Toronto Maple Leafs: David Clarkson Trade a Smart Sneaky Deal


Toronto Maple Leafs: David Clarkson Traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets

Dec 20, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing David Clarkson (71) reacts as he is led away to the penalty box against the Philadelphia Flyers at Air Canada Centre. The Flyers beat the Maple Leafs 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

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The Toronto Maple Leafs continue to find ways to make headlines, but this was very unexpected. Almost an hour before their game against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Leafs made a trade sending David Clarkson to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Nathan Horton. Like many Leafs’ trades, Twitter was buzzing. But this deal was over the top because no one saw it coming.

Judging by the reaction this could be Dave Nonis’ version of “Miracle on Ice” because he was able to move one of his worst decisions as GM in hopes of salvaging his reputation. For many people shaking their heads wondering how the Leafs were able to pull this off, thank Columbus for giving the Leafs a get out of jail free card. The Blue Jackets were in a tricky situation with Horton’s injury and his contract moving forward.

Jan 17, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Nathan Horton (8) before the game against the Washington Capitals at Nationwide Arena. Columbus defeated Washington 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

So basically the Blue Jackets could have insured Horton’s contract and not have to pay the full amount, but because they did not, they were stuck paying the full amount. So Columbus was looking for a way to get rid of Horton’s contract and Toronto told them they will take it as long as they took Clarkson’s contract. It is a good deal for both teams because Columbus is paying Clarkson to be a part of the lineup, while the Leafs do not have to retain salary to move Clarkson and get cap relief with Horton out of the lineup. Ken Campbell points out in his article that this deal was so smart and sneaky because only a few teams would be able to make this deal and Toronto was one of them .

There is also a rule with using the long-term injured reserve (LTIR) towards the salary cap.

In a similar situation the Flyers are using their LTIR on Chris Pronger, who has not played since 2012. It works for the Flyers because if they did not have Pronger on LTIR they would be over the cap, if he retired the Flyers get a cap penalty because he is over 35 years old. Horton, who is 29 years old, will most likely never play in the NHL again because of his back injury. There is also no threat of Horton retiring for one simple reason.

So for now the Leafs can bask in the glory of getting rid of Clarkson’s contract but there is still much work to do moving forward. This is what Nonis had to say about the Clarkson trade.

Nov 20, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing David Clarkson (71) celebrates his goal in the first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Lightning 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

So to recap the recent moves made by the Leafs, out are Cody Franson, Mike Santorelli, Daniel Winnik and David Clarkson, and in comes Nathan Horton, Zach Still, Olli Jokinen, Brendan Leipsic, a first round and fourth round pick this season, plus a second round pick next season. For players that were not going to be a major part of the team’s future, the Leafs have found a way to get value in these deals.

Now that the easy deals are done, the Leafs will have to shift their focus on the more important moves involving the core players of the team. If there are more smart sneaky deals like the Clarkson trade in the future, Leafs’ fans will have more things to look forward to.