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Clarkson caps strong 24 hours for Leafs

7/6/2013

For those criticizing the Toronto Maple Leafs for the money and term handed out to David Clarkson, know this: The UFA power forward left money on the table with another club.

And I suspect that team was Edmonton, where Clarkson visited Thursday. Word is the Oilers were convinced heading into Friday they had the former New Jersey Devils winger.

But despite offering what I believe was a stronger financial package, the Oilers lost out, Clarkson feeling the pull of the heartstrings and signing with his hometown Maple Leafs.

No surprise at all. Clarkson-to-Toronto was the rumor for a full year. Devils GM Lou Lamoriello never had a chance to keep him.

Will the Leafs regret giving Clarkson seven years in length? I’d bet on the yes side. But it was the price of business on this day to get one of the top-ranked UFAs on the market.

Power forwards have never been more sought after in the game, the blend of offensive skill and physical strength and ability to play with top-six players a needed ingredient to win. Just ask Boston (Milan Lucic) and Chicago (Bryan Bickell).

Overall, a mighty good 24 hours for Leafs GM Dave Nonis. He didn’t blink when Tyler Bozak wanted around $5 million a year, waited for the UFA center to try the market and circle back. Nonis got him for $4.2 million a year, a job well done. The Leafs GM left himself hanging a bit for 24 hours with the buyout of Mikhail Grabovski, leaving himself without two of last year’s centers in Grabovski and Bozak with no assurance they would be able to strike on Friday in free agency.

Nonis’ read of the situation was bang on. Clarkson wanted to come home. Bozak circled back to where he knows where his bread is buttered, playing alongside Phil Kessel. And when you add the previous offseason additions of goalie Jonathan Bernier -- whom I believe will be a star No. 1 goalie -- and center Dave Bolland, a better defensive fit (albeit with less offensive skill) than Grabovski, I like where the Leafs are headed.

Elsewhere:

• The Red Wings will challenge the Bruins for the division title in their new Eastern digs next year, which is why it’s no small achievement that Daniel Alfredsson chose Detroit over Boston. Overall, what a day for the Wings in finding a No. 2 center in Stephen Weiss plus the luxury of adding a veteran presence in Alfredsson. It allows Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to play on the same line. And it gives Detroit a more productive second line that it had this past year. The Wings are back, baby.

• Valtteri Filppula will be a nice fit in Tampa, where GM Steve Yzerman knows him well from his Detroit days. Filppula is a smart player whose struggles this past year I believe were an anomaly. The St. Louis Blues were in hard on both Filppula and Weiss and struck out on both, and to me there’s still a hole to fill there in middle for the top-six forward group in St. Louis after the retirement of Andy McDonald. (I prefer Patrik Berglund as a No. 3.)

• The Devils lost Clarkson a year after losing Zach Parise, so the impactful exits are piling up. GM Lou Lamoriello tried to plug a hole by bringing in Ryane Clowe and Michael Ryder on Friday, a pair of Newfoundland buddies. Clowe is a gamer, a heart-and-soul player who will help fill Clarkson’s exact power forward role, but the term on Clowe’s deal -- five years -- stunned many team execs we talked to around the league, who cited Clowe’s injury-ravaged body the last two years. I say good for Clowe, who has sacrificed his body for years and now finally got his financial bonanza ($4.85 million per year). Montreal had interest in Clowe but it was clear by Thursday that they were out because the Habs wanted to do only a one-year deal with him.

• Once Alfredsson knew he was leaving Ottawa to chase a Stanley Cup, the decision between joining Boston or Detroit was a very difficult one, a source said. Alfredsson had both clubs very much on the same level before pushing himself to decide. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli laid it all out for Alfredsson when the two spoke on the phone Thursday, detailing what the Swedish winger’s role would be on the Cup contenders. And the conversation was comfortable, Chiarelli knowing Alfredsson so well from his days in the Ottawa front office. But in the end, the style of play in Detroit and the chance to play with fellow Swedish national team buddies Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall won him over, as did an impressive phone call with Wings coach Mike Babcock, who described perfectly how Alfredsson would fit into the picture.

• The Los Angeles Kings are incredibly disappointed they lost Rob Scuderi. The gritty, dependable blueliner -- for my money, the top defenseman available -- signed in familiar territory when he agreed to join Pittsburgh on a four-year, $13.5 million deal. I’m told Philadelphia and Toronto were aggressively trying to sign Scuderi as well but the Penguins, with whom Scuderi won his first Cup, won out. Pretty good offseason for Pens GM Ray Shero, who re-signed Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Pascal Dupuis and Craig Adams plus brought back Scuderi, a player he admits he should have never let go after the 2009 Cup triumph.

And with that, I wish everyone a terrific summer. This is my last blog before returning in late August for the Canadian Olympic camp. Starting with the lockout in the fall and a crazy, compacted season, the break can’t come fast enough.

Cheers, all.