Dan Cleary is a good hockey player who will help the Philadelphia Flyers in 2013-14.
He fills a need that the Flyers have had all offseason long as a third-line winger who is defensively conscious, but who can also put the puck in the net. His presence fills out the Flyers top-nine quite well, and many of the same arguments we made favor of potentially signing Simon Gagne also apply for Cleary.
He played some of the toughest minutes of any Red Wings forward last season, and he'll fit in well on a defensively-minded third line with Matt Read and Sean Couturier. He scored nine goals and added six assists in 48 games last season in Detroit, but he and his linemates didn't exactly shoot the lights out, scoring on just 4.87 percent of shots while Cleary was on the ice.
Plus, if Cleary plays with Read and Couturier, he'll have more scoring talent by his side than he did playing primarily with Valterri Filppula and Justin Abdelkader last season. (No offense to those guys.) I like the scouting report provided to us by Winging It In Motown -- good along the boards, makes room for his teammates -- and how those attributes could fit on a line with Coots and Reader.
There could be 20 goal potential there if things shake out the right way, which wouldn't be too bad for a third-line winger. Of course, a lot of that also depends on how tough Peter Laviolette plays these guys in defensive situations.
Cleary also plays on the penalty kill -- yes, ANOTHER penalty killer -- and can help free up some of that time from somebody like, say, Claude Giroux. You might remember that we talked about this yesterday.
All in all, Cleary is a nice little addition. Tough player who can play in all situations and won't hurt you with silly mistakes. So uh, why does everybody hate the signing? Seriously, just about everybody hates this thing, and Flyers fans never agree with one another on anything.
So far in our Twitter mentions, Cleary news is UNIVERSALLY hated. Every opinion, out of maybe 20 of them, is negative. Think that's a first.— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) September 10, 2013
I wrote that last tweet around 8 a.m. today, and four hours later, not much has changed. People are pretty irritated with this signing, even if Cleary does fill a need on the Flyers. Most of the outrage is less related to the player and more related to the contract Paul Holmgren gave him, and it's valid.
The no-trade clause
There is just no justifying this. Training camp starts this week and Cleary didn't have a contract. He didn't have leverage, even if there were a few teams who were interested in him, there's just no reason to give him an NTC. He's 34 years old, and that brings us to the next point...
The term, the money and the cap
... why give a 34 year old a three-year deal? Especially given that, again, it's the week of camp and he was without a contract, it's not like his door was falling down with options. Just about everybody agrees that the Flyers overpaid, and maybe that's what they needed to do to get him from some of the other teams. But to overpay, hand out a no-trade clause AND a three-year deal? I .... I don't know.
A lot of people are concerned with the salary cap implications, and the Flyers are currently denying the deal publicly because they don't have the room to sign Cleary. But I'm not worried. There are ten defensemen on the roster currently, and one way or the other, there won't be when the season begins. Chris Pronger is one of them, keep in mind. With the cap expected to go up in future years, I'm not terribly worried about Cleary's money hurting them from that perspective in a few years either, although that still doesn't make a three-year deal smart.
The biggest head scratcher to me, though, isn't that the contract stinks. It's that the contract stinks in comparison to what the Flyers could have had at a better value.
The Simon Gagne factor
Gagne seemed destined to do the exact same thing Cleary is doing -- accept an invite to camp, then sign a contract officially as the Flyers' third-line winger once the salary cap situation cleared up closer to opening night. That Gagne, beloved by just about every single Flyers fan currently breathing on Earth, remains without a contract while Cleary has one, is enough to make plenty of people freak out.
Gagne was a natural fit for that third-line role now filled by Cleary, and even if you think Cleary is a better, less-injury-prone version of Gagne (it's certainly debatable), is the difference between the two still worth committing to Cleary for three years? He's a year older than Gagne, after all, and we all know that the Flyers could have signed Gagne to a one year deal worth less than the $2.75 million per year Cleary will make.
The Flyers clearly felt that spending what they did on Cleary was worth it, even when Gagne was out there at a good bargain. And they clearly feel that Cleary is a better option, even with that contract, than other cheap, young options in the system like Tye McGinn, Jason Akeson or Scott Laughton.
If you disagree with Paul Holmgren on these points, you probably really dislike this deal -- and a lot of people seem to disagree with Paul Holmgren on these points.