ILWT Audition: How Much is David Clarkson Worth?

Over a week ago, I put out the call looking for new writers for In Lou We Trust to write about the New Jersey Devils. I've opened up the audition to the community at large in order to get a new perspectives and additional voices on the front page with regularity.  Since then, I've received seven entries and I thank each one of them - you know who you are - for stepping up and making an entry.

Throughout this week, I will post each one under an anonymous name so you can discuss and critique the post without regard to who actually wrote it.  I can ensure you that I did not change any of the content outside of formatting it in to the SBN platform and fixing spelling errors.  To that end, please note that I don't necessarily agree with what the posts actually say.  I'm just letting them stand on their own.  Please be constructive in any criticism and do offer your thoughts about whether you liked the post in addition to discussing it's content.

The fourth entrant comes from Writer D Kevin "Space Weed" Sellathamby, who has written a piece focusing on David Clarkson's worth to the New Jersey Devils Clarkson is the highest profile restricted free agent on the New Jersey Devils.  However, how much should he be paid?  Who does he compare to in the league in terms of performance, age, salary, and straight-up production?  Sellathamby makes the argument after the jump.

 

The offseason in 2010 is already going to be a hectic one for the New Jersey Devils. Paul Martin is an unrestricted free agent, and can definitely make a lot of money if he hits the market. Ilya Kovalchuk is also an unrestricted free agent as well, and Lou's trying to utilize the extra negotiation time, as he owns Kovalchuk's rights. He's going to be a busy man for the next month or so, trying to retool and add new players to the Devils. However, many people tend to forget that gritty winger David Clarkson is a restricted free agent. While many teams wouldn't sign him to an offer sheet, it would be in the Devils' best interest to get Clarkson inked to a new deal before July 1st. If it wasn't for a leg injury suffered after blocking a Zdeno Chara shot (which also proves he's got cojones), he would've been in line for a breakout season. The few GMs that would consider signing him might overpay for him, leaving the Devils with a compensatory pick as means of the CBA (which isn't going to help the team in 2010-11). He will get a significant raise from the $875 000 he made in 09-10. What I'm going to find out is how much David Clarkson should make by comparing his production to his peers in production and age.

While his 09-10 season was shortened, I will look at his projected stats for the 09-10 season, which would be 20 Goals, 23 assists for 43 points in 82 games (in comparison to 11 goals, 13 assists and 24 points in 46 games). To compare his stats from a complete season, I'll also look back on his 08-09 season as well (17 goals, 15 assists for 32 points). Between the two seasons (08-09 and the projected 09-10), he averaged about 18.5 goals, which would be rounded to 19 goals. Because Clarkson's biggest area of contribution offensively is goal scoring, I'll look at the production of all right wings with 18-22 goals for both 08-09 and 09-10 and their salaries. First, let's look at the 08-09 stats and salaries of all right wingers with 18-22 goals (stats via nhl.com, age and salary and age via nhlnumbers.com)

2008-09 Season

Player

GP

Goals

Assists

Age

Salary

Colby Armstrong

82

22

18

25

$1 200 000

Ryan Callahan

81

22

18

23

$600 00

Bill Guerin

78

21

27

37

$4 500 000

Blake Wheeler*

81

21

24

21

$875 000

Chuck Kobasew

68

21

21

26

$2 000 000

Jason Pominville

82

20

46

25

$1 375 000

Brian Gionta

81

20

40

29

$4 000 000

Pavol Demitra

69

20

33

33

$4 000 000

Drew Stafford

79

20

25

22

$984 000

Ales Kotalik

75

20

23

29

$2 500 000

David Moss

81

20

19

26

$550 000

Mikael Samuelsson

81

19

21

31

$1 200 000

Chad LaRose

81

19

12

26

$875 000

Kyle Okposo*

65

18

21

20

$850 000

David Clarkson

82

17

15

24

$800 000

*Player is due to receive bonuses, which are separate from salary

Because age is a point of comparison, I will only look at players in a similar age group as Clarkson. A good point of comparison would be players around Clarkson's current age, 26. Players aged 27 and under will be compared to Clarkson. This is mainly because of Clarkson's NHL experience (3 years) would be similar to some of the young players on this list. As for the maximum age (27), 27 is the age when most players become UFAs (unless they have more than 7 years of NHL experience before 27 years of age), and Clarkson is currently 26, 1 year away from being a UFA.

The Players exempt from this list are Bill Guerin (37), Pavol Demitra (33), Mikael Samuelsson (31), Ales Kotalik (29) and Brian Gionta (29) due to their age. That leaves Armstrong, Callahan, Kobasew, Wheeler, Okposo, Stafford, Moss and Larose as the comparable players. Salary wise, most of these players are on their first or second contracts, and aren't being paid a lot. Most of these players are also in their contract years, and most of them managed to break the bank; namely Jason Pominville, who signed an extension that pays him an average of $5.3 million/year. Also, most of the players have similar salaries to Clarkson. The highest salary in the group is Pominville's $1.375 mil salary, and the lowest is Callahan's $600 000. On the topic of production however, most of these players weren't in the same area as Clarkson. Clarkson played on a relatively strong 4th line (which featured Brian Rolston and Bobby Holik or Mike Rupp) for most of the season, and made the most of it. His peers however, were mainly top six forwards. Pominville, Stafford and Wheeler where usually featured on their respective team's top two lines and were important offensive cogs. From this, you can tell Clarkson would probably have better numbers if he was playing with better teammates (he had the 2nd lowest quality of teammates amongst the group with -0.255). A better picture will be painted if we look at the 09-10 season.

2009-10 Season

Player

GP

Goals

Assists

Age

Salary

Steve Downie*

79

22

24

22

$600 000

Martin Erat

74

21

28

27

$5 200 000

Bill Guerin

78

21

24

38

$2 000 000

Niclas Bergfors*

81

21

23

22

$500 000

Eric Fehr

69

21

18

23

$772 000

Daniel Alfredsson

70

20

51

36

$7 000 000

David Clarkson**

82**

20**

23**

25

$875 000

Antti Miettinen

79

20

22

28

$2 500 000

Brian Rolston

80

20

17

37

$5 000 000

Devin Setoguchi*

70

20

16

22

$765 000

Jamie Langenbrunner

81

19

42

34

$2 800 000

Kyle Okposo*

80

19

33

21

$850 000

Ryan Callahan

77

19

18

24

$2 300 000

Shane Doan

82

18

37

32

$4 550 000

Martin Havlat

73

18

36

28

$5 000 000

Alexei Kovalev

77

18

31

36

$5 000 000

Todd Bertuzzi

82

18

26

34

$1 500 000

Mark Recchi

81

18

25

41

$1 000 000

Blake Wheeler*

82

18

20

22

$875 000

Michael Ryder

82

18

15

29

$4 000 000

Scottie Upshall

49

18

14

25

$1 500 000

*Player is due to receive bonuses which are separate from salary

**Stats projected over an 82 game season

Alfredsson, Ryder, Kovalev, Rolston, Langenbrunner, Bertuzzi, Recchi, Miettinen, Guerin, Havlat and Doan are all exempt from this discussion due to their age. Upshall missed 33 games due to injury, and would most likely have had more than 22 goals at the pace he was scoring, so he's exempt from the list as well. This leaves Downie, Erat, Bergfors, Fehr, Setoguchi, Okposo, Callahan and Wheeler as the list of comparable forwards. From the 08-09 list, only 3 names appear again: Okposo, Wheeler and Callahan. Of these three, Okposo's the only one to improve on his numbers from his 1st year. Wheeler's drop in production is due to mainly due to David Krejci's lack of production this year; Callahan often plays with Chris Drury, and isn't used as a primary offensive player. Most of the other players regularly played with top players on their respective teams (Setoguchi, Downie, Erat). Because the numbers are projected, Clarkson's projected numbers will put him in the middle of the pack of all the comparable forwards. Salary wise however, there are some differences between this list and the 08-09 list: Martin Erat and his $5.2 million salary being one of them. His contract is a long term contract (2nd year of a 7 year $31.5 million contract), and was signed before he was 27. Downie, Bergfors, Setoguchi, Okposo and Wheeler are all on Entry level contracts. Fehr is an RFA and due for a raise, as is Bergfors, Wheeler, Setoguchi and Downie.

Conclusion

From looking at both the 08-09 and 09-10 seasons, only one player managed to have similar stats to those of Clarkson's over the last 2 seasons: Ryan Callahan. His $2.3 million salary for 2010 is reasonable, said contract is his 2nd (Clarkson will be on his 2nd), and is only 2 years younger than Clarkson. Callahan also doesn't play with the best players on his team, yet manages to effectively produce in all situations. While they don't play similar styles, both make the most out of their ice times. Ideally a contract that isn't cap crunching, but reasonable as well: a 4 year, $8.6 mil. contract. The cap hit would be $2.15 mil./year, and how the contract fleshes out is anyone's guess. Clarkson's poised for a breakout, and having him signed to a cheap contract before his breakout will mean the Devils will get his offensive contributions for significantly less than market value. If Clarkson regresses in production or is injured, the low salary of his contract makes him an attractive salary for a contract. As for teams signing Clarkson to an offer sheet, I doubt that there will be a lot of GMs who'd consider signing him to one. If there's an offer sheet for more than $3 mil ($3.013 mil. or higher= 1st round pick, exactly $3 mil. = 2nd round pick), or Clarkson asks for more than $3 mil. I'd rather let him walk or trade his rights to another team.

Editor's Note: The above was by Kevin Sellathamby. Now it's your turn.  Do you think Clarkson is worth $2.15 million per year on the cap? Are there other ways to justify what Clarkson is worth - more or less than what Writer D suggests or less? Is there anything about the post itself you liked or didn't like? Would you like to see more of this writing at ILWT? Please leave your thoughts in the comments and remember - be constructive, not destructive.

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