How much would you pay for a 29-year-old grinder? A player with questionable finishing ability and mediocre skills. A lifelong third line wing that made his name fighting an undersized player on a rival team. How much is a forward that totaled 18 points in an 82-game season in 2010-11 really worth?
What if that grinder is David Clarkson, free agent and leading goal-scorer for the New Jersey Devils?
The Devils offense went quiet for most of the second half of the season, and mired in the same slump as the rest of his teammates, Clarkson disappeared down the stretch. He seemed to lack the touch that made him a 30-goal scorer just a year before, and most of his 15 goals came very early in the year. Clarkson’s slump may have cost him a lot of money.
With Clarkson reverting to his grinder form, and possibly revealing his true colors in a contract year, the New Jersey Devils cannot afford to overpay to bring him back. Someone desperate for scoring will likely give Clarkson an inflated offer based on his performance two seasons ago, but the Devils likely need to let this fan favorite go if he commands too high a salary. Clarkson has put up impressive numbers over the past few seasons, but the Devils should know what they’ve got by now–a grinder that barely belongs on their mediocre second line.
New Jersey needs legitimate top-six forwards to help Ilya Kovalchuk. The priority this season should be bringing back Patrik Elias and finding top-line help. If anyone should be overpaid, it should be Elias, not Clarkson.
If David Clarkson offers the Devils a hometown discount, they should by all means offer him a humble contract. If his salary demands $4 million per year, New Jersey has to let Clarky go and focus on impact players in what could be Martin Brodeur‘s last year.