With free agency approaching and current New Jersey Devil Dave Clarkson announcing he intends to test free agency, the media will naturally associate the Rangers as a player in the race for Clarkson’s services. However, the Rangers would be wise to avoid the physical Clarkson in all but the most buyer friendly of circumstances.
Even disregarding the minimal success – to put it politely – the Rangers have had with former Devils (think Gomez, Scott and Holik, Bobby) Clarkson doesn’t make sense for the Rangers. At 29, and in a free agency pool regarded as weak, Clarkson is in a position to absolutely cash in, despite not producing overly impressive numbers one season withstanding.
Clarkson’s one season where he scored heavily in 2011-12 was a product of a shooting percentage well above his career average (13.16% as opposed to a career 9.39%) so it’s reasonable to assume Clarkson cannot continue that trend, especially when he has to contend with other top six wingers such as Ryan Callahan, Rick Nash, and the presence of Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin. That’s without mentioning the demands players such as Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard will have on top six minutes.
If Clarkson’s career -32 wasn’t enough of a red flag, his lack of special teams pedigree should be. Only in his solitary stand out season did he score more than 8 points on special teams. Offensively, while a solid contributor, Clarkson isn’t a difference maker, and if the Rangers are going to invest heavily it needs to be in that type of player.
Clarkson is clearly a good player, he’s emerged as a physical force for the Devils, but his production isn’t worthy of overpayment. He also timed his career peak just in time for free agency, which just means more dollar signs in front of his eyes. Clarkson’s desires to cash in are also obvious. Not only has he announced he’s testing the free agent waters, but his agent Pat Morris’ comments (“We have no need to call him (Lamoriello), New Jersey is the one facing life without David.”) indicate a level of self entitlement.
Could the Rangers use a player of Clarkson’s mould? Absolutely. Do they have the cap space, roster space (in their top six), or room to take a risk on a player entering free agency with dollar signs in his eyes? Absolutely not. The Rangers need to approach this free agency period with an element of caution. Chasing Clarkson would not be consistent with the team’s situation.
The Rangers certainly need to add physicality to their roster, but with a few prospects on the horizon (JT Miller, Oscar Lindberg, and on defense Dylan McIlrath) they would be better off signing a player such as Ryane Clowe to a shorter deal than Clarkson will likely command. A guy like Clowe knows the Rangers organisation and has already proven he can play well in Ranger blue. There are no such guarantees with Clarkson.