.
"If he plays with a No. 1 center, he's never had a top center with the Panthers, so if he plays with [Marc] Savard he'll score 40 goals," said an NHL scout. "He needs a good play-making center and he has a great shot, a terrific shot. Boston got a good player. That's a great deal because Horton's going to be a better player in Boston than he was in Florida."
Horton did not want to say anything negative about Florida's organization, but after having five different coaches during his six seasons with the Panthers, he was also looking for stability.
He believes he's getting that in Boston. Plus, it's no coincidence Horton is represented by Orr Hockey Group.
"There is such a history with great players like Johnny Bucyk, Willie O'Ree, Phil Esposito, Ray Bourque, Cam Neely, Gerry Cheevers and, of course, my agent Bobby Orr," Horton said. "I'm going to give it my all and I'm just very excited to be a Boston Bruin."
A natural centerman by trade, Horton has played mostly right wing in the NHL and seems comfortable playing that position. In Boston, he'll be lined with the likes of Savard, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. Horton also brings an element of toughness to the Bruins.
"They have some pretty good centermen already on the team, so I think it'll work out well," Horton said. "I can score, I can pass the puck, and when I'm on top of my game I think I'm more involved in the play and that's what I plan to do when I come to Boston."
Meanwhile, Campbell is also excited to be with the Bruins.
"I think every team wants to be tough to play against and, truthfully, the Bruins are known to be a team like that," Campbell said. "They're big. They're physical. They're a strong team and a tough team. I'm sure there aren't a lot of people in Boston who are familiar with me and I'm going to have things to prove to the coaching staff and management."
When Campbell broke into the league on a full-time basis during the 2005-2006 season, he served as a fourth-line energy guy and worked his way up into other roles, including on special teams as a penalty killer.
Campbell dealt with injuries last season and was limited to 60 games and posted 17 points with 53 penalty minutes.
During a conference call on Tuesday afternoon, it was clear both wanted out of Florida and wanted to play for an Original Six organization. It was also evident both want to finally learn what it's like to play in the postseason, something they have not been able to accomplish in their careers.
"I watched the playoffs pretty closely and it's not fun ending your season in April," Campbell said. "I follow it closely and you kind of get a taste of what it's like to play, but it's not close to being in one of those arenas."
"As a player, that's the best part of playing hockey, getting to the playoffs," Horton said. "You don't make them for seven years, it's too long and it can't happen. The Bruins organization [missing the playoffs] just doesn't happen and it's exciting for me to come and be a part of it.
News of the deal quickly spread to the Bruins' players.
Forward Shawn Thornton, who spent the morning on the golf course and the afternoon in the gym, said he would miss Wideman, both as a friend and teammate. Thornton said he also spoke with Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who played with both newly acquired players in Florida, and the reports were positive.
"We addressed something we thought we needed, and playing against those guys, both are hard to play against," Thornton said. "Hornton's numbers speak for themselves. He can put the puck in the net. Campbell, I've played many shifts against him and he's hard-nosed and he doesn't back down. I really like the way he plays. If he's my centerman, I'll be happy to have him."
Seidenberg played 62 games for the Panthers last season before he was traded to the Bruins at the deadline and said that both Horton and Campbell will be solid additions in Boston.
"Horton is a really skilled player and he'll definitely help putting points on the board," Seidenberg said. "With Gregory, you've got a guy who works as hard as anybody. We'll get a lot from both guys."
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.