Devils

Hartnett: Devils Dealt Blow By Missing Out On Briere, Prepared To Lose Clarkson

Clarkson To Leafs A Likely Match On Free Agent Friday
David Clarkson of the New Jersey Devils yells at Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers from the bench. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

David Clarkson of the New Jersey Devils yells at Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers from the bench. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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‘Devils in the Details’
By Sean Hartnett
» More Columns

On the Fourth of July, New Jersey Devils fans breathed a large sigh of relief — knowing that lifetime Devil and alternate captain Patrik Elias will finish his career as a one-franchise player. That warm feeling could turn sour on Friday as David Clarkson’s days as a Devil appear to be over.

Free agency officially began at high noon on Friday and David Clarkson is the hottest name on the market after Vincent Lecavalier quickly opted to sign for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Clarkson met with the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, according to TSN’s Aaron Ward. Earlier this week, Clarkson visited the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday as reported by the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch.

CLARKSON WON’T GET MASSIVE DEAL FROM DEVILS, TORONTO LIKELY DESTINATION

The most likely scenario for Clarkson isn’t Ottawa or Edmonton. It’s Toronto.

Ottawa’s chase for Clarkson was dealt a major blow as keeping captain Daniel Alfredsson could have helped entice Clarkson to choose the Sens. According to several reports, Alfredsson is set to sign for the Detroit Red Wings — ending a 17-year stay in Ottawa.

The Leafs are hot and heavy over bringing Clarkson, a native of Mimico, Ontario to his home province. Clarkson is expected to sign a seven-year contract to earn above $6 million per year.

Clarkson’s demands have apparently turned off Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello, who will have to search elsewhere to replace the grit, physicality, goalscoring and character that Clarkson brings to the lineup.

ELIAS A DEVIL FOR LIFE

It was impossible for Devils fans to imagine Elias in another uniform, and it was even more difficult for the player himself and an eager Lamoriello to allow Elias to hit unrestricted free agency.

Elias and the Devils agreed on a three-year, $16.5 million contract that will take him to the age of 40. Elias hangs up his skates, his iconic number 26 will be raised to the Prudential Center rafters alongside “Mr. Devil” Ken Daneyko’s number 3, bruising former captain Scott Stevens’ number 4 and Scott Niedermayers’s number 27.

The fact that 37-year-old Elias and 35-year-old Dainius Zubrus are staying in New Jersey is hardly surprising. Elias turned down the opportunity to negotiate with the Red Wings, paving the way Alfreddson’s move to Detroit. The powerful, 6’5″ Zubrus is somewhat of a cult hero among Devils fans and agreed a 3-year, $9.3 million contract on Thursday.

Although the Devils answered their biggest long-term question by acquiring Cory Schneider from the Vancouver Canucks on draft day, this team needs to upgrade its scoring depth considering the way the Devils wilted after Ilya Kovalchuk missed significant time after suffering a shoulder injury.

Losing a potential 30-goal scorer in Clarkson certainly damages the Devils’ firepower. They also missed out on landing former Philadelphia Flyers scoring ace Danny Briere.

DEVILS MISS OUT ON BRIERE

After the Flyers bought out the playmaking Briere, as many as 15 teams expressed their interest.

The Devils seemed like an ideal landing spot due to New Jersey’s proximity to Briere’s Haddonfield, N.J. home. New Jersey finished second place in “The Briere Sweepstakes” as Briere chose the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.

Briere agreed a two-year deal worth $8 million to join the Habs. For Briere, it’s a good fit as the Canadiens are a small, fast-skating bunch. Even at 35, he’s still a very skillful skater, excels in power play situations and makes use of his excellent hands around the net.

New Jersey could have used Briere’s clutch scoring touch. Briere has remarkably scored 109 points in 108 playoff games.

WHO’S AVAILABLE?

Oddly enough, former Rangers powerhouse winger Ryane Clowe could potentially earn a five-year deal from a number of interested teams. Concussion worries haven’t deterred GMs from salivating over Clowe.

Lamoriello is of one of the GMs seeking Clowe’s ability in the corners. Clowe would be a perfect replacement for the kind of dirty work Clarkson is known for in the corners. The 30-year-old has ability to flatten opponents with bone-crushing checks. He’s the kind of player Devils fans would take to immediately should he land in Newark.

Another player who could be of interest to Lamoriello is former New York Islanders’ winger Brad Boyes, who had a resurgence on Long Island. The 31-year-old Boyes is a completely different player from the gritty mold of Clarkson and Clowe. He’s always been an inconsistent scorer, though the Devils are desperate to add more playmaking and sniping to their roster. Boyes does not thrive in the corners. He’s a streaky sniper and if Clowe’s price grows too high, Lamoreillo could turn to Boyes.

Follow Sean on Twitter — @HartnettHockey.

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