One guy has what was assumed to be an untradeable contract. The other is dealing with such a severe back injury that he's unlikely to ever play in the NHL again. So, of course, they were traded for each other. About a week before the league's trade deadline, the Maple Leafs sent underachieving winger David Clarkson and the approximately $30 million left on his massive contract to the Blue Jackets, who in exchange sent injured winger Nathan Horton to Toronto, where he didn't play this season and might never play due to a degenerative back condition. It was an odd and stunning trade, but it could be considered a win-win since the Leafs got some salary-cap relief by shedding Clarkson's contract and the Blue Jackets got a player who will be able to actually contribute on the ice going forward.
NHLI via Getty ImagesJamie Sabau
Sharks' internal skirmish
The weirdness for the Sharks really started before the season, when the team stripped longtime captain Joe Thornton of the "C" on his jersey. But it got much worse in March, when -- with the team struggling and outside the playoff picture -- general manager Doug Wilson told season-ticker holders at a team event that Thornton had the captaincy taken from him because the "pressure and stress was getting to Joe" and he "lashes out at people." Thornton responded days later in the media by saying Wilson should "stop lying" and "shut his mouth." Basically, things got awkward, and in the aftermath, there's been much speculation that either Thornton (in the first year of a three-year extension) or Wilson will be out the door at season's end. Meanwhile, the Sharks are likely to miss the playoffs for the first time in 11 years.
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY SporAnne-Marie Sorvin
Winning by losing
The Sabres are bad. They have the fewest points in the NHL, and if it stays that way, they'll guarantee themselves one of the top two picks in a draft featuring two prospects (Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel) widely regarded as generational talents. In that regard, losing is a good thing at this point ... but nobody's supposed to be openly rooting for it, right? Well, that's what happened March 26, when the Sabres lost at home to the Coyotes, the team with the league's second-worst record. After Arizona's OT game-winner, the Buffalo fans cheered the loss, which sent the Sabres closer to the top of the draft. While the Sabres understand their situation, they didn't appreciate their fans' reaction, as defenseman Mike Weber said, "I've never seen that before. ... I don't even know what to say. It's extremely frustrating for us."
APRoss D. Franklin
Hammond the Hamburglar
Andrew Hammond had played one NHL game before this season. He had mediocre numbers in the minors. He wasn't highly regarded at age 27. So, of course, since being called up by Ottawa and thrust into the lineup on March 12 due to injuries, he's gone an absurd 17-1-1, leading the Senators from far outside the playoff race to just two points back of eighth. Considering how crazy that is, perhaps only the second-craziest part of the story is that, because he is nicknamed the Hamburglar, the fans in Ottawa started throwing hamburgers on the ice as Hammond became somewhat of a cult hero. At one point, Hammond even ate one, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Oh, and a local McDonald's announced that he'd be given free food for life. All this for a guy who's played only 20 career games and most fans hadn't heard of before mid-March.
Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images
What happened in Winnipeg with Evander Kane?
Evander Kane's often-strained relationship with the Winnipeg fans and the Jets organization ended February 11 with a trade to Buffalo. But this wasn't any regular disgruntled-player trade. Kane reportedly was involved in a locker-room incident days earlier after wearing a track suit to a meeting, a violation of team policy. Teammate Dustin Byfuglien, according to reports, threw the track suit in the showers during a workout, at which point there was some sort of altercation. Two days later, Kane was placed on IR due to a lingering shoulder injury, and the day after that, he announced that he was opting for surgery that would keep him out for the rest of the year. It was a bizarre sequence of events, and it ended just five days later with the trade that sent the talented fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft to Buffalo.
Getty ImagesJustin K. Aller
Devils' three-headed coaching staff
It wasn't a surprise when Devils coach Peter DeBoer was fired at midseason with New Jersey already well out of the playoff picture after having lost seven of eight. What was a surprise was who replaced him. Devils GM Lou Lamoriello announced one of the strangest coaching moves in memory on December 27, with Scott Stevens and Adam Oates becoming co-head coaches and Lamoriello himself moving behind the bench with them to form what can only be described as a unique, three-headed coaching staff. Lamoriello explained that Stevens would handle the defense, Oates would handle the forwards and he would oversee the overall operation. The Devils have not announced what will happen with the coaching job beyond this season. In the time since Oates and Stevens were hired, New Jersey has gone 19-18-6.
NHLI via Getty ImagesJared Silber
Mumps makes its way around NHL
Why was there an outbreak around the league of a disease that's been mostly eradicated by vaccinations? That's a question that still hasn't been fully answered. But there was one, and it was without a doubt one of the stranger storylines of the NHL season. It started in October, when several Blues players reportedly tested positive for the mumps, and then spread to the Wild, Ducks, Rangers, Penguins and Devils. Of course, it never got more attention than when Sidney Crosby got the virus -- he showed up at a practice with cheeks that looked like they were holding oranges. But overall, at least 15 players were diagnosed with the mumps, and it's likely that there were others not officially announced. Fortunately, caution (especially in the locker rooms) appears to have won out, as there have been no recent cases.
Getty ImagesBruce Bennett
Tumult in Toronto
Where to begin? Everything about this season has been a disaster for the Leafs -- and not just in the usual on-ice, 50-loss way. A summary: Phil Kessel was accused by team sources of being a coach killer, fans began throwing jerseys onto the ice after a series of ugly losses, the players declined to do their traditional stick salute after an ensuing win, Nazem Kadri was suspended for missing a team meeting, coach Randy Carlyle was fired and replaced by Peter Horachek, a tweet alleging a team love triangle aired on TSN, Joffrey Lupul and Dion Phaneuf threatened TSN with legal action, Lupul stopped speaking to the media, Kessel called out the media for its coverage of Phaneuf, and the Leafs continued spiraling downward throughout. In short, the Leafs found a number of new ways to implode ... which maybe isn't that weird after all.