Dan Cleary will very likely not play for the Detroit Red Wings again this season with the team's current logjam at the forward position. The Red Wings have 16 forwards signed to NHL contracts this season, according to Cap Geek.
Here are five ways that Cleary's absence will be felt by the Red Wings organization.
While the Red Wings brought on the likes of Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss, one of the main areas where Detroit will suffer next season is in net-front presence.
Dan Cleary made teams for his willingness to do things that no other player wanted or could do. Going to the net to screen the goaltender was something that Cleary was not only willing to do after Tomas Holmstrom left, but enjoyed doing because he got better at it.
While Cleary didn't get as many tip goals as Holmstrom, he sure did make life difficult on goalies in his time with Detroit.
Cleary has a tendency of putting himself in harm's way and knowingly did it on a regular basis for the Red Wings.
He has made a career, as with net-front presence, of going to the net and taking hits and pucks to his face and body in order to make a play. As long as the puck goes in the net, Cleary doesn't really care what price he pays physically.
The grit he brought to the Red Wings in every game was second to none on the team. The Red Wings will struggle to replace that grit with their remaining roster.
It doesn't take much to put two and two together: When the Red Wings have needed goals, Dan Cleary has scored some timely ones.
Despite having no game-winning goals in the last two seasons (including the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign), Cleary managed to put up 22 game-winning goals in his first six seasons with the Red Wings.
He also had 23 goals and 26 assists in 111 playoff games with Detroit. If that wasn't enough, he also had 10 points in 14 games this playoff season—good for second on the Red Wings in playoff scoring.
Many players in the NHL are confined to either a top-six or bottom-six forwards grouping.
Dan Cleary is not one of them. Despite making the Red Wings on a professional tryout contract, Cleary stepped up in his second and third seasons with the Wings, putting up back-to-back 20-goal seasons.
His aforementioned grit and goal scoring made it reasonable and practical to put him on any line that the Red Wings had.
In his time in Detroit, Cleary appeared on all four lines and was regularly rotated, depending on Mike Babcock's game plan.
After bringing Cleary into training camp through a PTO contract, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren told the Philadelphia Inquirer (via NHL.com) that he is "a glue guy and he can play in all situations."
This could not be more true. The determination, grit and heart that Cleary showed in his shifts with the Red Wings were often unmatched by any other Red Wing on the ice.
Cleary played hurt, and sometimes seemed to play better when he was, with this past playoff season a prime example.
The 34-year-old Newfoundland native has earned respect in the locker rooms that he has played in. Though the Red Wings are bringing in veteran forwards in Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson, it will take a while for the remaining Red Wings players to have the same amount of respect for them as they had for Cleary.
All statistics via NHL.com unless otherwise noted.
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