Should the Leafs sign David Clarkson?

I love covering sports for a living. Even on a bad day, I can peel off all the layers of a problem and go "Yes, but, I’m covering sports for a living. But wow am I not an athlete.

After participating in a dragonboat regatta this weekend, and after two nights of sleeping on a cottage bed, I tried to go wakeboarding. I didn’t get up on the board properly, crick, and now my back’s out.

So while laying here on the floor, I asked the Twitter-folk if they had any questions I could write a blog about. I thought this one deserved its own blog.

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Without even getting into numbers, no. Maybe that’s unfair, but here’s why I think that way: What is the success rate of these big UFA signings? Seriously – what is the success rate of guys who have a big contract year, or they produce well despite some wonky posession numbers, or they were just on the right team at the right time, and then they sign somewhere else for $5 million a season or more? It can’t be high. In a salary cap league, the risk vs. the reward of these UFA signings is just irresponsible. There are a few players in the NHL, probably 20 or less, that you should look at and go "You know what? I know the price tag is high because he’s a free agent, but screw it. We gotta have him." David Clarkson is not one of those players.

The player doesn’t even need to be bad for a big contract to fail. Roberto Luongo is still arguably one of the top goaltenders in the NHL, or at very least an above-average one, and even he has admitted his contract is a gong show. Even a guy like Vincent Lecavalier. He still puts up decent numbers, but the 11-year, $85 million contract he’s currently locked into has him at a cap hit of over $7.7 million untill the end of the 2019-20 season. And really, what hasn’t been said about the Brad Richards deal?

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Money issues aside, I think David Clarkson would be a disappointment in Toronto almost no matter what. Even if he plays well, the expectations are too high because of his seemingly "perfect hockey player" reputation. He can score, he’s big, he’s mean, he’s tough, he fights. He’s everything every Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em tape told us to love as kids. He has an almost William Wallace-like lore among many Leafs fans. "Aye, and if David Clarkson were here, he’s consume the Bruins with fireballs from his eyes, and bolts of lightning from his arse."

The fact that he’s also a hometown Toronto boy only makes it worse. If Phil Kessel still gets dumped on despite leading the team in goal-scoring in both the regular season and playoffs, I can only imagine what will be said about Clarkson in the first year of a Leafs deal. Even if he scored 50 goals and came out for warmups wearing Zdeno Chara like King Leonidas wore that wolf in 300, there would still be snarky articles and tweets about his backchecking.

The Leafs have a few suspect contracts on their payroll, but despite that, they still have decent cap space, and are not in the same handcuffed position that many teams are in right now. The price tag for Clarkson sounds like it will be $5 million a season or more, and if that’s the case – no thank you.

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    • Surprisingly, I don’t hate it. I mean, if I had a choice, he wouldn’t be back. I just don’t like guys who fight but can’t play a regular shift. That being said, it’s only two years, and it doesn’t leave the team cash strapped. Could be worse.

      • Steve, I have watched every LFR video you did for the last 2 seasons. Especially this season I would have thought you’d have blown a vessel when you saw that he was back. You gave him and Mclaren credit when they did something good, but boy, you leaned into them on most videos. I agreed with you for the most part and am surprised to hear you’re OK with that move. I like hockey fights as much as the next guy I just like my fighters to be able to play, and 5-6 minutes a night doesn’t cut it. I was so looking forward to seeing Orr come off the books only to watch him jump right back on and for 2 years. I’d rather use the cap and roster spot on someone like Fraser, at least he can play as well as fight, but thats just me I guess.

        P.S. Thanks for finally replying to one of my comments. I write one for nearly all of your posts and you don’t answer them, not just from me but from everyone. You should reply to us more often. You’re a big star now, gotta give the little people some scraps now and then.

        • LOL sorry I’ve been neglectful. It’s just time-consuming, and for some reason I hate only responding to a select few. If I responded to everyone it would take a long time, not to sound like a dick. I’m going to try more though.

  • MaxPower417

    Exactly. Clarkson would solve exactly none of the Leafs’ problems, even if he came at a hometown discount and he produced 20% above his average–which would, by the way, give him 23-17-40 in 77 games played.

    But that’s not the only reason why the Leafs should explore other UFA options to improve their roster.

    Clarkson is half Mike Brown and half Clark MacArthur; in other words, a tremendously effective *second line* RW. The Leafs would need to pay him more than they are currently paying Kessel to land him. That would mean that the Leafs would be hard-pressed to persuade Kessel to take a hometown discount; and that means that they would either be hampered in their ability to bring in their coveted #1 centre, or they would continue with a complete lack of depth on the back end.

    Adding Clarkson would be shuffling deck chairs, rather than progressing towards the goal of competing for the Cup.

  • MaxPower417

    Signing Clarkson wouldn’t be a must if we still had Komarov. Clarkson is a great player and would really help the Leafs out. Him being a Leafs fan might be an advantage because we might not need to offer as much as say Columbus. I think we should sign him if he doesn’t want too much and play him 2nd-3rd line. It is hard to find players like him.

  • I agree about Clarkson, he’d be a nice player to have at a reasonable price but he’s bound to be overpriced as a UFA.

    Also, in regard to the Leafs cap space this year, they do have over $18 million in cap space but they’re 20th in terms of cap space/roster spot with about $1.85 million per open spot. With 10 spots to fill, blowing a lot of cap space on a guy like Clarkson seems unwise.

    I think a better use of cap space would be to find guys who can play a defensive role at a more reasonable price and free Grabovski up to play the role that earned him $5.5 million a year.

  • Forget Clarkson, re-sign Mac!!

    I’m not sure why Mac is getting a raw deal from the brass. He has decent possession numbers, for those who care.

    The guy gives full effort and doesn’t burn in the limelight of Toronto. I’m sure he would be under 4M to resign for the next 2 yrs or so. With Komarov’s spot gone, it seems like a no brainer to keep him now.

    He has good stats in Toronto (GP-PTS)

    What is the complaint and why is he seem to be a forgotten man since Carlyle entered.

  • So can you do a post where you actually analyze the numbers now? Clarkson’s numbers are superior to MacArthur in basically every statistical category. He scores more, is better at possession while playing against stronger competition. And he would add more size to the lineup as well. If the choice is between signing MacArthur at $4.5 or Clarkson at $5 then I would sign Clarkson every time.

  • I think the leafs should pass on clarkson… yes he is a good rw…. but the leafs are full at the rw position…


    if anything i would like the leafs to give there younger guys a shot then to over pay for a ufa….

    im hoping to see this line this up comming season..

    LW – Carter Ashton – 6’3 215
    C — Joe Colborne – 6’5 220
    RW – Tyler Biggs – 6’3 225

    with a weak ufa market every team will over pay and the are headed in the right direction and signing clarkson will hurt them i think in the long run