Two of the biggest signings during the summer of 2013 were Nathan Horton by the Columbus Blue Jackets and David Clarkson by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Neither has worked out as the teams would have hoped. Now, the players will have the chance to start anew.
On Thursday, Blue Jackets swapped Horton for Clarkson in a trade with the Maple Leafs. Both players have similar contracts. Both teams find themselves fading out of the playoff picture.
Clarkson had to waive his no-movement clause for the trade to the Blue Jackets to go through. In the summer of 2013, he signed a seven-year $36.75 million deal to join his hometown Maple Leafs. Through 118 games in Toronto, the former 30-goal scorer has only scored a total of 15. Through 58 games this season, he has 10 goals and 15 points.
“Sometimes players, for whatever reason, don’t fit in a certain city or a certain organization,” said Leafs general manager Dave Nonis. “I believe in David, I think he’s going to go over there and play well. I think he’s going to go fit in with that group and have the impact there that we had hoped he would have here.”
For Horton, the question is not whether he will regain his former form, rather if he will ever lace up his skates again at all. Suffering from a degenerative back condition, he has yet to play this season. Last year, he was limited to 36 games; scoring five goals and 19 points. He has six seasons with at least 20 goals on his resume, and won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011.
“If he does turn out to play, then Nathan is a world class player, he’s been an elite player, he’s won a cup, he’s won a lot of things,” said Nonis. “If that ever happened (being able to play again), that would be great. And if it doesn’t happen, we’re not in any worse situation financially, plus we have the cap space available going forward.”
Horton is currently in the second season of a seven-year contract worth $37.5 million. As he is currently on long-term injured reserve, his salary does not count against the salary cap, though he will still be paid the full amount.
The Maple Leafs have been extremely active leading up to Monday’s trade deadline. On Thursday, they also sent minor league forward Spencer Abbott to the Chicago Blackhawks for minor league defenseman T.J. Brennan. On Wednesday, they shipped forward Daniel Winnik to the Pittsburgh Penguins . On Sunday Feb. 15, they also sent defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli to the Nashville Predators. They started their moving and shaking this month on Feb. 6, sending Carter Ashton and David Broll to the Tampa Bay Lightning.