When David Clarkson put pen to paper on a seven year contract with the Leafs this summer, many fans and pundits alike remarked that Toronto had “won free agency”. And while there are some things to like about the 29 year old, a closer examination shows that the Leafs may have been better suited to use that money elsewhere. Despite an extraordinarily weak free agent class, there are some other “faces in new places” who have outperformed Clarkson and in some cases, would have come at a cheaper price.
David Clarkson: 29 years old, 426 games played, 171 points, 0.40 points per game. Signed with Toronto for 7 years/$36.75 million.
Clarkson’s season has gotten off to a terrible start, missing the first 10 games after leaving the bench for a preseason fight and only registering one assist in his first five games. While he has never been known for his pristine passing ability(74 assists in 431 games), $5.25 million per year should equate to more production. However, although people in Toronto were told they were getting a “30 goal scorer”, the reality is that Clarkson did that only once, and has found the back of the net an average of only 18 times per 82 games played over the course of his career. Additionally, while heightened production is often to be expected in a contract year (see: Jason Blake’s 40 goals in 2006/2007 before signing with the Leafs), Clarkson registered an underwhelming 24 points in 48 games before joining Toronto. What you will get from the Mimico, Ontario native is a physical style of hockey and a high compete level; attributes better suited for a third line grinder.
The Other Guys
Nathan Horton: 28 years old, 591 games played, 402 points, 0.68 points per game. Signed with Columbus for 7 years/$37.1 million.
The major knock on Horton has always been that he’s prone to injury. And while that is somewhat true, the former third overall pick has played at least 65 games in six of his nine NHL seasons and got into 43 of a possible 48 in the lockout -shortened season of 2013. Despite the injuries, Horton has scored at an above average rate of 0.68 points per game over his career. He has also been an excellent playoff performer, with 36 points in 43 games, an outrageous +31 rating, and 6 game winning goals. Although he left Boston to get out of the spotlight, he hails from nearby Welland, Ontario and the chance to play at home may have been too great to pass up had the Leafs shown interest.
Valtteri Filppula: 29 years old, 497 games played, 262 points, 0.53 points per game. Signed with Tampa Bay for 5 years/$25 million.
Former Red Wing Valtteri Filppula has flown under the radar ever since being drafted 95th overall by Detroit in 2002. The Finnish Center has only once scored 20 goals but with more than 0.5 points per game in limited ice time, the potential for greater production has always been there. And while $5 million per year is far from a bargain, Filppula has outscored Clarkson in five of the six seasons they’ve been in the NHL at the same time. He is off to a flying start with his new team, posting 11 points in 14 games. And with injuries to Dave Bolland and Tyler Bozak, Filppula would be looking at an even more prominent role with the blue and white.
Stephen Weiss: 30 years old, 670 games played, 397 points, 0.59 points per game. Signed with Detroit for 5 years/$24.5 million.
Another Center from Toronto, Weiss has always been viewed as having the ability to put up high point totals with better teammates. Despite that, the 30-year-old has scored 20 goals or more four times in his career and has cracked 40 points six times. While his start in Detroit has been nothing short of awful with three points in 16 games, the former Panther is surrounded by too many talented players for his slump to last much longer.
Derek Roy: 30 years old, 603 games played, 463 points, 0.77 points per game. Signed with St.Louis for 1 year/$4 million.
Perhaps the most intriguing name on the list, there is a perception that Roy has slowed down in recent years, but he is still a very productive player. After posting 28 points in 42 games split between Dallas and Vancouver last season, the diminutive Center could only land a one year deal. Roy has four seasons of 60 or more points, and put up 35 points in 35 games with Buffalo as recently as 2010. He can also be used on the penalty kill, as his eight career shorthanded goals demonstrate. Roy has started this season well with eight points in 12 games.
Ryan Clowe: 31 years old, 441 games played, 280 points, 0.63 points per game. Signed with New Jersey for 5 years/$24.25 million.
Much like Clarkson, Clowe’s career in the NHL didn’t start until his mid 20′s. And while his name on this list is likely to draw a few laughs for his 28 game goal scoring drought with the Sharks last year before moving onto the Rangers(where he scored eight points in 12 games), Clarkson himself has scored only five times in his last 39 games. Just two years Clarkson’s senior, Clowe plays the same hard-nosed game and has been much more consistent, with point totals of 52, 57, 62, and 45 prior to last season. Both deals will expire when the players turn 36 and a true assessment will then be possible.