Toronto Maple Leafs – David Clarkson: The Contract from Hell

William Wilson April 6, 2014 2
David Clarkson dressed for the Toronto Maple LeafsClaus Andersen/Getty Images

There was almost immediate outcry when the Toronto Maple Leafs signed veteran forward David Clarkson to a seven-year, $36.75 million US contract.

For starters, Clarkson has never really been known as a points producer. He had a big season in 2011-2012, recording 46 points (30 goals, 16 assists) in 80 games, but that likely represents his peak as a player. He’s never come close to producing similar numbers in the rest of his eight-season career.

The size and length of the deal also seemed odd.

Brian Burke spent the majority of his tenure as general manager of the Leafs trying to avoid such contracts because they limit the financial flexibility of the team moving forward. However, Dave Nonis wasted little time wasting money in his first full season as general manager.

This is actually one of those areas where Burke’s “principles” hold true. Why would you want to burden your team with such a big contract unless it was a surefire hit? No offence to Clarkson, but he’s not that type of player.

Was the outrage misplaced?

Let’s quickly review Clarkson’s debut season in Toronto. He missed the first ten games of the season due to suspension – an incredibly stupid suspension for a “veteran” player like him. I’m sure even rookies know not to leave the bench when there’s a fight on the ice.

Unfortunately, things haven’t gone any better for Clarkson since the suspension ended. He has an unimpressive 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists) in 57 games so far this season. If you divide the number of goals he’s recorded by his pay for the season ($4.5 million US), that amounts to $900,000 per goal!

I’d offer my services to the Leafs for $20 a goal.

Now there’s talk the team might buy out Clarkson’s contract at the end of the season.

What will this accomplish? It’ll free up some salary cap space, but there’ll still be buyout costs moving forward. These costs will take up space of their own and essentially take the form of a “phantom” player on the team.

Think about it: we’re still paying out Darcy Tucker and Colby Armstrong for their buyouts. This locks-up valuable salary cap space and money that can be used on actual players.

Why did Toronto add Clarkson? We were supposedly one tough guy away from beating the Boston Bruins.

That was last spring. Now we cannot even beat the Winnipeg Jets.

It’ll be a hot day in July when Clarkson finally puts his contract money to effective use on the golf course, and it’ll be a hot day in hell until the Leafs can escape from his contract without any penalty.

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