This is a good move for the Maple Leafs, who have opened up some considerable cap space by shipping out the Toronto native. Clarkson was in the second year of a seven year deal worth $36.75 million. This frees up a $5.25 million cap charge.
What’s more, because Horton is on the long term injured reserve list, the Maple Leafs won’t have his salary count against the cap. They’ll still have to pay their player, of course, but that won’t be a problem.
“The money lined up, which was a big part of it,” Toronto general manager Dave Nonis said. “From Columbus’ standpoint, they were looking to get a player in for that money and we get a player back, who if he can ever come back, is an elite player. In the event he can’t, then we have created some cap space.”
Horton, as has been detailed elsewhere, may never play the game again. The Blue Jackets were paying him not to play and now the Toronto Maple Leafs will be doing the same thing, but Nonis and Co. can certainly afford to do it thanks to their deep pockets. Also, the Horton contract was uninsured. That makes this a pretty big win for Toronto.
As for Clarkson, the Blue Jackets seem to be happy with the player they’ve landed and that’s a good thing. But he wasn’t an overly good fit in Toronto, especially given his disappointing performance in 2013-2014. He had to waive his no-movement clause to make the deal happen, too, and one suspects there was no problem getting him to do that.
Clarkson has been sold as a player capable of putting up 30 goal seasons, but the truth is that he’s only done that once in his career. That was with the New Jersey Devils in 2011-2012, where he finished with 46 points in 80 games and added a dozen points in 24 playoff games.
But since then, it’s been hard to make the case for Clarkson on the scoreboard. He only has 26 points in his last two seasons (108 games) and scored more than 17 goals just the once. Will he produce again for the Blue Jackets? That’s a good question. He’s 30 years old and has likely topped off, but stranger things have happened.