Written by: Eduardo Razo (@eddie91razo)
Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
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It’s been over 24 hours since the Toronto Maple Leafs did what some deemed impossible, when they were able to trade David Clarkson to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Nathan Horton.
With this move, both teams are able to rid themselves of free-agent busts, who have become financial headaches for each. In Clarkson, the Leafs are able to bid farewell to another free-agent blunder, who never quite lived up to his contract and the pressure of being the next Wendel Clark. This trade allows Clarkson to escape the media craze city of Toronto where he was being scrutinized 24/7. Leafs fans, like myself, don’t necessarily hate him since he was a wonderful person with the media and the fans, however, his play on the ice and his cap hit made him quite the whipping boy for fans. Now he has a get out of jail free card and can be able to revive his career in Columbus who play that grit and grinding type of hockey that better suits his play.
Meanwhile, a small market team like the Blue Jackets can’t afford to pay Nathan Horton $5.3 million just to watch games. On top of that, the contract was not insured and the Jackets would be paying Horton $26 million over the next five years, which for a small market team is a steep price to pay. So this deal made sense for the Blue Jackets in the sense that they would rather pay that amount of money for someone that is going to be in the lineup, even if that someone is David Clarkson. Meanwhile for the Leafs, who are the richest team in hockey, they can afford to place Horton on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) because it seems his playing days are over due to his back injury. As a result, the Leafs can afford to pay him $26 million to never play a game for them, which gives them $5.25 million in cap space to help with their rebuilding plans.
To sum it up, both teams gave each other a get out of jail free card with these contracts because since the Jackets can’t afford to pay Horton for him to do nothing over the next five years, but the Leafs can, and the Jackets can take on Clarkson’s albatross of a contract and pay him what they would be paying Horton. Think what Boston is doing with Marc Savard and Philadelphia is with Chris Pronger, putting them on LTIR so they don’t count against the cap. Make sense?
With all of that out of the way, as a Leafs fan I want to know what’s the address of Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen because I would like to send him a fruit basket for taking Clarkson’s contract since it is being reported that he approached Leafs General Manager Dave Nonis with this trade proposal. Social media was buzzing when news of the trade was released and you could find Leafs fans just celebrating this trade because that’s how much he they despised David Clarkson (the hockey player) and his cap hit. He was being paid like a top line winger, but producing like a third line one. As I stated above, Clarkson is a wonderful human being, but I didn’t like the signing because it was too much money and for way too long of a term. Nonetheless, once he signed I supported him as I would anyone on the Leafs, but as the games went by and he didn't produce, it was easy to be frustrated. The David Clarkson era in Toronto is finally over. Now, with the $5.25 million saved in cap space, it gives the Leafs some flexibility in trades, as they can take on salary from teams that are up against the cap (looking at the Chicago Blackhawks) or retain salary if they trade Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak, or Phil Kessel. For a team that is in rebuild mode, cap flexibility is a must.
I know the Jackets are happy with what they received and who knows, maybe Clarkson rediscovers his game and can chip in 20 to 30 goals, but the Leafs win the deal for the sole fact that the contract they receive doesn’t count against the cap. This may not be a sexy trade, but it is a business trade, which helps both teams financially as we inch closer to the NHL trade deadline on Monday.