On this day in 2013, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed David Clarkson
By Cam Lewis2 months ago
July 5, 2013 — The Toronto Maple Leafs signed David Clarkson to a seven-year, $36.75 million contract.
An undrafted free agent signing from the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL, Clarkson made his NHL debut with the New Jersey Devils in 2006-07 and quickly established himself as a rugged winger who could hit, fight, and score goals.
He broke out with 30 goals and 46 points during the 2011-12 season and helped the Devils make a surprising run to the Stanley Cup Final. Clarkson followed that up with 15 goals and 24 points over 48 games in the lockout-shortened 2013 season and went into free agency that following summer as one of the biggest names on the open market.
The Leafs were coming off of a heartbreaking first-round loss in the playoffs in which they blew a 4-1 lead in the third period of Game 7 to the Boston Bruins before losing in overtime.
The scapegoat following the series was Mikhail Grabovski, who recorded two assists and a minus-10 rating over seven games. Grabovski had inked a five-year, $27.5 million contract the year before and general manager Dave Nonis used a compliance buyout to get out from underneath the contract after just one season.
The money saved from the Grabovski buyout was spent on Clarkson, who came on board with a signing bonus-heavy contract worth $5.25 million annually. The following day, the Toronto Star featured the newest Leaf on the front page of their newspaper with the headline “Wendel Clarkson.”
The hope was that Clarkson could be the second coming of Leafs legend Wendel Clark, a rugged winger from Saskatchewan who changed the team’s fortunes after they selected him No. 1 overall at the 1985 draft.
The Clarkson era in Toronto got started with a bang. During a pre-season game with the Buffalo Sabres, Clarkson jumped off of the bench to defend teammate Phil Kessel, who had been jumped by certified heavyweight John Scott.
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Clarkson wound up getting suspended for 10 games so he didn’t make his regular-season debut with the Leafs until late October. He got into his first fight as a Leaf during a 4-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks in early November and finally scored his first goal with the team in his 11th game.
The Leafs missed the playoffs with a 38-36-8 record that season and Clarkson scored just five goals and 11 points over 60 games. The following season, Clarkson had 10 goals and 15 points through 58 games with Toronto before he was dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Nathan Horton, a winger who was going to finish the rest of his contract on the Long-Term Injured Reserve.
Much like his idol Wendel Clark, Clarkson had his career cut short because of the physical toll that his style of play took on his body. He wound up playing 25 games for the Blue Jackets over two different seasons and ultimately spent the final three years of that seven-year deal on the LTIR because of a debilitating back injury.
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