Columbus Blue Jackets winger David Clarkson will not be joining the team when training camp opens on Friday. President of hockey operations John Davidson announced during Wednesday’s media day that Clarkson failed his physical due to chronic lower back pain.
“Last season [Clarkson] missed 59 games, mostly with back problems,” Davidson said. “He’s tried to train all [summer] and he’s had real issues with it. He did fail the physical, so he will not be here at the start of camp. He’ll be trying to work his way back through rehab, but he’s had a tough summer.”
Davidson also noted that Clarkson’s contract is insured, which could help the team out down the road if Clarkson’s injury proves to be a long-term situation. That will be significant for the team, since Clarkson is the team’s fourth-highest paid forward and sixth-highest paid player overall with a $5.25 million AAV for the next four seasons.
There’s an unexpected irony in the situation. The Blue Jackets originally acquired Clarkson in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs where the centerpiece of the deal for Columbus was unloading Nathan Horton’s contract. Horton has a back injury that will likely to prevent him from playing NHL hockey again. However, the team did not have Horton’s contract insured, which left them in the position of having to pay out his deal without any relief.
Fast forward a couple of years and the player they traded for may be sidelined long-term with a back injury, but the contract is insured this time.
It’s no doubt a difficult situation for the 32-year-old Clarkson who wants to prove he’s still capable of contributing in the NHL. His outsized contract has become a legacy and overshadowed the good years and the production he can provide. Clarkson played just 23 games last season, scoring two goals and two assists. He missed the majority of the season with this back injury.