Within the first hour of this year's Free Agency Frenzy, the New Jersey Devils made their first signing. It's not a great one. As Renaud Lavoie of RDS, who's always doing work on this, tweeted this afternoon:
That's right. The Devils signed Ryane Clowe to a five year contract worth $24.25 million. If you can't quite believe it, Tom Gulitti confirmed it at Fire & Ice. At the very minimum, we now know the Devils have money; just look at this contract. They are giving that much money to a guy who had as many concussions as he scored goals in the 2013 regular season: three. Clowe will turn 31 this coming September and his deal will end just before he turns 36 (it's a late September birthday). Given that players tend not to improve as they get older, I wouldn't expect a lot of greatness going forward.
That said, Clowe's not a scrub or just a big body (though he is big at 6'2" and 220 pounds). He's been a positive possession player in the last six seasons without being severely sheltered according to Behind the Net. While a little more than five of them were with a strong San Jose team, I doubt he would remain that high above zero if he had nothing to do with it. Before the 2013 season, Clowe was looking like a solid 50-point scorer, achieving around 20 goals and 30 assists in three of those pre-2013 seasons. Yes, he scored a whopping three goals last season; but I highly doubt he's going to shoot 3.4% over a whole season. So he should bounce back in terms of production, which should better show off his potential value to a team. Of course, that presumes he can actually play a full season.
Needless to say, this pretty much guarantees that David Clarkson will not return. Therefore, he will be compared with the winger regardless of fairness. Clowe can slide into the top six at wing. He's been a more reliable possession player, but he doesn't shoot the puck nearly as much as Clarkson. Even including his nightmarish 2013 season, Clowe's has consistently averaged at least two shots per game since his "breakout" season in 2008-09. Maybe you'll like a winger that doesn't fire away at will so much, but in the big picture, I think more shots means more opportunities to score which could mean more goals. Since the Devils as a team didn't shoot a whole lot relative to the rest of the league, Clowe probably won't help them much in this regard. Nor can he draw as many penalties, based on Behind the Net's figures from the last 82-game season that both men played in. At least he can make plays far better than Clarkson while being as physical. Though, he may want to lay off that physical game a since he's had multiple concussions in his career.
Is this an overpayment? I'd say so considering if only that he topped 20 goals in a season twice in his career. Is it a risk? Absolutely. Clowe's been knocked around so much that it's a legitimate concern that he could concussed further. That could his livelihood and his career in danger; something far graver than his use to the Devils. Could he be of use in New Jersey? Sure. It's not a great market for big wingers and should he somehow stay injury-free and put up points like he did as a Shark from 2008 through 2012, then I think fans will grow to like him a lot. I will say that if this deal was about a million less per season and/or two years shorter, then I would be more pleased with this decision. But it isn't, so I'm left with a proverbial sour taste in my mouth. 5 years and just over $24 million for a guy with a concussion history. Great.
What do you think about the Clowe signing? Please vote in this quick poll about the deal. If you have any further thoughts or detailed opinions about Clowe and this deal, then please leave them in the comments. Thank you for reading.