Friday, July 19, 2013


Hockey Free Agency 2013

If you go to an NHL game at the beginning of the season this fall, you may hear yourself muttering, “Pass over that program, Mabel, I don’t know any of these guys”.


As is often the case in early July, quite a few players have jumped to different teams in the wake of early free agent signings. There’s not a lot of loyalty to teams, these days. Then again, the owners are not terribly loyal to their players.


Once the clock hit the deadline, there was a mess of early signings.


The Toronto Maple Leafs elected to sign David Clarkson to a healthy contract. He is 29 years old, and he will not have to dicker about the price of a new snowblower. He is slated to receive more than five million dollars a year, for the next seven years.


In the 2011-2012 campaign, he scored 30 goals for the New Jersey Devils, the only team for which he has played in the NHL. Prior to that, he had scored 52 goals in 300 games.


Clarkson spent most of two seasons as a youth in the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League, one with the Port Hope Clippers, and one with the Aurora Tigers. He also played 25 games with the Belleville Bulls during that time. The following year he was traded to the Kitchener Rangers, and experienced three fine seasons in the OHL.


He played two years in the Devils’ farm system, one with the Albany River Rats, and one with the Lowell Devils, before moving up to the NHL squad. Clarkson will be 30 years old in March.


To his credit, Clarkson is a gritty player. He knows what is required to play in the trenches, and he thrives on the hard work. In 48 games last season, he had 15 tallies and 24 points. In his seven full NHL seasons, he has averaged more than 100 penalty minutes per season. He does not skate away from skirmishes. “I try to come out every night and wear my heart on my sleeve. That’s just the type of player that I am. I try to do different, little things, whether it’s scoring or hitting. Every night, I’m going to go out there and put the hard hat on and go to work.”


Daniel Alfredsson decided to head to the Red Wings next season. It will take some adjustment for the Ottawa fans to see their favourite son with the winged wheel on his chest. The Leafs saw Mike Komisarek move to Carolina in a move that was not exactly a surprise.


Another former Belleville Bull, Matt Beleskey signed a two year extension to stick with the Anaheim Ducks. “Being back with the Ducks is exactly what I wanted to do. I didn’t really want to go anywhere else, and it worked out the best way possible.” The deal is reported worth $ 2.7 million.


Belleville’s Brad Richardson will be playing for the Canucks next year. He spent the previous five seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, and prior to that skated with the Avalanche. TSN reported that his contract is for $ 1.15 million for two years.


Another former Wellington Duke is also on the move this summer. The Minnesota Wild were pleased to grab Matt Cooke from the Pittsburgh Penguins. “We know him well from his days in Pittsburgh,” the general manager Chuck Fletcher reported on the team’s web site. “We look at him as an ideal third-line centre.”


Matt knows that he will have to earn the respect of the fans. “There are probably a lot of fans who might not be too fond of me from my days in Vancouver. But I hopefully can change their opinions.”


There are still many players out there looking for new homes. Daniel Cleary and Kyle Wellwood are two former Bulls trying to pitch their wares to the highest bidder. Jaromir Jagr would make a nice fit on some teams. More than a few goalies have thrown their helmets in the ring for a chance to move: Tim Thomas, Jose Theodore, Ilya Bryzgalov, and Johan Hedberg top that list.


At times, it appears to be a big league game of musical chairs, with slightly higher stakes. By December, we will not need the programs.



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