It is hard to imagine what the Leafs brain trust was thinking when they signed David Clarkson to a lucrative 7 year deal on July 1st, 2013. It is equally hard to imagine their reaction to a rumoured phone call from Columbus, inquiring about Clarkson. A season and a half into his Toronto tenure, David Clarkson had been more than disappointing. On the ice, that is. No one ever questioned the man off the ice, or in the dressing room. From all accounts, he was likely the guy with most character in that locker room. You never asked if he cared, you knew he did. For the Mimico native, putting on the blue and white was a dream come true, an honour. It really is too bad that he came with such expectation. However, most knew the contract would never match the production. It was a bad marriage from the start, between the signing and 10-game suspension. Clarkson didn’t get off to the most auspicious start, and it spiralled downward from there. Fast forward to last week. With the Leafs firmly out of the playoff hunt and Clarkson’s play still an issue, it become clear that both he, and the team needed a fresh start. The question was: how do we trade a guy who undoubtedly has one of the worst contracts in NHL history. Ladened with salary bonuses and a no-move clause, his contract was essentially, buyout-proof. Most believed the Leafs would be saddled with the contract through the 2020’s. It seemed that it would easier to move contracts such as Phaneuf, Kessel, and the injury-riddled Lupul. The one thing MLSE has at their disposal is money. Up until now, the salary cap has prevented them from leveraging such resources to allow for the Leafs to be a superpower. Enter Columbus, and likely Brandon Pridham, the Leafs capologist. Columbus, not nearly as wealthy as MLSE, had a situation in Nathan Horton. A player with an uninsured contract, which they were paying to sit in the stands due to a degenerative back condition. Any smart business man will tell you, it is better to pay for someone who CAN work, than someone who can’t. With salaries close to the same, Columbus would rather have Clarkson, who can play, than Horton, who will likely never play again. The swap was completed, meaning MLSE uses their exceptionally deep pockets to play a player upwards of 26 million over the next 5 years, to not play a single game. Due to the fact that Horton is on LTIR, this deep pocketed franchise can now spend Horton’s cap-hit of 5.3 million, over the cap. Imagine that. The cap-hit that seemed unmovable…POOF! Disappeared to Columbus. What an expensive($26 million) error that was. Other than the fact that Leafs Nation is ecstatic about the freed up cap space, there is another upside to this trade. Many NHL players have gone on record saying that the treatment of players by the Leafs is first class, far and above most ¬†other NHL teams. Exactly the kind of treatment Nathan Horton needs right now. For a man who is very young, with a family, he needs to be given the best care in order to live his life fully. There is no doubt that Toronto will have him see the best doctor/specialist they can find, undergo the best rehab and training, and take extremely good care of his wife and two young kids. While the trade may be for the hockey team, perhaps MLSE should use some of their money to ensure their newest player and his family are as comfortable as they can be. Hopefully, Horton gets the treatment he needs during his stay with the Leafs. He may ever play again, but MLSE should ensure that he can at least have a life after hockey, because that is what is important in the grand scheme of things. While it may be cap circumvention, Nathan Horton could be the one who benefits most from this trade. After all, there is more to life than hockey.

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