Interview window stirs up controversy

Updated: July 9, 2013, 12:37 PM ET
By Craig Custance

It was a situation that utilized the spirit of the 48-hour interview process almost perfectly. The Columbus Blue Jackets wanted forward Nathan Horton, but Horton knew little about the team or the area.

Two days before the start of free agency, he flew to Columbus. He met with Blue Jackets president John Davidson and GM Jarmo Kekalainen, two impressive hockey executives. Because of the extra time built into free agency this year, they weren't rushed in explaining the process in which the two plan on building the Blue Jackets into a winner.

From Columbus' perspective, there was another benefit. The team asked for and received Horton's medical information, detailing his shoulder injury along with his history of concussions. The team could examine the risks and make a calculated decision without racing against a free agency clock that was already ticking.

That afternoon, Horton and his wife toured the area. During the season, most players fly in to Columbus, stay at the team hotel, walk over to the arena and fly out. It's not a great way to get to know a region, especially if you played in the East and you rarely made the trip to Columbus at all.

This new window gave Horton the opportunity to get comfortable before committing the next portion of his career to a team.

"It was tremendously beneficial for Nathan Horton," his agent, Paul Krepelka, said. "He started seeing the city, got away from the hotel and rink and into the communities where people live. That's what sold him."

In this case, everything worked out great. When free agency officially opened, Horton signed a seven-year contract worth $37.1 million. He found a city in which he felt comfortable. The Blue Jackets got the much-needed scoring help their forward group lacked. It was the first indication that this window could be most beneficial to small-market teams that might have trouble attracting free agents otherwise.

It worked for Nashville and forward Matt Hendricks, too. Hendricks visited Nashville and was picked up at the airport by Mike Fisher, who gave him a tour of the area. He met with the coaching staff and the front office, ultimately signed a four-year deal with the Predators. The runner-up to landing Hendricks? The big-market Philadelphia Flyers, who might have had a better chance at landing Hendricks if the Predators weren't given that opportunity and time to recruit.

The interview window wasn't perfect, though.