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Bruins acquire Horton

Wideman traded, as is 15th pick

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / June 23, 2010

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The last time Peter Chiarelli did business with Dale Tallon, in February 2007, he got stuck with Brandon Bochenski, who has since played for three other organizations after being jettisoned by the Bruins in January 2008. Tallon, then Chicago’s general manager, landed Kris Versteeg, who was a significant player in the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run this spring.

This time, Chiarelli is aiming for a different outcome.

Yesterday, in their first offseason move to boost the NHL’s worst offense, the Bruins acquired forwards Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell from Tallon’s Florida Panthers for Dennis Wideman, the No. 15 pick in Friday’s draft, and a third-round selection in 2011.

The centerpiece of the deal is the 25-year-old Horton, the third overall pick from the once-in-a-generation 2003 draft in which top-shelf stars such as Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Mike Richards, and Corey Perry were selected later in the first round.

“I think I have more to give,’’ Horton said during a conference call. “I’ll be working pretty hard this summer. I want to come in in the best shape.

“I’m just excited for a change. It’s going to be great. I think it’s going to work out good.’’

The 6-foot-2-inch, 229-pound right wing had 20 goals and 37 assists in 65 games in 2009-10, averaging 20:53 of ice time per appearance. He missed 17 games because of a broken leg caused by a shot from Dennis Seidenberg, his former Florida teammate with whom he’ll be reunited in Boston.

When he’s on his game, Horton is a skilled and heavy-on-the-puck, shoot-first forward, although he’s not one to initiate contact (only 34 hits this past season).

Horton had his best season in 2006-07, when he potted 31 goals and added 31 helpers in 82 games. In 422 career games, Horton, who jumped directly from juniors to the NHL, has 142 goals and 153 assists. He has three years ($4 million annually) remaining on his contract.

“Nathan is big, powerful, young man,’’ Chiarelli said in a statement. “He is 25 years old, has scored over 30 goals once, and over 20 goals in five consecutive seasons. He is a shooter who plays a power game.’’

The impetus of the deal was Horton’s request to be moved when Tallon was hired in May. Horton has yet to appear in a playoff game and played for five coaches during his time in Sunrise (Mike Keenan, Rick Dudley, John Torchetti, Jacques Martin, and Peter DeBoer). During his first conversation with Tallon, Horton asked the new GM to be moved.

Tallon, who noted in his introductory news conference that he’d ship out players who didn’t want to be in Florida, met Horton’s request. The Panthers, who now have the third and 15th picks in Friday’s draft, have not made the postseason since 1999-2000 and are rebuilding through the draft the way Tallon did in Chicago.

“The best part of playing hockey is the playoffs,’’ Horton said. “When you don’t make them for seven years, I just think it’s too long.’’

While Horton could become the go-to right wing that Marc Savard has missed since the Phil Kessel trade, he has much in common with the player that might become his linemate. They both played junior in Oshawa. Savard had never been in the playoffs before 2007-08. And both have had their character questioned in NHL circles. Last year, one Bruin branded Horton as having “no heartbeat.’’

However, the Bruins are hopeful that under Claude Julien’s firm hand, Horton will rebound in Boston.

“If he wasn’t given the right direction and right environment before, he could get 35 goals with this coach,’’ said an NHL source. “Their style might fit him. With these big-body kids that get sent elsewhere, they blossom. Guys that are 6-2 and score 80 points don’t grow on trees.’’

The 26-year-old Campbell, son of NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell, is a bottom-six forward who plays a gritty game. Campbell played mostly left wing in 2009-10, although he’s also served as a center.

Campbell had 2 goals and 15 assists in 60 games last season, leading the Panthers with 158 hits. He averaged 15:23 of ice time per game, including 2:26 on the penalty kill, tops among Florida forwards. Campbell, a restricted free agent, could replace Steve Begin, who is not expected to be re-signed by the Bruins.

“I came in as a fourth-line energy guy to earn my spot,’’ Campbell said. “I got that opportunity from the coaches in Florida to work my way up to be a third-line player on the wing or center. I can kill penalties. I’ve been able to find my niche that way, being a role player.

“I’m sure not a lot of people in Boston are familiar with me. I’m going to have things to prove to the coaching staff and management as well.’’

Wideman, 27, has two years and $7.75 million remaining on his deal. After an excellent 2008-09 season, in which he had 13 goals and 37 assists, Wideman struggled with his confidence and consistency this past season, when he recorded 6 goals and 24 assists. Wideman, originally acquired from St. Louis for Brad Boyes at the 2006-07 trade deadline, hit bottom when TD Garden fans booed him whenever he had the puck.

For all of his 2009-10 hiccups, though, Wideman was a valuable puck-moving defenseman who averaged 23:33 of ice time, second-most behind Zdeno Chara. Wideman led the Bruins in scoring during the playoffs with 1 goal and 11 assists.

“I think he was a little frustrated earlier in the season,’’ said Tallon, who pegged Wideman as a top-four defenseman and power-play contributor. “He lost some of his minutes and probably tried to do too much. He bounced back. After the trading deadline, he had a good finish to the season and had an outstanding playoffs.’’

By dealing Wideman, the Bruins have indicated their willingness to re-sign defensemen Johnny Boychuk (unrestricted) and Mark Stuart (restricted). Wideman’s loss leaves them without their sharpest puck-moving defenseman. But yesterday’s trade may just be the first of several deals this offseason.

The NHL Players Association’s executive board elected yesterday to maintain the 5 percent inflator for 2010-11, which means the salary cap should rise to approximately $58 million. Had the NHLPA voted not to trigger the inflator, the cap would have decreased from its current $56.7 million, leaving the Bruins (approximately $51 million committed to next season) in an even tighter crunch. The NHLPA also elected to extend the collective bargaining agreement to 2011-12. The 7.5 percent bonus cushion will be effective for 2010-11, meaning it will not be a hard cap . . . The Bruins will open 2010-11 with four games away from the Garden (two in Prague against Phoenix, then road matches against New Jersey and Washington). They’ll debut at home against the Capitals Oct. 21.

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