The six-foot-two centre from Welland, Ont., scored 31 goals and assisted on 31 last season as he continued to mature into an NHL star. “Nathan compiled a career-best season in proving to be one of our club’s top offensive threats,” said GM-coach Jacques Martin. “He is a very skilled and talented player who is a key part of our nucleus of offensive talent.
“By signing Nathan to a long-term deal, we hope that this serves as further proof about our organization’s dedication and commitment to bringing continued stability and success to the Panthers and the south Florida community.”
Horton stepped into the big league in 2003-2004 out of the OHL’s Oshawa Generals after being the third player selected in the 2003 entry draft. He scored 14 goals in his rookie season and 28 in 2005-2006 before reaching the 30-goal plateau this year.
Horton will be paid $3 million in 2007-2008. He’ll get $3.5 million in each of the next two years, $4 million in the fourth year, $4.5 million in the fifth year and $5 million in the last year. A no-trade clause kicks in after the third year.
“Over the past year, Nathan has taken significant steps in his growth process and we believe that he possesses many of the essential qualities that we strive for in our players,” Martin said. “He joins a growing list of players who have signed multiyear deals to remain with the Panthers that includes Olli Jokinen, Ville Peltonen, Ruslan Salei, Mike Van Ryn and Bryan Allen.”
The announcement of the new deal for Horton, who was eligible to become a restricted free agent July 1, came as teams prepared for the beginning of the 2007 entry draft Friday night.