The Toronto Maple Leafs’ major off-season additions to the forwards corp so far have been limited to broken veterans and unproven talents. Why? You can blame David Clarkson and his gigantic contract from hell.
There was almost immediate and universal outcry when the Leafs signed Clarkson to a seven-year, $36.75 million contract last summer.
For starters, Clarkson’s 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 performance 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 are also highly questionable.
Brian Burke spent the majority of his ill-fated tenure as general manager of the Leafs trying to avoid unwieldy contracts like this one because they limit the financial flexibility of the team moving forward. However, Dave Nonis didn’t waste any time in his first full season as general manager moving away from Burke’s philosophy.
This is actually one of those areas where Burke’s “principles” hold true in my opinion. Why would you want to burden your team with such a big contract unless it’s 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 the new “veteran” on the team. I’m sure even the team’s greenhorns know to stay on the bench during a fight.
Unfortunately, things never got any better for Clarkson after the suspension. He registered an unimpressive 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists) in 60 games. If you divide the number of goals he scored by his pay for the entire season ($4.5 million US), that amounts to $900,000 per goal!
I’d offer my services to the Leafs for $20 a goal.
How bad are things? There’s talk the team might buy out the remainder of his contract if he doesn’t turn things around next 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 just finished paying out Darcy Tucker and Colby Armstrong for their buyouts. Another buyout would lock-up valuable salary cap space at a time when the Leafs are already pushing the cap limit.
Why did Toronto add Clarkson? We were supposedly one tough guy away from beating the Boston Bruins.
That was two springs ago. Now we’re back to missing the playoffs.
Clarkson can’t fix this and the Leafs can’t afford to fix him. It’s quite the hellish situation.