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Maple Leafs trade David Clarkson to Blue Jackets

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs traded veteran forward David Clarkson to the Columbus Blue Jackets for injured forward Nathan Horton on Thursday.

Clarkson, a Toronto native, is in the second year of a seven-year, $36.75 million contract he signed in July 2013 after six-plus seasons with the New Jersey Devils. His time with the Maple Leafs started with a 10-game suspension to begin the 2013-14 season for leaving the bench in an altercation during a preseason game, and he has been a healthy scratch at times.

By trading Clarkson, the Maple Leafs opened up some space under the NHL salary cap. Clarkson's $5.25 million salary-cap charge comes off Toronto's books, and although the Maple Leafs will have to pay Horton, his salary does not count against the salary cap because he is on long-term injured reserve with a back injury.

"The money lined up, which was a big part of it," Toronto general manager Dave Nonis said. "From Columbus' standpoint, they were looking to get a player in for that money and we get a player back, who if he can ever come back, is an elite player. In the event he can't, then we have created some cap space."

The Blue Jackets are able to add Clarkson to their lineup; it is unknown if Horton, who has five years remaining on a seven-year, $37.5 million contract he signed in July 2013, will be able to play again with his degenerative back condition. He played 36 games last season with five goals and 19 points.

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

Last season, Clarkson scored five goals, had six assists and was minus-14. In 58 games this season, he has 10 goals and 15 points and is minus-11.

Nonis said the Maple Leafs were disappointed in Clarkson's performance in 2013-14 but felt he played better this season.

"Sometimes players, for whatever reason, don't fit in a certain city or with a certain organization," Nonis said. "I believe in David. I believe he'll go there and play well. I think he'll fit in with their group and have the impact there that we had hoped he would have had here."

Clarkson had to waive a no-movement clause in his contract.

"David Clarkson has been a 30-goal scorer in the NHL who will bring added character and leadership to our group and we believe he will be a valuable contributor to our team," Kekalainen said in a statement. "While we are excited to welcome David to the Blue Jackets, it is also difficult that Nathan's time here has ended prematurely due to his injury situation."

The Maple Leafs made another trade Thursday, sending forward Spencer Abbott of the American Hockey League's Toronto Marlies to the Chicago Blackhawks for defenseman T.J. Brennan of the AHL's Rockford IceHogs.

Nonis said there is a chance Brennan will get an opportunity to play for the Maple Leafs this season.

Brennan, 25, scored 25 goals and had 72 points with 115 penalty minutes in 76 games with the Marlies last season. He signed with the New York Islanders in the offseason before being dealt to the Blackhawks before the start of the season, and had nine goals and 27 assists in 54 games with Rockford.

In 40 games with the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers, Brennan has four goals and 11 points.

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