Dan Cleary was invited by the Detroit Red Wings three years ago during training camp for an open tryout. No contract, little hope of making the team.
Now three years later, the 29-year old is the beneficiary of hard work and a goal-scoring touch once thought to be gone.
Cleary has had back-to-back twenty goal seasons and this year he was injured February 9 in Toronto.
After the fifty-seven games that Cleary has played this year, he has already matched last years points totals with twenty goals and twenty assists.
He is a great character player and a fine penalty killer, but worthy of a five year contract?
I was even dead set against the Darcy Tucker deal this past summer and Cleary is the same exact player with an extra two years on his deal.
Character players are a dime a dozen and in the salary cap age, tying up money for five years on a not-so- perennial twenty goal scorer is never a good business move. Look where it got the Leafs this year.
The deal is a $14 million contract over five years with a cap hit of $2.8 million per year. Just like Tucker's contract, Cleary also got a no-trade clause but it lasts only part of the contract, expiring after the first three-and-a-half years.
Detroit will regret this decision in the next couple of years when Cleary goes back to his five goals and twelve assists per year like before. Players always feel comfortable when protected by a no-trade clause and a large contract. Comfort leads to sub par performances.
Just ask the Toronto Maple Leafs.