What will David Clarkson bring to the Leafs?

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Dave Nonis’ active free agency was stamped with the big signing of former New Jersey Devil David Clarkson. But there seems to be a split in Leafs Nation over the acquisition, mainly due to the terms of the deal. That man enters the lineup Friday night in Columbus after serving his 10-game suspension.

So are the Leafs getting good value in David Clarkson? Keep in mind he received his deal based on his performance over the last two years, not over the span of his entire career.

Before we go any further, let’s take a moment to thank the man responsible for the rise of Clarkson as a scorer…Peter DeBoer.

The New Jersey Devils head coach also coached Clarkson for three seasons from 2002-2005 with the Kitchener Rangers.

It was then that Clarkson suddenly tapped into his scoring touch. He went from two goals in 22 games with the Belleville Bulls a year earlier to 17 goals in 54 games in his first year under DeBoer in Kitchener. He improved to 22 goals the following year and 33 in his final year in the OHL.

Fast forward to the 2011-12 season, DeBoer’s first year coaching in New Jersey. Clarkson had only scored 12 goals and 18 points over 82 games in the season prior and improved to 30 goals and 46 points under DeBoer.

It’s especially hard to call it a fluke season when he followed that up with 15 goals (a pace of 26 goals per 82 games) and 24 points in the shortened season last year.

So if we’re talking purely goals, a $5.25-million deal is about the right price, especially in comparison to the $8-million we shelled out for sniper Phil Kessel. The Kessel deal, by the way, is also consistent with other contracts for similar players like Marian Gaborik, Rick Nash, etc.

Let’s also remember the other side of David Clarkson: his toughness and grit.

This style of play is very well-suited under Randy Carlyle, so he should pull similar minutes to what he had in New Jersey. He also adds much needed size to the top-six forwards.

He still has much to prove in a very different landscape, but the Toronto native couldn’t be happier to be a Leaf. Carlyle is sure to give him every opportunity to make an impact in every way.

Personally, I believe he becomes the next Wendel Clark in Toronto. They play a similar style and I think Clarkson’s leadership could land him the captaincy, depending on the cloudy future of current captain Dion Phaneuf, who has played extremely well so far this season.

So is this 30-goal scoring tough guy worth the dough? I believe so. He has been itching to get going and he will be given the minutes by Carlyle, just as he was every year he was coached by DeBoer. Therefore, he should enjoy another strong offensive season with a deep Leafs squad. He owns a unique skill-set and I think he scores 20 goals in the 72 potential games he’ll play in.

Joffrey Lupul left practice Thursday morning after taking a puck off the foot, so we may see Clarkson play some especially big minutes on the top line and on the power play.

Tune in to the game Friday as the Blue & White head to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets.

Topics: David Clarkson, Peter DeBoer, Toronto Maple Leafs

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