The Devils only have one loss this entire season, and much of that can be attributed to David Clarkson's solid two-way game.
He has seven goals, five assists and a plus-2 rating in his first nine games. At the rate he is playing at, his stat line could very well consist of 35 goals (even though he is on pace for 37) and 64 points.
In his contract year, Clarkson will have a lot of teams calling his agent's phone on July 1st (the first day of free agency), and unless the Devils can give him a formidable contract, he is as good as gone.
In this article, I will try to assess Clarkson's true value as a player looking for a new contract.
Fact from Fiction: The Contract Year
It may be easy to dismiss Clarkson's success as a result of a contract year, but I personally disagree. Clarkson has improved each season and is now a top power forward in the Atlantic Division.
*GP is games played. All stats from Hockey-Reference.com
Aside from one surge of points (2008-09), Clarkson has consistently improved each season. One might wonder why his most successful season was just two years before he entered free agency.
Simply, Pete DeBoer already had a lot of experience coaching David Clarkson from their time together on the OHL's Kitchener Rangers.
What Does he Offer?
Most Devils fans know that Clarkson is a gritty power forward, patrolling the opposing net while searching for loose pucks on the rebound. For this reason, he is a sought-after forward in a strong year of free agency.
Clarkson has developed into a solid two-way player who can take the body yet can also put his scoring touch on a puck.
Many teams could look in his direction by a sheer need of a power forward, but his scoring ability is undeniable, and his defensive presence is definitely there, making him much more than a typical power forward.
What is Clarkson's annual worth to the Devils?
Is There Mutual Interest?
There is speculation going around that many teams will swoop in on July 1st and lure Clarkson away from New Jersey by overpaying him. The Devils, however, should not let him reach Free Agency.
The only way the Devils can sign him before July 1st is if there is mutual interest. At this point in time, it seems pretty apparent that the Devils want to hold onto David Clarkson. The true question is if David Clarkson wants to remain a Devil.
It seems as if Clarkson has found great chemistry with Patrik Elias and benefits greatest when the two are on a line together. In fact, of Clarkson's two goals vs. the Rangers, both were assisted by Elias.
Although there are scarce opportunities for endorsement deals in New Jersey, this should not deter Clarkson from staying. No matter what team he went to, he would not be considered a "star player," which leads me to my next point.
Can Clarkson Replicate His Success?
In my first point, I mentioned that Clarkson has had extensive work with Pete DeBoer. In my previous point, I referred to Clarkson's success playing alongside Patrik Elias. This begs the question, just how successful can Clarkson be without the two?
In my opinion, Clarkson will not be able to keep up this output on many other squads, and I would behoove him to stay a Devil.
On many other teams, Clarkson could maybe be a 20-goal scorer or maybe a top two-way player, but only in New Jersey can he be successful enough to be considered one of the faces of the franchise.
How Much Is He Worth?
With all of that said, it is time to look at the true numbers. If I were to compare him to a certain player (in terms of point potential and two-way game), Scott Hartnell comes most to mind.
In fact, he signed an extension with Philadelphia after a 39-point season in which he played only 53 games. He was 25 and signed a deal that came with a $4.25 million cap hit.
Clarkson is on pace to have 64 points in 48 games, which is a very rapid pace. Surely that means he deserves more than Scott Hartnell, right? Not so fast. Clarkson will be 29 years old once his contract expires; Hartnell was 25 at the time. Hartnell was picked sixth overall in the draft, and Nasvhille knew that he was destined for greatness.
On the other hand, Clarkson went undrafted and struggled breaking .7 points per game in the minors (AHL). The two players are very different, with Scott Hartnell playing to his astronomic expectations and with Clarkson greatly overachieving.
Five million dollars a year seems a little too high for a 29-year old who just last year finally broke .5 points per game. In contrast, $3 million a season is only slightly more than he is currently being paid, and he is shattering all of Lou Lamoriello's expectations.
David Clarkson re-signs with the New Jersey Devils for 5 years and $24 million.
What do you think of the deal? Will he be more expensive? Am I overpaying him? Leave me a comment so I can figure out what you all think. Thanks for reading!