Sure, the contracts of Patrik Elias and Marek Zidlicky are also up after 2013, but Clarkson has been the name going around the message boards as the most interesting discussion. Clarkson is in the final year of his three-year, $8 million deal that he signed in 2010 (h/t Cap Geek).
Clarkson had a career year last season, scoring 30 goals and recording 48 points in 80 games. He also currently leads the team with 10 goals this year, ahead of Ilya Kovalchuk and Elias.
However, the numbers for this season may be deceiving.
Despite leading the team in goals, Clarkson has not scored in 12 straight games. In that time frame, he only has two assists and a plus/minus rating of minus-6.
Clarkson also leads the team with five power-play goals, but he has not recorded a goal with the man advantage since Feb. 10 against Pittsburgh, a span of 14 games.
But of all those statistics, this may be the most important.
Clarkson currently ranks second on the Devils with 47 hits and leads the team with 47 penalty minutes. With zero goals and 26 penalty minutes in 12 games, it seems Clarkson is turning back into the grinder that brought him into the NHL.
That's not good for New Jersey, a team that lost two of its top goal scorers in the offseason and relies on Clarkson to score goals.
Fans may view this as a slump, but before last year Clarkson never reached 20 goals in a season. He has never been a consistent goal scorer in his six seasons in the NHL, so this recent decline in scoring should probably be a concern.
In terms of free agency, the Devils have a lot of other concerns to address once this season is over. Patrik Elias will be the No. 1 priority, but they will likely want to bring back defenseman Marek Zidlicky. Center Adam Henrique will be a restricted free agent.
New Jersey will also face decisions on Alexei Ponikarovsky, Dainius Zubrus, Peter Harrold, Tom Kostopoulos and restricted free agent Andrei Loktionov.
The Devils will have a projected $25 million in cap space going into the offseason, but Elias and Henrique will likely get a large portion of that money (h/t Cap Geek).
Unless Clarkson breaks out of his slump and starts scoring again, there really isn't a reason to bring him back. Sure, he is a fan favorite and was a key part to the Stanley Cup run, but in sports it's all about "What have you done lately?"
With an average of $2.5 million per year, Clarkson is likely going to demand somewhere around $4 million yearly. Other 30-goal scorers like Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski make between $3 million and $4 million a year, and that is likely what Clarkson will get this offseason.
Does it make sense to give anywhere from $18 million to $21 million to someone who has only reached 30 goals once in his career? There are other teams that would be interested in Clarkson's talents, but the consistency really needs to be there if the Devils want to re-sign him.
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