This is the week where a lot of teams can, will, and possibly already did start establish what they will do for the future. On Sunday, the 2013 NHL Draft was held and while prospects were being picked, there were deals and signings going on. The Devils made one rather important deal: trading their ninth overall pick to Vancouver for goaltender Cory Schneider. Yesterday, further news about the impending Devils UFAs came out. Tom Gulitti confirmed from Dainius Zubrus himself that he will sign a new three year contract at $3.1 million per year. In that same post, he did report that Patrik Elias will be re-signed. Later that evening, Peter Harrold was retained for two years at $1.6 million total.
Today is still early, but Gulitti got word from agent, Pat Moriss, that David Clarkson will test the market. Here's the key quote from Gulitti's post at Fire & Ice:
"Over the weekend, there was an exchange with Lou. He put in an offer and that was not signed. David’s contract ended on the 30th (of June) and by tomorrow teams can call and say what they think of David. We've got an open mind with New Jersey and we've got an open mind with NHL clubs. We know where New Jersey is at today to a level to sign a contract. It was a respected offer that was not signed and we’re just moving forward with whatever the timeline is."
Needless to say, if there's a sign that Clarkson's walking, then this sure looks like one. Nothing is guaranteed, of course. Martin Brodeur tested the market last summer and he stayed. So did Bryce Salvador. In both cases, both players got offers from others, went back to Lou, and re-signed for presumably a similar amount. It's possible that Clarkson's and Moriss' discussions with other organizations may not yield superior offers to the one they got from New Jersey.
However, I doubt that one of the few under-30 forwards that could be available in three days that has scored goals and piled up the shots is going to get undersold. It definitely would be a wound to the Devils lineup since Clarkson has provided shots and a lot of possession to go with those goals - so much so that no other UFA forward provided either last year. The Devils should be fine in terms of possession but the team didn't shoot the puck a lot last season and so losing one of the league's most prolific shooters in the last season really hurts that cause. That said, if you believe he's not going to score quite so many goals in the future, the Devils can get others to shoot the puck, and/or Clarkson is going to get a stupefying amount of money, then the team must figure out a way to do without him. I personally think the money alone will be the tipping point - Bryan Bickell got $16 million for four years and he's not nearly as good as Clarkson.
Clarkson and his agent will be able to start to talking to other teams at
noon 12:01 AM on July 3. I'm sure the rumors will pick up like crazy tomorrow. In the meantime, there might as well be a one-stop post for any and all speculation and quick news items about what goes on with Clarkson. I'm sure immediately some reader will note that Toronto will throw a mint at him or something. Here's a good place to put all of those kinds of comments.
This same post should also be used for other free agents. Clarkson's not the only impending UFA who's made it clear that they'll seek out other offers on July 5. I'm sure Devils fans are wondering what other forwards may be available and now's a good time as any to bounce ideas around. Not even just in replacing Clarkson but also the spots left by Steve Sullivan, Alexei Ponikarovsky, and possibly Matt D`Agostini, too. Rather than spreading it all over the place, have an entire post called the Speculation Zone for it. Don't worry, there will be an entirely separate post just for July 5. Include links to legitimate reports are encourage. And no, your cousin's uncle's friend who "knows a guy" or Eklund or "Insiderrs" aren't legitimate.
He's also not the only impending UFA left on the Devils. Elias may be re-signed but his terms are not known and Marek Zidlicky's fate is still up in the air. So if you want to talk about them and what they might do, the comments are a good place to do it. Feel free to start penciling in a 2013-14 roster for the Devils if you'd like. With Elias and Zubrus plus new contracts for the already-qualified Adem Henrique and Jacob Josefson, the Devils actually will have 11 forwards signed for next season. That's almost enough for a roster. So have at it. Consider this your pre-free agency frenzy open thread. Thank you for reading and enjoy the speculation. (Oh, and I guess whatever's happening with Phoenix is cool too.)