The fact that David Clarkson was the big prize of the summer’s free agent signing period gives a pretty good indication as to how thin the free agent class actually was this year. Even before the “frenzy” began, it was pretty clear that the front runner to sign him was going to be the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs signed him to a seven-year contract, worth $36.75 million total, locking up an upper tier power forward to add to their already impressive offensive attack. The money is obviously questionable, but at the same time, you know what you’re getting out of Clarkson at this point, and he’s valuable.
However, there still remains the question of whether or not he can actually live up to his now massive billing in Toronto. In New Jersey, he was a key piece and among the league’s best in putting the puck in the net in 2011-12. But with Toronto, he enters a different situation, and a completely different monster in terms of the market.
The expectations are going to be higher for him. The inquiring minds in Toronto want to know if they’re getting the Clarkson that potted 30 back in 2011-12, or the one that had only 30 in the three seasons combined prior to that career season.
If it’s the latter, then this deal could blow up in the face of Dave Nonis. It’s already looked at as a questionable deal, but if he doesn’t bring that mix of offensive prowess and the bruising physical game that he’s capable of playing, things could turn sour quickly.
Of course, that’s the thing at this point. We don’t know what we’re going to get out of Clarkson. Do the Leafs have the talent in the middle to feed him so he can put the puck in the net? Is he a perennial 30-goal guy, or even a 20-25 goal guy? These questions will become answers, and it’ll be interesting to see how the situation in Toronto transpires if he fails.