The Toronto Maple Leafs traded David Clarkson to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Nathan Horton on Thursday in an exchange of veteran forwards who have not lived up to the big free-agent contracts they signed on the same day in the summer of 2013.
The 29-year-old Horton has not played this season due to a back injury that is threatening to end his career.
Clarkson, a disappointment since leaving New Jersey for a seven-year, $36.75 million US deal with the Leafs, missed two games this month as a healthy scratch and had only 26 points in 118 games with Toronto.
"He showed flashes, there were some moments where we had the David that we hoped to have, but overall I think it was probably disappointing for both sides," Toronto general manager Dave Nonis said in a press conference before Thursday's game against the Flyers.
Clarkson spoke about the move with the Columbus Blue Jackets' play-by-play announcers during the first intermission of Thursday's game between Columbus and Montreal.
"I'm really excited to come down there and get back to playing again and being a part of something," said Clarkson. "I don't regret [coming to Toronto]... I've got to get back to finding the way I played in New Jersey... I just never got a chance to play the role I did in New Jersey here and that was hard for me. I'm a proud person, I want to win."
"I'm over the moon about it, to get down there and get a fresh start," said Clarkson.
Clarkson: "I can't wait to get there. I'll tell you what: the way (#CBJ) plays & the way I think I can play, it's really got me excited."— @RobMixer
Horton unlikely to play again
Horton was signed as a free agent by Columbus on July 5, 2013 — the same day Clarkson joined Toronto. He missed the majority of the 2013-14 season, playing only 36 games, due to off-season shoulder surgery. He's now suffering from a degenerative back condition that has prevented him from playing this season and may end his career.
The Leafs know this, but are more interested in the salary-cap savings the deal provides them.
"We get a player back where, if he ever came back, he's an elite player, and in the event he can't we've created some cap space," Nonis said.
Horton's contract with the Blue Jackets is a seven-year, $37.1-million US deal. In the event he can't play anymore, the Leafs will still have to pay him, but they'll receive salary-cap relief. Columbus, which doesn't bring in nearly the revenue the Leafs do, wasn't interested in paying Horton not to play. In Clarkson, they at least get someone who will contribute on the ice.
"David Clarkson has been a 30-goal scorer in the NHL who will bring added character and leadership to our group and we believe he will be a valuable contributor to our team," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement.
"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. He is a tremendous person and we wish him and his family all the best in the future," Kekalainen said.
Horton has played in 627 career NHL regular-season games for Columbus, Boston and Florida, recording 421 points.
Horton has also played in 43 playoff games, earning 36 points and winning a Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011.