COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) The Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs traded bad contracts.
The Blue Jackets acquired disappointing right wing David Clarkson from the Maple Leafs on Thursday in exchange for injured right wing Nathan Horton.
Both were making about the same money, for the same length of time.
Horton, who may not play again due to a degenerative condition in his back, is signed at a $5.3 million salary cap hit through 2018-19. Clarkson has been a major disappointment in two seasons with Toronto since signing a free-agent deal with a salary cap hit of $5.25 million, also through 2018-19.
''He tried his best,'' Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said about Horton. ''He's in a situation right now where there's a good chance that he might never play again. This deal is all about financials for us. With Nathan Horton there was the possibility that we would have been paying $26 million for the next five years for him to sit in the stands. We feel this is a very important financial decision for us. It gives us flexibility. This gives us a player that we believe in and that we're excited about.''
Both teams were trying to get out from underneath costly contracts. This way the Maple Leafs have at least the prospect of a quality player should Horton recover, and the Blue Jackets are paying just about the same amount as they were only with a veteran player on the ice instead of on the injured list.
The 29-year-old Horton was a prized signing two years ago but has not played for the Blue Jackets all season because of a degenerative condition in his back. He has 203 goals and 218 assists in 627 NHL games with the Blue Jackets, Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers. But he is living in Florida and has not skated with the team for about a year.
''We get a player back where if he ever came back he's an elite player,'' Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis said. ''And in the event he can't, we've created some cap space.''
The Blue Jackets didn't have insurance to recoup any of Horton's salary while he was injured.
The 30-year-old Clarkson has 10 goals and five assists in 58 games this season. He has 112 goals and 84 assists in 544 NHL games with the Maple Leafs and New Jersey.
Clarkson was a healthy scratch in back-to-back games earlier this month.
''He showed flashes,'' Nonis said. ''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.''
The Leafs signed him July 5, 2013, the same day the Blue Jackets signed Horton.
''It's a win/win situation for both clubs,'' Kekalainen said. ''That's why it was done. We've been throwing this idea around for a little bit. Then we financially started talking about it. Then we got it done fairly quickly.''
Also Thursday, Toronto acquired defenseman T.J. Brennan from Chicago for forward Spencer Abbott, and Columbus dealt right wing Adam Cracknell to St. Louis for future considerations.
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