Rumor Roundup: Will the Maple Leafs buy out David Clarkson?

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Less than a year after the Toronto Maple Leafs signed winger David Clarkson to a seven-year, $36.75-million contract, there’s speculation they could buy him out.

Sportsnet’s Greg Brady recently reported via Twitter that colleague Doug MacLean said there will be “serious discussions” by Leafs management to consider buying out the remainder of Clarkson’s contract this summer to free up cap space.

At the time of the signing, some in the Toronto media compared Clarkson to his idol, former Leafs captain Wendel Clark. Others, however, were critical of the Leafs paying so much to a player who only exceeded the 20-goal mark once in his NHL career.

To call Clarkson’s first season with the Leafs disappointing is an understatement. It began with a 10-game suspension for leaving the bench during a pre-season game to join an on-ice altercation. Clarkson also received a two-game suspension in December for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis Blues center Vladimir Sobotka. Foot, elbow and leg injuries sidelined the Leafs’ forward an additional 10 games. He’s now on pace for a career-worst 11-point season.

THN senior writer Ken Campbell points out the Leafs can shed Clarkson’s contract via trade or buyout. The latter could be their only option. The decline in his production this season combined with his contract (which contains a modified no-trade clause) significantly hurts his market value. Even if the Leafs agreed to pick up half his remaining contract, they’re unlikely to find any takers.

Forget about a compliance buyout. The Leafs used up their allotment last season on Mike Komisarek and Mikhail Grabovski. Even if they had one remaining, Clarkson would be ineligible. Compliance buyouts are limited to players who signed contracts on or before Sept. 15, 2012.

The Leafs currently have more than $49 million invested in 12 players for 2014-15. The notable free agents they must re-sign or replace include goaltender James Reimer, defensemen Cody Franson, Jake Gardiner and Paul Ranger and forwards Dave Bolland, Nikolai Kulemin, Jay McClement and Mason Raymond.

While the deep-pocketed Leafs can afford to buy out Clarkson this summer, it remains to be seen if they’ll go that route. Management could give him another season to prove himself worthy of that expensive deal.

WHO ELSE COULD BE BOUGHT OUT?
Speaking of contract buyouts, Buffalo Sabres forward Ville Leino and Vancouver Canucks winger David Booth are likely candidates come June.

Leino signed a six-year, $27-million deal with the Sabres in July 2011 and has been a disappointment since. The Buffalo News’ John Vogl reports Leino, who has yet to score in 52 games this season, could be let go via compliance buyout this summer.

Booth, who was acquired by the Canucks from the Florida Panthers at the beginning of the 2011-12 season, has had his performance significantly hampered by injuries. Since last summer it’s been rumored he could receive a buyout.

The Vancouver Province’s Tony Gallagher noted Booth has been among the Canucks’ best forwards of late. He feels keeping the 29-year-old winger for next season (the last under his current contract) would be only a one-year gamble. However, with the Canucks seemingly headed toward a rebuild, Booth could be among their changes.

Leino and Booth are not the only possible compliance buyout recipients. This year is the final one in which teams can use that option. Candidates could include Dallas’ Erik Cole, Tampa Bay’s Ryan Malone, San Jose’s Martin Havlat and New York Rangers’ center Brad Richards.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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