Horton shows some improvement, future remains cloudy

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It’s too early to say if Nathan Horton will ever play in another NHL game, but his situation isn’t looking quite as bleak.

“There’s been some progress there. He is feeling a little better,” Blue Jackets president John Davidson told the Columbus Dispatch. “I don’t know what that means in the big picture, but he’s better now than he was earlier this season. His whole attitude was different — better — than the last time we saw him.”

Horton signed a seven-year, $37.1 million contract with the Blue Jackets during the summer of 2013, but he’s only played in 36 contests with the team. He’s missed the entire 2014-15 campaign thus far with a degenerative back injury. He could get relief from the pain through surgery, but that would involve fusing at least three vertebrae and force him into retirement.

“I can’t stand up like a normal person; I can’t bend over,” Horton said, per the Dispatch in November. “I can’t run. I can’t play with my kids. To get in and out of the car, I’m like a 75-year-old man … so slow and stiff. I can’t sleep at night. I try to lay down and my back seizes up and I can’t move, so sleeping is out. I’m like a zombie in the daytime.”

Despite that he made it clear at the time that he doesn’t want surgery if it meant hanging up his skates at the age of 29. He’s continuing to do light exercises and the Blue Jackets remain optimistic about his future.