Bozak, Clarkson contracts were big gambles for Nonis

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Toronto Maple Leafs day on PHT continues with a look at two big summer signings — will they pan out?

July 5 was a big day for the Leafs. First, the club announced it had re-signed center Tyler Bozak to a four-year, $21 contract extension. Then, not long after, former Devils winger David Clarkson agreed to a seven-year, $36.75 million contract.

In all, the club committed $57.75 million to the pair of forwards — a commitment that left many critics wondering if general manager Dave Nonis had spent his valuable cap space wisely.

Don Cherry, for one, was no fan of the Bozak deal.

“I can’t believe they re-signed him for that,” said Cherry. I mean, there’s a classic case of overpaying a guy. Ridiculous. He’s a plugger, he’s playing with (Phil) Kessel and he can’t get 20 goals.”

Others agreed with Cherry — so much so that Bozak, 27, was asked during a radio interview about all the negative things that had been said and written in the wake of his new deal.

His response?

“I’ve had two coaches (Ron Wilson and Randy Carlyle) that had the opportunity to not play me in that role and have, so if there’s a few fans on Twitter that still think I’m not able to play, I’ll take the coaches’ opinion over theirs every time.”

Meanwhile, the case against Clarkson centered around giving a 29-year-old with fewer than 100 career NHL goals a contract that runs through 2019-20.

Clarkson came to Toronto after scoring 97 goals in 426 career games for the Devils. His breakout year didn’t come until 2011-12, when he scored 30 times, with 16 assists and 138 PIM, in 80 games.

The Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle was critical of the contract in large part due to Clarkson’s age.

Clarkson is a particular kind of forward who plays a very physical game, often known as a power forward, and in recent years especially, they have been phased out rather quickly in their careers.

There aren’t a lot of 30-something power forwards, in other words.

The NHL has become much more about speed than brawn in recent years, with even so-called tough teams like the Boston Bruins having plenty of finesse and playmaking ability, as they showed against a slower Pittsburgh Penguins team.

But Nonis defended the length of the deal, saying he wasn’t concerned about the years at the end of the contract.

“I’m not worried about six or seven right now,” Nonis said. “I’m worried about one. And Year One, I know we’re going to have a very good player. I believe that he’s got a lot of good years left in him.”

He’d better hope so. Because for Nonis — who incidentally was just granted a new five-year contract — the performances of Bozak and Clarkson next season will be strongly tied to his own approval rating.

More Leafs day on PHT: Reimer vs Bernier — Who ya got?