Food For Thought: Nathan Horton

As July 1 approaches, there are no shortage of rumors involving the Toronto Maple Leafs as they attempt to bolster the forward ranks.

Although Nathan Horton has not been linked as a potential target of GM Brian Burke, I believe it is within the realm of possibility. I base this simply from speculation posted at Spector's Hockey.

One of the links quotes Elliotte Friedman discussing the possibility of Florida Panthers' GM Dave Tallon pursuing Tomas Kaberle. What's interesting is that Bruce Garrioch, of the Ottawa Sun, reported that Tallon is believed to be shopping Horton.

I'm simply putting two and two together here, but Horton certainly seems of the Burke mold. He's a big body, has the potential to produce over 30 goals and he is only 25 years old. Not only that, but he can play center.

Although he may not be the ideal number one center, he is certainly a viable option as the number two. Burke has made it clear that he intends on rebuilding the Leafs under a short time-frame, so acquiring a player such as Horton seems logical in comparison to a first-round draft pick in the upcoming draft. My personal thoughts aside on the matter, I'm just pointing out the blueprint Burke has followed thus far.

However, is there reason for concern with Horton's inability to reproduce his 60-point seasons? Well, he battled injuries to his leg and right ankle for the past two seasons, but his 57 points in 65 games last season is a good indication he may be back on track. Although Horton's work ethic has frustrated the Panthers' brass, he may simply need a change of scenery to get the wheels in motion. Personally, I think he'd be a solid addition to a Leafs team that is dire need of some fire-power upfront. He's a big body that can park in-front of the net (we've all seen the havoc Dustin Byfuglien has caused goaltenders throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs) and add some much needed aggressiveness---if he's willing, of course.

Although there is no guarantee Kaberle is shipped this summer, it doesn't take a genius to realize he is Burke's ace in the hole if the Leafs are to improve upfront. While the addition of Horton would be merely another step towards realizing Burke's vision to make the Leafs a contender, it would certainly serve as an important building block.

Horton has a modest cap hit of $4 million for the next three seasons (10-11: $4.0M, 11-12: $4.5M, 12-12: $5.5M). Although that's not exactly a bargain, it is certainly a fair price considering he has posted over 60 points twice in his five seasons in the National Hockey League.

What are your thoughts? Do you think Horton would fit with the Leafs?