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NJ Devils: The Pros and Cons of Trading David Clarkson

Terence McGinleyContributor IIIMarch 19, 2013

NJ Devils: The Pros and Cons of Trading David Clarkson

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    When analyzing whether the New Jersey Devils are a Stanley Cup contender, what sticks out is their anemic offense. At 23rd in the league, they lack secondary and tertiary scoring. So in order to get back to the final round and perhaps one step further, it would help to add another scoring threat, right?

    According to ESPN's Craig Custance, General Manager Lou Lamoriello may want to move in the opposite direction, as in trading David Clarkson and his expiring contract. 

    Custance refers to the still-open wound left from losing Zach Parise to the Minnesota Wild via free agency. Considering Clarkson has blossomed into a legitimate scoring threat in the last year-and-a-half, the Devils may be weary to part ways with another top forward for nothing in return.

    It may be a harsh reality, but such is life in the business of the NHL. Most Devils fans might think it ludicrous to deal their leading goal scorer when they are fighting for playoff position, but let's look at this as a serious option. 

Pro: Free Agency Looming

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    Trading Zach Parise at last year's deadline was never considered. He was unequivocally the face of the franchise and a U.S.A. Olympic hero (cue the goosebumps). New Jersey supposedly made a competitive offer to re-sign him. Ultimately Minnesota gave him a Godfather offer and the prospect of returning to his home state was too much to pass up. 

    David Clarkson is not quite that type of player. But he does bring a game to the ice that not many other guys have—a scorer with an edge, a guy with finesse who is not afraid to drop the gloves. 

    Last year, the first 30-goal season of his career, he made $3 million (according to capgeek.) This year he makes the same. Whether he is in a Devils uniform or not, he is certainly due for a pay increase. And frankly, New Jersey may not be willing to fork over the money. After losing Parise, their payroll fell to $12 million under the salary cap, and they essentially added no additions to that number. 

    The other players that scored exactly thirty goals last season are Jason Pominville, Daniel Sedin, Patrick Marleau, Rick Nash and Evander Kane. Their salaries average to around $6 million (capgeek). Those guys are definitely better playmakers than Clarkson, but it's feasible for the Devils winger to seek money close to or around $5 million a year. 

    It is possible they could lose him to a higher bidder. If the Devils don't plan to pay him they probably would want some compensation.

Con: Kiss the Playoffs Goodbye?

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    Entering tonight's game, the Devils are two points ahead of the New York Rangers for the eighth and final playoff spot. Who do they play? Why the Rangers, of course. 

    Trading away the leading goal scorer might take a piston out of an engine trying to stay in the race. 

    It is true, Clarkson has been alarmingly quiet lately. He has just three points in the last month (14 games). But it may not be a coincidence that the team has struggled mightily as well over this stretch. When Clarkson was producing, scoring 10 goals in the team's first 14 games, the Devils were on fire. 

    It may be the case that as David Clarkson goes, so do the Devils. He can't stay this cold for much longer. Trading him away could finish their playoff hopes.

Pro: Clarkson's Return

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    Custance suggested a first-round pick and a prospect is possible in return for the 28-year-old Clarkson. For a team to cough up those goods then an extension would likely have to be imminent.

    It is a steep asking price. Clarkson is, however, at a prime age and coming into his own as a scorer in this league. 

    It is important to remember that either this year or the next the Devils will have to forfeit their first-round draft pick as part of the punishment for attempting to circumvent the salary cap rules with Ilya Kovalchuk's original contract. New Jersey was granted the right to choose a year between 2011-2014 originally, noted here by Sports Illustrated. They have yet to do so. 

    Trading Clarkson for the aforementioned package would be an opportunity to avoid skipping the first round. The franchise has had trouble luring big-name skill players in the past via free agency and must rely on the draft to develop talent. 

    A first-rounder plus a prospect is an enticing package. 

Con: Losing Clarkson's Intangibles

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    There are very few players in the NHL who can do both this and that.

    Say what you want about staged fighting, but Clarkson's actions in the second video are extremely commendable. He stood up for his captain and fought a big, tough opponent in Dion Phaneuff. This grit, courage and leadership cannot be valued in draft picks or dollar signs. 

    The Devils would be trading away a great locker-room and on-ice personality. Guys like this do not come around often. This type of character and toughness personifies the Devils teams that have seen so much success over the past 20 years. 

Pro: Other Key Free Agents

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    Patrik Elias, Marek Zidlicky and Danius Zubrus are other core members of the Devils who will enter free agency after this season. Adam Henirque is a restricted free agent. Lou Lamoriello is going to have a busy offseason trying to retain at least a few of these players.

    Elias is an icon. He is the franchise leader in points and goals. He leads the team in points and assists this season. He has to be the priority. Zidlicky is also key. He is a veteran on the blue line who is very good on the powerplay.

    It is very doubtful New Jersey will re-sign all of their free agents. Trading Clarkson would give Lamoriello less of a full plate, although it may seem like you are robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Summary

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    Three pros and two cons may look like this article is advocating shopping David Clarkson. The truth lies in the weight of each point. In the Devils' case, the cons weigh more. They have a much more drastic and immediate impact on the team. 

    The Devils are a weak offensive team that currently sit in the last playoff spot in the Eastern conference. The franchise is built around Martin Brodeur. He is the backbone. He decided to put off retirement for another year or two for another shot at the cup. Not only would trading the team's leading goal-scorer potentially doom New Jersey's playoff hopes, but it would be an insult to Brodeur as well. If it wasn't for Marty, this franchise may have been relocated by now. They certainly wouldn't have three Stanley Cups. 

    Beyond Brodeur, this is an aging club that must be in win now mode. They know from last year they have the character in the locker room to win playoff series. Trading Clarkson would exacerbate a weakness and create disharmony in the locker room.

    Don't do it, Lou. 

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