from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,
The first thing you need to know about the Toronto Maple Leafs escape from salary cap jail is that it was the Columbus Blue Jackets who first proposed Thursday’s stunning David Clarkson for Nathan Horton swap.
In fact, the Leafs probably wouldn’t have even believed such a transaction was possible with Horton’s career in jeopardy because of a serious back injury.
However, they learned in recent days that Horton’s contract wasn’t insured and Columbus didn’t want to pay the veteran winger $26.1-million over the next five years to not play. Given that Toronto no longer wanted to pay Clarkson $27.5-million for the next five years to play, there was a perfect fit.
Everything basically came together in a little more than a day.
"The money lined up, which was a big part of it," said Toronto GM Dave Nonis.
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
That the Leafs traded Clarkson for Nathan Horton, a player whose career might well be over, is just another element to one of the wackier hockey deals, er, business deals, er, deals you're ever going to see.
Certainly, it was a deal that caught the hockey world by surprise as we head into the final days before Monday's trade deadline....
In a perfect world, the Blue Jackets would not need Clarkson.
But the world is not perfect and it is certainly not perfect in Columbus, where the Blue Jackets have suffered a miserable season after making the playoffs last spring and winning their first-ever playoff games both at home and on the road against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Among the many problems that beset the Blue Jackets was that since they signed Horton to a seven-year $37.1 million deal, also in the summer of 2013, the former Stanley Cup winner in Boston has played in just 36 games, including none this season, and a degenerative back problem might keep him from ever playing again....
For Columbus, a small-market team, paying a player who could play, albeit one who played as poorly as Clarkson sometimes played for the Leafs, was preferable to paying a better player not to play at all, as multiple sources told ESPN.com that the team did not have any of Horton's contract insured.
from Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch,
This deal — like a growing number of trades under the NHL salary cap — is about so much more than just the players. It has some truly unusual layers.
From the Blue Jackets’ perspective, they admit they erred in not getting insurance on the seven-year, $37.1 million contract they signed with Horton as a free agent in July 2013.
But Horton arrived with a preexisting condition — a chronically separated shoulder that could not be covered by insurance — and the Blue Jackets knew he would miss at least half of the season rehabilitating. The 41-game mark is the point at which most insurance policies kick in.
The club opted not to buy insurance for the rest of Horton’s body that season because it would have been impossible for another injury or illness to cost him half of the season. In other words, he would have crossed that threshold because of the shoulder.
It was risk, but only if Horton developed another major injury. This past summer, Horton’s back flared to the point of incapacitating him, and insurance became unattainable, meaning the Blue Jackets would be on the hook for all of the remaining salary in his contract.
“With Nathan, there was the possibility we would have been paying him $26 million the next five years to sit in the stands,” Kekalainen said. “This is a very important financial decision for us.”
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
The concept was brilliant: Trade bad contract for bad contract — with a catch. Could they actually pull this off?
Was there such a team with a match?
They began their due diligence at that moment, going team-by-team, payroll-by-payroll, contract-by-contract, trying to find a home and a fit for a player who didn’t fit and couldn’t find a home with the Leafs.
They stopped at the Columbus Blue Jackets. Perfect, they thought. The Jackets had Nathan Horton not playing. His contract wasn’t insured. Money is tight in Columbus.
Then the phone calls began.
“We started discussing this with Columbus in the last couple of days,” said Dave Nonis, the Leafs general manager of the moment — and maybe longer after this heroic deal. “Internally, we knew this made sense for us. It turns out they were interested as well. (Some other teams were interested, but not in the same kind of way.)
added 9:12am, from Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star,
Through all the years, all the endless failures and humiliations, all the bilking and barking, all the false hope and thin hope and no hope, all the endless bleating about the fundamentally hollow centre of the hockey universe, there was the money. The Toronto Maple Leafs history stopped being championship material nearly 50 years ago, once the NHL moved beyond six teams. The history has become so threadbare since then. The only tradition that mattered were the people who paid for it.
But no matter what, there was the money. The vault filled again and again, piles of gold. Eventually, they needed bigger vaults.