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Devils avoid arbitration with David Clarkson, sign him to three-year deal

Jun 30, 2010, 10:40 AM EDT

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clarksoninthemush.jpgWhenever you see a team sign a free agent today, think of it as a slacker college student writing a 10-page research paper in a single Red Bull-laced day of desperation (not that I *cough* ever experienced such a thing). This is the final opportunity for teams to avoid ugly and uncomfortable processes like arbitration or allowing players to hit the free agent market, so there could be a deluge of signings.

The New Jersey Devils signed agitating right winger David Clarkson to a three-year deal reportedly worth $8 million overall, according to the New York Post. If that’s correct, Clarkson will register a somewhat-hefty $2.66 million cap hit.

Clarkson made $875G last season, a campaign ruined by a broken leg suffered from a Zdeno Chara slapshot Nov. 27. He missed 13 games before returning too soon, and after playing two games, went back on the shelf for 23 more. Clarkson was tied for the second-most goals on the team when he blocked Chara’s shot. He finished 11-13-24 in 46 games.

Clarkson would have become a restricted free agent tomorrow, and could have elected salary arbitration for a one-year deal that would have made him unrestricted next summer.

Sources suggest that if Clarkson had not signed, he may well have been dealt to the Leafs for defenseman Tomas Kaberle, who stands to be unrestricted after this season.

Getting your leg broken by a Zdeno Chara? Yikes.

I have to admit, when I first heard about this contract, I thought the Devils over-paid Clarkson. It’s impressive that he was second on the team in goals for a while and seemed to be on pace to topple his career-best 32 point season. That being said, is his combination of grit and moderate offensive upside rare enough to justify such an investment?

It the rumors of a Clarkson for Kaberle (and, I imagine, some draft picks) are true, then I think the Devils made a mistake. Still, it’s not safe to look at it that way; instead, Devils fans should ask themselves if Clarkson can continue that point-every-other-game pace from last year while getting under his opponents’ skin.

With 17 roster spots filled and more than $11 million in cap space, the Devils still have plenty of room to work with. We’ll keep you updated as New Jersey and the 29 other teams frantically try to improve their fortunes in the next few days.

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