Nathan Horton

Horton cleared for contact, rebuilding strength


Nathan Horton isn’t ready to say when he’ll make his Columbus Blue Jackets debut or even call himself close to returning, but he’s made significant progress recently in his efforts to return from off-season shoulder surgery.

Horton was a full participant in Friday’s practice and no longer needs to wear a no-contact jersey, although his teammates weren’t eager to test his injury.

“It wasn’t physical but it was more than I had done,” Horton told the team’s website. “It’s still a little sore but it wasn’t sore before I went on the ice, but that will go away.

“The pain’s probably not going to go away for a long time, but as long as I get my strength and I’m comfortable with hitting people and getting hit, I’ll be fine.”

To that end, he’ll continue to practice regularly until his conditioning is where it needs to be.

When he does return, it will naturally be a big boost to the Blue Jackets. They inked him to a seven-year, $37.1 million contract over the summer in the hopes that he could be an offensive leader and the missing piece in their quest for an elusive postseason berth.

The Blue Jackets have managed to hold their own this season despite already suffering a number of major injuries, but they are behind the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, and Philadelphia Flyers in the fight for the Metropolitan Division’s third and — given the overall weakness of the division — likely final playoff seed.

Report: Kings, Richards nearing settlement

Mike Richards
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The Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards may be nearing a settlement in their dispute over Richards’ terminated contract, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting.

You can read the report for all the details, but we’re sure curious about this part:

If a settlement is reached, there’s no word yet on what salary cap penalties the Kings would still face. There’s bound to be something, but not likely as onerous as the full value of Richards’ contract, which carries with it a cap hit of $5.75 million. If there’s a settlement, Richards would undoubtedly become a free agent though there’s no telling at this point what monies he would be entitled to from the Kings in a settlement.

The issue here is precedent, and what this case could set. The NHL and NHLPA can’t allow teams to escape onerous contracts through a back door, and many are adamant that that’s what the Kings were attempting to do in Richards’ case.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
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The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.

“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.

“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”

Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?