Bob McKenzie on TSN Drive:
On trading Horton for Clarkson and not Semin or Richards:
I couldn’t honestly tell you that I know for a fact there was conversation between [those teams]. What I can suggest that is, of those three you mentioned – Clarkson, Semin, Richards – Semin wasn’t a fit in the eyes of Columbus. They were not looking for a high-end, underachieving goal-scoring winger. I don’t think they were eager to bring in another center in Richards. I think Clarkson fit the profile of what they were looking for: A guy to go up and down the wing and chip in some goals. Expectation is not to fulfill the $5.25 million so much. Columbus is a hard-working, physical, in-your-face hockey team. As they look at those other options, Clarkson fit the profile better than anything else. They weren’t going to try to swing for the fences on a 40-goal year from Semin. They didn’t want to try to reprise Richards‘ role… A guy like Clarkson will look at Columbus as his salvation, whether he’s playing on the first line or third line, and they’re talking about putting him in either one of those spots.
On no insurance on Horton:
I’m not sure how many [contracts in the League] are uninsured, but I do know that there are exclusions on players who have had multiple concussions. You can’t get insurance on a concussion for some players. If someone has had their knee blown out three or four times, there might be exclusion on insurance on a knee. As for the details on the Columbus not insuring the contract, Jarmo and John Davidson would have the ultimate answer and can correct me if I’m wrong; my understanding is that, when they made the decision to sign Horton to that contract, he was coming off shoulder surgery. Knowing he was only going to play half a season, whether the insurance was too expensive, whether they just decided not to insure it, I think their intention was that, at the end of that first year, they were going to get insurance at that point. When he developed the back injury they weren’t in a position to get him insurance. As a result, he became an uninsurable contact.
McKenzie on this deal as “legal” cap circumvention and the NHL’s view:
In this particular instance, obviously the League didn’t have a problem with it because they approved it. The League didn’t like backsliding contracts, which were technically legal in old CBA, and put in punitive measures that made them retroactively illegal. I don’t know that they view the Horton situation exactly the same. I don’t think Horton will play and most people don’t, but is it 100% clear cut he won’t play again? I don’t think you can necessarily say that. As long as there is a chance he could play, then certainly Columbus and Toronto are in their rights to do that. How did other NHL GMs respond? Most get it, but I know for a fact that some don’t like it, and some probably voiced displeasure to the League. That displeasure is not going to result in anything tangible in the short term.
Other interest in Clarkson:
The Ottawa Senators were amongst a number of teams that had talk to the Leafs about a Clarkson trade. Now, the type of deal that those teams were looking for was basically to put the Leafs over a barrel. You have no options, therefore we’re going to give you, for example, Colin Greening, who has a couple years left at a little above $2 million, and you’re going to give us Clarkson and eat 50% of his salary the rest of the way. The Leafs were in position where they had to consider that, but I guess they had the Columbus option, serendipitously, the uninsured Horton contract, and didn’t have to do [other option]. There were teams out there who to think Clarkson is a viable NHL player. “3 years, $2.5 million a year? Bring him in, we’ve got no problem with that.” It’s the $5.25 million and the fact that he went off the rails so bad that magnified the situation. David Clarkson is not a useless hockey player. He is a player who has gone down the wrong road in Toronto and has to rediscover his game. I’d think there’s a chance he does that in Columbus. I hope it does because he’s a hell of a good guy, and nobody deserves what he goes through. I’m not absolving him for not getting the job done; he didn’t play well enough, case closed. Some of that is on the Leafs, but most of that falls on Clarkson. He’s got to work hard to try to rehabilitate his game. He won’t have to live up to the contract to the same extent. It won’t be perceived the same way now that he’s crashed on the rocks. Anything that you get from him here on in is a bonus compared to the nothing they were getting from Horton.
Is there a chill on playing for the Leafs based on Clarkson?
I think it always takes a special player. I always say there are two types of players: Those who have the ability and wherewithal to play in a Canadian market, and those who don’t. I don’t know the Clarkson situation would scare them off as much of the fact that Leafs haven’t been a good team for a long time and may not be for a very long time. I’m not sure the Leafs right now even have to worry about free agency. If they’re going down this rebuilding route with drafts and prospects, they should just close up shop on that font; close up the wallets, sit on their hands, and take up the course of action they say they’re going to take.
Columbus Dispatch beat writer Aaron Portzline:
On the insurance situation:
There was a pre-existing condition with the shoulder and they knew it was profound enough to miss half the season. It was a bit of a gamble, but you could get away with not insuring him that season. The half season was already gone with the shoulder. The risk is, you have to get in before the next year and insure him. When they went in to insure him for the next year, his back had degenerated to the point where they were stuck and it was impossible to insure him. I’ve talked to other teams around the League who say there are teams who have taken the risk but that it’s inexcusable. It’s like buying a Ferrari and saying nothing is going to happen to it because I’m parking it in the garage.
On which side initiated the idea:
I think we can rule out mutual origination. From the Columbus side, they’re claiming it is theirs. The insurance mess up is a 17-and-a-half million-dollar hit. That’s huge for any team, especially for a small market team. The thinking was maybe you can turn that contract into cap room. Who desperately needs cap room and who is willing to do something crazy to get cap room?
Columbus has a hole in the right side of their lineup and [Clarkson] was on their list in 2013 and if they didn’t get Horton they would’ve barked up that tree. Once they gave it a whirl, it came together really quickly, more quickly than most people would think for a deal with this many layers and this much texture.