The Toronto Maple Leafs have really made a point to keep us on our toes this morning, haven’t they? Hot off the news of a new MLSE President and Mark Arcobello being placed on waivers, the team announced that Richard Clune has been upgraded to an NHL contract and will practice with the team today.
Clune is a very interesting case. To the surprise of many who felt that he could pick up an NHL deal, the Toronto native signed an AHL-only contract with the Marlies on July 5th. There was some expectation that the team would revisit that in the future, but only if they weren’t up tight against the 50 contract limit and if Clune performed well.
The former situation, curiously, hasn’t gotten any better. The Leafs traded five low-end prospects to the New York Islanders for Michael Grabner in September, but since Clune’s signing have also signed Shawn Matthias (July 6th), Brad Boyes (September 27th), and Andrew Campbell (September 29th). As well, they claimed Frank Corrado off on October 6th. With that said, Clune brings the Leafs up to 47 players under activated contract, meaning the Leafs still have some flexibility at the moment. If Arcobello is claimed by another team, it will bring them back down to 46.
As for his play, he’s been a pleasant surprise with the Marlies, particularly over the past week. Clune was brought in as a veteran (for this team, where 28 years old is Jagr-esque) presence who could be a good influence on the younger players, an occasional knuckle chucker, and still a serviceable forward. So far, he’s provided that for the team; players have praised his personality, he’s mixed it up a few times, he’s using his above-average skating ability to more than keep up with the play and keep opponents on their toes. Moreso than all of that, he’s even been on a bit of a production streak; since pairing up with Frederik Gauthier and Nikita Soshnikov, he’s picked up a pair of goals and three assists in four games, including Toronto’s only goal yesterday.
“I’m an up and down guy,” said Clune after last night’s loss to Syracuse. “I think I charge on the forecheck, try to get the puck, and distribute the puck.”
Clune has been no stranger to the NHL, spending the bulk of 2012/13 and 2013/14 with the Nashville Predators. In 120 games, Clune has picked up 18 points. That’s not particularly mindblowing, but it’s worth keeping in mind that he averaged 8:51 of ice time per game over that time frame. His even strength points per 60 minutes during that time was 0.99; which is approximately where David Clarkson and Jay McClement were in the same timeframe.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Clune actually spends extended time with the Leafs, or if this is a pat on the back, “here’s some extra money, keep it up” signing that makes him available to be traded for a conditional seventh rounder in a few months. The Leafs lack a lot of things, but haven’t really been pushed around; not to mention the fact that the team doesn’t have a lot of room along the wings. He’s likely a more effective asset for the Marlies, who tend to have to deal with more of the rough stuff. Let’s see how this all plays out.
Photo Courtesy of Christian Bonin / TSGPhoto.com