David Clarkson was a 30-goal scorer two seasons ago and a 15-goal scorer in the half season of 2013. He led the New Jersey Devils in goals and started the season at an all-star pace. His disappearance during the second half of the year, however, raised questions about his true value during the upcoming NHL free agency period. Nevertheless, New Jersey has made Clarkson a top priority this offseason.
As a homegrown, feel-good story, it would be nice to see Clarkson stay in New Jersey. He developed from his days as a quarrelsome grinder into a top-six producer in the Devils offense.
Though his production was extremely inconsistent, Clarkson showed an ability to get the puck in the back of the net. Perhaps his expiring contract finally got to him in the second half, as he, like the rest of his teammates, struggled. His numbers, by and large, look good, but Devils fans should know better; David Clarkson is little more than a hard-working grinder.
Clarkson had an incredible 2011-12 season, and he started the 2013 lockout-shortened campaign on a torrid pace. Unfortunately his regression left the Devils without a top-six right wing, but if Clarkson produces at the same level he did to start the season, the Devils would be well-served to pay him top-market value. If he proves to be the snakebitten goon of the second half of 2013, the Devils are doomed to overpay in order to keep him on the roster.
GM Lou Lamoriello has his work cut out for him in negotiating with Clarkson, which is perhaps why he’s made the streaky forward a top priority ahead of a much more consistent performer in Patrik Elias (though I still argue talks with Elias are long overdue). Clarkson is going to be a risk, and Lamoriello tends to shy away from dangerous signings. This may be an exception, however, as the Devils have seen Clarkson grow into a top performer in their offense. As such, they might be willing to look past his lengthy slump to end 2013.