The Maple Leafs have landed the number one target in the free agent sweepstakes in David Clarkson.
Clarkson, a 29-year-old right-winger scored 30 goals in his last full NHL season and 15 more in 48 games last season. The Toronto native agreed to a seven-year deal with the Leafs.
Originally signed by the New Jersey Devils as a free agent, Clarkson adds to a talented corps of top-six wingers that includes Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and James van Riemsdyk and instantly toughens the Leafs second line. Clarkson topped 100 penalty minutes four times including 138 minutes two seasons ago.
The signing of the 27-year-old Bozak, meanwhile, restores one of the league’s top face-off artists. Bozak was second in league-wide in face-offs taken and won 52.6 per cent of those draws. He scored 12 goals and added 16 assists in 46 games for the Leafs and centered the team’s top line.
The signings represent a win for Leafs GM Dave Nonis who broke with the longstanding policy of his predecessor Brian Burke who eschewed any contract length longer than five years.
Nonis has enjoyed a productive off-season.
The ledger shows Mike Komisarek, Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski, Ben Scrivens, Matt Frattin and draft choices going out. Incoming are 24-year-old Jonathan Bernier who will contend for the net, a fiercely competitive top six winger in Clarkson, Dave Bolland a 27-year-old two-time Cup winner who can anchor a checking line and provide timely offence and Bozak whose absence to injury was felt profoundly in the Leafs Game 7 defeat in Boston.
If your taste runs to mathematics, the Leafs moved out 24 goals (nine for Grabovski, eight for MacArthur and seven for Frattin) and brought 34 goals in (15 for Clarkson and 12 for Bozak and seven more for Bolland).
They also dramatically boosted their playoff experience. The four players going out played a total of 47 playoff games. Bolland and Clarkson have combined for 111.
The acquisitions leave the Leafs with $14.3 million in which to sign a handful of restricted free agents including defencemen Carl Gunnarsson and Cody Franson, forward Nazem Kadri and Bernier.
Nonis remains in the hunt for a top-line centreman which has proven the single most difficult commodity to find in the NHL.