In a move that has Toronto fans celebrating and Columbus fans scratching their heads, the Columbus Blue Jackets have acquired right wing David Clarkson from the Toronto Maple Leafs, General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced today.
Clarkson, whose 7-year, 5.25 million contract with the Maple Leafs was widely considered the worst in the league, scored just 15 goals and 11 assists in 118 games with the Leafs. Explaining the thought process behind bringing him to Columbus, Kekalainen said, “Clarkson has been a 30-goal scorer in the NHL who will bring added character and leadership to our group.”
So … grit. The Blue Jackets took on one of the worst contracts in the league for grit.
Then again, maybe not. The Blue Jackets seem to anticipate an uptick in play from Clarkson. The total buy-in locker room environment Columbus espouses will certainly be a change from Toronto, at any rate. Maybe the move will be a hard reset for Clarkson, and we’ll see his play return to the level he demonstrated in New Jersey.
Either way, he’s a body on the ice, which winger Nathan Horton has been unable to be due to a degenerative back injury.
“While we are excited to welcome David to the Blue Jackets, it is also difficult that Nathan’s time here has ended prematurely due to his injury situation,” Kekalainen said. “He is a tremendous person and we wish him and his family all the best in the future.”
At his signing, Horton was heralded as a sign of changing times in Columbus: the team was on an upswing, the future looked bright, and Horton attributed part of his reasons for signing to the culture and atmosphere of the club. He tallied 4-15-19 and 24 penalty minutes in 36 games with the Blue Jackets last season, and presumably won’t resume play in Toronto.
Even if Horton never suits up for the Maple Leafs, putting him on the long-term injured reserve gives them desperately needed cap relief as the struggling team moves forward with what we can only assume will be a rebuild. Though the salary cap is intended to keep big-money teams from poaching all the talent, in this particular case it so happens that the Leafs can afford to pay Horton not to play while Columbus cannot.
According to Forbes, the Blue Jackets are the second-least valuable team in the league, with an operating income of -$6.3 million (the fifth-worst in the NHL, just above the St. Louis Blues at -$6.5 million).
The Toronto Maple Leafs, on the other hand, produce operating revenue of $70.6 million. This season is the ninth consecutive year that the Leafs are the league’s most valuable team.
In other words, paying a player $26.1 million over five years not to play is a comparatively good deal for Toronto’s deep pockets.
“This is a very important financial decision for us,” Kekalainen said. “It gives us a player.”