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Clarkson 'over the moon' to join Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets traded injured forward Nathan Horton to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday for David Clarkson, a power forward they hope can bounce back from a disappointing season-plus in Toronto.

Clarkson had 15 goals in 115 games with the Maple Leafs after signing a seven-year, $36.75 million contract in July 2013. He scored 30 goals in 2011-12 and 15 in 48 games during the shortened 2012-13 season with the New Jersey Devils.

"If you look at his years in Toronto, he wasn't at his best. That's no secret," Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "Things didn't work out for him in Toronto. We think he can get back to his game.

"Now we're going to get him in a different situation with a different group of guys with him. We hope and believe he'll get his game back to where it was before."

Clarkson is eager to attempt to rejuvenate his career, but said he does not question his decision to sign with his hometown team.

"When I became a free agent, I picked [Toronto]. I dreamed of wearing [the Maple Leafs] jersey as a kid, and I don't regret it. You know, they've got a great group of guys in this room," Clarkson told The Fan 97.1 FM during the first intermission of the Blue Jackets' game against the Montreal Canadiens at Nationwide Arena. "I think like you said, I've just, I've got to get back to finding, you know, the way I played in Jersey. …

"[My time in Toronto] was hard for me. I'm a proud person. I care. I want to win. But I think now with this new start, I'm excited and I'm over the moon about it to get down there and to get a fresh start."

Clarkson, 30, could make his Blue Jackets debut Saturday against the Devils but said he needs to get his work visa.

David Clarkson
Right Wing - CBJ
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 15
SOG: 93 | +/-: -11
Horton, 29, has a degenerative back condition that could end his career. The Blue Jackets acknowledged that they did not insure Horton's contract, and he is due the remaining five years of the seven-year, $37.5 million deal he signed in July 2013.

"We feel this is a very important financial decision for us," Kekalainen said. "It gives us flexibility. It gives us a player we believe in and we're excited about."

Horton's annual NHL salary-cap charge of $5.3 million is about the same as Clarkson's $5.25 million, which goes through the 2018-19 season. The Blue Jackets get someone who could play a role among their top forwards, something Horton was unable to do in his short time in Columbus.

The Blue Jackets knew Horton would miss some of the 2013-14 season because he had shoulder surgery shortly after signing his contract. He played 36 games last season and had five goals and 19 points; he has not played this season.

"He tried his best," Kekalainen said. "He's in a situation right now where he might never play again."

The Blue Jackets have had many injuries this season and often lacked experience at forward. They hope Clarkson, who has 196 points (112 goals) and 955 penalty minutes in 544 NHL games, can be effective not only on the ice but in the locker room for one of the youngest teams in the NHL.

"We get a player in David Clarkson who we believe fits our needs very well," Kekalainen said. "He fits our identity and many of the qualities we believe in in Columbus and what the Blue Jackets are looking for."

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