David Clarkson was taking a pre-game nap around 3 p.m. Thursday, getting ready to face the Philadelphia Flyers later that night when he thought to check the time.
He almost shut his phone off, but saw that he had a message from Maple Leafs management and soon after, he was asked to consider a trade to the Blue Jackets. Clarkson, who has had a tough time in Toronto by his own admission, welcomed the chance to reset and join a young team that he feels has a lot of potential.
His decision to waive a no-trade clause was made with several factors in play, but more than anything, he is excited and invigorated about having the chance to play a big role on a new team and in a new city.
“I’m excited to come down there to Columbus and get a fresh start,” Clarkson told BlueJackets.com. “When I heard it was Columbus, I thought about it and I decided it was somewhere I wanted to be. The way they play the game and the way they compete, it was something I wanted to be part of. It’s a fresh start, like I said, and an opportunity that I’m really looking forward to.”
LISTEN: Clarkson discusses trade to Blue Jackets
Clarkson, 30, is two years removed from a 30-goal season with the New Jersey Devils — a terrific campaign that earned him a lucrative free agent contract with the Maple Leafs.
Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said that, while pursuing Nathan Horton in the same summer 2013 free agency ‘interview period,’ the team considered Clarkson because of how well he fits with the Blue Jackets’ style of play.
The same goes for Clarkson, who, when on top of his game, plays an aggressive, hard-working game in high-traffic areas. He can be a net-front presence on the power play, a solid secondary source of offense and always sticks up for his teammates.
“I remember the way (the Blue Jackets) played against us and that style is something I’m familiar with,” Clarkson said. “That’s how I think I can play and what I want to bring there. That’s the kind of hockey I like. With the way I played in New Jersey, I want to get back to that kind of role. It was tough for me in Toronto — I was suspended my first 10 games there, then I had an elbow injury. So many little things went on.
“This year kind of started off the right way, but for me personally, I think this change is going to be a good thing for me. Columbus intrigued me when I heard it was them and I wanted to be a part of that.”
One of his first conversations after accepting the move to Columbus was with Kekalainen and Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson. Clarkson came away from that conversation even more energized to join his new team and work to get back to the player he was in New Jersey.
For now, though, he’s playing the waiting game as immigration clearance had not been granted as of late Thursday. Clarkson’s hope is to arrive in Columbus sometime on Friday and be available to play against — you guessed it — the Devils on Saturday afternoon at Nationwide Arena.
“(Kekalainen and Davidson) both really impressed me,” Clarkson said. “It was exciting to hear what they had to say. Their beliefs are the same beliefs that I have.
“I need to get back to the same role and play the same amount I was playing in Jersey, and I think I’m capable of doing what I did in Jersey. That’s the reason Columbus was a good fit for me.”