Horton (shoulder) ‘doing very well,’ but Jackets not expecting early return

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Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen gave an update on injured forward Nathan Horton on Thursday, saying the prized free agent signing had shown good signs with his shoulder surgery rehab.

That said, Kekalainen wasn’t prepared to say if an earlier return — Horton is supposed to be out until December at the earliest — was in the cards.

“He’s doing very well, recovering, doing his rehab,” Kekalainen told the Columbus Dispatch. “His arm’s not in a sling anymore. He was at a golf tournament (not playing) yesterday, and in good spirits. So that’s a good sign.

“We’re going to be very patient and follow instructions given by the doctors. But nothing’s changed in terms of the timeline.”

Horton, 28, signed a monster seven-year, $35.1 million deal with the Jackets on July 5, arguably the club’s biggest-ever score in free agency. The excitement around the deal was muted somewhat, though, when it was learned he had to undergo a corrective procedure to fix a shoulder issue that flared up during the Stanley Cup Final (it should be noted that Columubus and Kekalainen knew of the issue upon signing Horton.)

The Jackets had issues scoring last year — they finished 25th in the NHL in goals per game (2.40) — and are keen to get Horton, a six-time 20-goal scorer, into the lineup.

They just aren’t expecting that to happen any time soon.

If it heals 100 percent before we expect it, that would be a bonus and it would be nice,” Kekalainen said. “But we’re not going to expect that.”