Published June 22, 2010
To a former Florida Panther, that's a dream scenario.
Fed up after not even making the playoffs in the first six seasons of his career, Nathan Horton asked the Panthers to trade him and they obliged on Tuesday, sending him and fellow forward Gregory Campbell to the Boston Bruins for defenseman Dennis Wideman and a pair of draft picks.
"I'm excited to go to a new start and a stable and historic and successful franchise," Horton said in a conference call with reporters. "This is what every kid dreams about: To be on an Original Six team and play for the Boston Bruins. I think if you're a young kid and you're coming in, it's a dream come true."
Although the Bruins haven't won the Cup since 1972, they've made the playoffs in three straight years and six of the last eight seasons. Last season, they reached the conference semis as the No. 6 seed, then took a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series against the Flyers.
Philadelphia stretched it to the maximum and fell behind 3-0 in Game 7 before coming back to eliminate the Bruins and, eventually, reach the Stanley Cup finals. It was just the third time in NHL history a team has blown a 3-0 lead in a postseason series.
"It was a flip of the coin to get to the conference finals, and I think that's pretty impressive. It's not a good feeling. I've never been there, but I'm hoping to get there soon," Campbell said. "I can't imagine the feeling that the Boston players (had), how they felt being up 3-0 and being up 3-0 in Game 7. I'm sure it's a learning experience for them."
And an experience the newest Bruins would love to try for themselves.
Florida hasn't made the playoffs since 2000, and it hasn't won a postseason series since reaching the Stanley Cup finals in 1996 — the franchise's third year in existence.
"That's the best part of playing hockey is the playoffs," Horton said. "When you don't make them for seven years, it's too long."
The Panthers get Wideman, whose development seemed to stall last season, along with the No. 15 overall pick in this weekend's draft and the Bruins' third-round pick next year. Wideman increased his point total in every season of his career until this one, when he dropped from 50 points to 30 and a career-low six goals.
"Dennis had a terrific three years in Boston. He hit a couple of bumps along the way this past year. This happens sometimes with skill players and their confidence," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "He rebounded to be one of our best players in the stretch run and in the playoffs. He is a clutch competitor and is one of the best passers in the game."
Horton has been Florida's top goal-scorer since he joined the team as an 18-year-old and the third overall pick in the 2003 draft. He had 20 goals and 37 assists in 65 games last season despite missing two months with a broken leg.
Campbell, 26, is the son of Colin Campbell, the NHL senior executive vice president of hockey operations and league disciplinarian. He had career highs of 13 goals and 76 penalty minutes two seasons ago, and had two goals, 15 assists and 53 penalty minutes last season.
Boston scored only 206 goals last season, the fewest in the Eastern Conference; Florida was next with 208. Chiarelli noted that Horton, who is 25, has already scored at least 20 goals in five consecutive seasons, including a career-high 31 in 2007.
But he has also played for five coaches in seven seasons.
From that perspective, even the Bruins look stable: Claude Julien was the team's seventh coach in seven seasons when he took over in 2007, but he has lasted three years.
"(Horton) obviously was frustrated with what's gone on in the past and was leaning toward maybe if we could help him out, seeing what was out there for him. And that's how this all began," new Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said. "We've got to move forward here. We're certainly not in a position to sit still. ... We have a lot of work to do."
Associated Press Writer Sarah Larimer contributed to this story from Miami.