Down and Out, Columbus Deals for Clarkson

By Chris DiMaria

The Columbus Blue Jackets traded away injured right winger Nathan Horton Thursday, effectively swapping his contract with that of Toronto Maple Leafs right winger David Clarkson. Both were making about the same amount of money, but Horton was making his from the injured reserve.

Horton has not played a game this season, and with a degenerative back issue it is quite likely that he will need career-ending surgery. He was signed at a $5.25 million salary-cap charge through 2018-19, so it was possible that he would have been a $26 million cheerleader for the next five years, according to Yahoo Sports.

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The Maple Leafs still pick up Horton’s contract, but it does not count against their salary cap because he is on long-term injured reserve (LTIR), according to NHL.com.

In return, the Blue Jackets receive David Clarkson, who has been disappointing since arriving in Toronto. Clarkson opened his first season playing for his native city in 2013-14 by serving a 10-game suspension, and his time there since hasn’t gone much better (NHL.com).

Last season, Clarkson scored five goals and notched six assists in 60 games. This season, he has accumulated 10 goals and five assists in almost as many games, according to NHL.com.

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Clarkson played decently in six-plus seasons with the New Jersey Devils before going home to Toronto. He scored double-digit goals in all but one of the full six seasons he played with the Devils, and hit the 30-goal mark in 2011-12. Columbus’ front office hopes he can return to that form in their scheme, according to the Blue Jackets’ team site.

Clarkson, a player with a deceptively high talent ceiling, is in the second year of a seven-year, $36.75 million contract, according to NHL.com. Columbus was able to swap in his contract, essentially filling the void left by the injured Nathan Horton.

In an NHL.com article written by Mike Brophy, Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen was quoted as saying, “We feel this is a very important financial decision for us.” He continued, “It gives us flexibility. It gives us a player we believe in and we’re excited about.”

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In theory, the Blue Jackets could have gotten more for the outstanding Horton, even with the slim possibility that he ever returns to the ice. Before climbing aboard in Columbus, Horton had five 20-plus-goal seasons in eight years, including three 30-goal campaigns.

However, with the looming probability that he never plays again, Toronto became a perfect buyer for Horton. As the richest team in the league, the Leafs had money to spare. They now effectively cut Clarkson’s contract while saving money by placing Horton on LTIR, and are able to continue their rebuilding process, according to NESN.

The trade won’t do much more for Columbus this season than tying up loose monetary ends. The Blue Jackets are 11 points out of a playoff spot, sitting just above the Carolina Hurricanes in the basement of the Metropolitan division.

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