David Clarkson is the leading scorer for the New Jersey Devils entering their tenth game of the season on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Clarksons’ seven goals lead the team by a large margin, nearly quadrupling sniper Ilya Kovalchuk‘s total through nine games. After a thirty-goal season last year, David Clarkson has picked up right where he left off. Unfortunately for the New Jersey Devils, David Clarkson’s contract expires in a few months.
After an off-season that saw captain and fan-favorite Zach Parise depart through free agency while the New Jersey Devils faced financial uncertainty, the New Jersey Devils have quickly responded. As the season opened, the Devils inked Travis Zajac to a maximum-length contract, locking up their top-line center for the foreseeable future. The team is off to a hot start to the season after returning most of their Stanley Cup Finals roster for 2013, but no one is off to a better start than David Clarkson in the final year of his contract.
Clarkson is tied for third in the NHL with seven goals, adding five assists while getting considerable time on the power play and carrying the second line. A former grinder, Clarkson has found an elite offensive game and is proving that last season’s production was no fluke.
David Clarkson currently makes a pro-rated three million dollars with a cap hit of just 2.67 million over the life of his three year deal. Through nearly 20% of the season, Clarkson has been the most prolific offensive weapon the Devils have. As a 30-goal scorer and one of few right wing options the New Jersey Devils have, Clarkson is due for a big raise. Further complicating the David Clarkson contract situation is the precipitous drop in cap space next season.
The New Jersey Devils will have some cap room next season, but not enough to offer David Clarkson a big contract. Money must be spent intelligently, and Lou Lamoriello is one of the best GMs in hockey when it comes to paying players what they’re truly worth. Clarkson’s impressive start and excellent 2011-12 campaign will make the winger in high demand this off-season. The New Jersey Devils need to lock up their leading scorer this season, but commitments to younger players and Kovalchuk may limit their ability to do so.
Clarkson’s offensive improvements have been impressive, so much so that the New Jersey Devils no longer let him fight, but this may be David Clarkson’s last season with the New Jersey Devils.