Cleary Skips Flyers Camp and Returns to Detroit

Dan Cleary's short time as a Flyer is over before it even began.

Dan Cleary’s short time as a Flyer is over before it even began.

In the NHL’s world of guaranteed contracts it’s not often that you see a player leave a team as a free agent, sign somewhere else, become a no-show, and then re-sign with his original club.  But that appears to be the course of action taken by Red Wings forward Dan Cleary.  It’s now painfully obvious that Cleary used the Flyers offer as leverage and never had any intention of actually coming to Philadelphia.  We were duped, used, and hornswoggled.  The worst part about this whole debacle is that Cleary never even informed GM Paul Holmgren that he wouldn’t be showing up to camp today.  We all get that professional sports is a business, but this was a prime example of bad business by Cleary and his agent.

Just a few minutes ago it was confirmed that Cleary has indeed signed a new 1-year $1.75 million deal to stay in Detroit.  So the Flyers 3rd line winger job remains vacant.  Does this open the door for Simon Gagne’s return?  Or is rookie Scott Laughton now the front-runner?  On a day when the Flyers were supposed to have some answers, it appears that Cleary’s decision has instead created more questions.



Report: Cleary-to-Philly hits snag — back to Detroit? (Updated)


The Dan Cleary saga isn’t over. Far from it.

The 34-year-old veteran — who had signed a professional try out to attend Flyers camp — will not be joining the team, according to CBC’s Elliotte Friedman.

The saga began when Cleary, who’d spent the last eight years in Detroit, rejected the Wings’ offer of attending their camp on a PTO because he had “guaranteed contract” offers from other NHL clubs.

One of those was believed to be from Philadelphia. The Flyers reportedly offered Cleary a three-year, $8.25 million deal — one that could not be made official until the Flyers became cap compliant (which would’ve occurred when Chris Pronger was put on LTIR at the beginning of the regular season in October).

As such, it came as no surprise on Tuesday when Flyers GM Paul Holmgren told the Philadelphia Inquirer “there are no promises” for a Cleary contract.


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Flyers Sign Former Red Wing Dan Cleary

3-year contract or camp tryout?  That's the question with free agent forward Dan Cleary

3-year contract or camp tryout? That’s the question with free agent forward Dan Cleary

Just when it seemed like the Flyers were done making moves, they shock us with a surprise pickup: forward Dan Cleary. According to multiple reports, Cleary, 34, has signed a 3-year $8.25 million deal to come to Philadelphia. His addition means that Simon Gagne has probably seen his last days in orange and black. It also makes it very likely that top prospect Scott Laughton will spend another year of development in juniors. Many folks are questioning giving another multiple year contract to an aging player but Cleary should slide seamlessly onto the Flyers third line beside Sean Couturier and Matt Read.

(Update): According to GM Paul Holmgren, Cleary has not been extended a contract, and will instead be coming to camp on a professional tryout. This announcement is not surprising however, as the Flyers were already a few million over the cap, so adding Cleary’s $2.75 million annual cap hit would be somewhat tricky. But, despite this announcement, it’s very possible a handshake deal between the two sides is in place. The official announcement of the contract may come out as soon as the Flyers front office gets their ducks in a row and moves out some salary. Andrej Meszaros and his $4 million cap hit could be the primary candidate, if they can find a willing partner.

Cleary is coming off a somewhat disappointing year in which he put up only 15 points (9 goals 6 assists) in 48 games. He was, however, very productive in the postseason for the Red Wings as he chipped in 10 points in 14 games. Despite his age, Cleary is a gritty power forward. He’s sound defensively and could even become a key component of a deep Flyers penalty kill. If the rumors of the agreement are true, it’s pretty safe to assume that Cleary could put up 15-20 goals and around 40 points. He would also provide Stanley Cup experience to a rather young forward group.

With Cleary on board the Flyers lines would look something like this:

The next few days could be very interesting for Flyers fans. Are we going to see Holmgren and assistant GM Ron Hextall work the phones in hopes of making a trade? Or will they opt to move some players to the minors until Pronger’s LTIR exception ($4.9 million) is off the books the first day of the season? Either way the potential addition of a veteran like Dan Cleary will only help in the Flyers quest for that elusive 3rd Cup.

NHL Off-Season Part II: Winners

The Stars added serious depth down the middle.

The Stars added serious depth down the middle with the additions of Horcoff (left) and Seguin (right).

During the NHL off-season it’s often easier to pick out the teams that didn’t accomplish their goals, as opposed to those who completed their summer shopping lists.  Usually you can’t tell who the “winners” are until the product is visible on the ice.  But, since I already picked a few clubs that I thought fell short, here are those who landed on the opposite end of the spectrum.

The Winners:

The Flyers-  Additions: Vincent Lecavalier, Mark Streit, Ray Emery

Okay, I know, there’s an obvious bias here.  However, I don’t think picking the Flyers as winners falls entirely in the “homer” category.  After all, this franchise made its usual splash this off-season.  But it wasn’t just the stereotypical binge-spending we’ve become accustomed to in Philadelphia; no, these were savvy additions.  GM Paul Holmgren surely wanted to erase the sour taste left by last summers failures and subsequent debacle of a season.  First, the blueline desperately needed some tweaking.  So the club brought in former Islanders Captain, and power play specialist, Mark Streit.  Now, he won’t necessarily improve the Flyers defensive zone coverage, but he will replace that puck-moving element they lost with Matt Carle’s departure.  The 4-year term is questionable for a 35-year old defender, but, atleast in the short-term, it’s a good move.

Next, the Flyers replaced the rapidly declining Danny Briere with longtime Lightning stalwart, Vinny Lecavalier.  Lecavalier will bring much-needed size (6’4”) and scoring ability (383 goals) to the second line.  And a 1-2 punch of Giroux-Lecavalier at the center position could become the envy of the league.  Finally, the most important upgrade was the addition of Flyer retread Ray Emery to alleviate the “loss” of Bryz in net.  Emery was stellar (17-1-0, .922sv%, 1.94GAA) for the Blackhawks last season.  And he and Steve Mason, in my mind, are a significant upgrade over the streaky production that Bryz brought to the crease.

Some may be underestimating the Flyers after last seasons debacle, but this club has clearly improved.

Dallas Stars-  Additions: Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, Shawn Horcoff, Sergei Gonchar, Valeri Nichuskin (draft), Dan Ellis

If the Stanley Cup was awarded for off-season performance, the Dallas Stars would be the clear favorites.  This is a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since a surprise run to the Conference Finals in 07-08, but they’ve made serious strides during recent months.  The first stellar move was the hiring of former Red Wings director of amateur scouting, Jim Nill, as General Manager.  Nill immediately put his fingerprints on the franchise by acquiring Russian defender Sergei Gonchar and drafting Russian sensation Valeri Nichuskin.  Gonchar is often credited with helping to develop Evgeni Malkin’s North American game while in Pittsburgh and Nichuskin has that type of elite ability.  Nill then pulled off the stunner of the off-season by acquiring enigmatic forward Tyler Seguin (and Rich Peverly) from the Boston Bruins.  Although controversy swirls around Seguin’s partying ways, he has as much talent as anyone.  He, Peverley, and Horcoff (acquired from Edmonton) could form a solid trio at center for the Stars.  Besides the off-season acquisitions, Dallas also has talented holdovers Jamie Benn (age 24) and netminder Kari Lehtonen (29).  You can never tell how certain additions will mesh on the ice, but on paper, the Dallas Stars have the look of a darkhorse contender.

Detroit Red Wings–  Additions:  Daniel Alfredsson, Stephen Weiss

Although the Red Wings lost some key players in Valteri Filppula (Tampa Bay), Damien Brunner (UFA), Danny Clearly (UFA), and Ian White (UFA), they probably gained more skill with the additions of Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss.  Alfredsson, the longtime Senators captain, surprised everyone when he opted to sign in Detroit instead of Ottawa.  Eventhough he’s 40 years of age, he should fit in seamlessly with the likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.  And Stephen Weiss, 30, will be the perfect second-line center in a deep forward group.  Although Weiss struggled a season ago (4pts in 17 games), he had scored atleast 42 points in his last six full NHL seasons, including two 60pt seasons.  With an interesting mix of youth and experience, the Red Wings should be dangerous competitors in their first season in the Eastern Conference.

Nashville Predators-  Additions:  Matt Cullen, Viktor Stalberg, Eric Nystrom, Matt Hendricks, Seth Jones (draft)

seth jonesNormally legitimate contenders, the Predators suffered through one of their worst seasons in franchise history in 2012-13.  They lost a top-pairing defenseman in Ryan Suter to Minnesota and their offense was absolutely abysmal.  But, despite steering clear of headline names, Nashville was one of the most active teams this summer.  They brought in veteran center Matt Cullen and former Blackhawk speedster Viktor Stalberg to add a little offense.  Stalberg, one of the fastest skaters in the league, should add a dynamic element that this team sorely lacked a season ago.  But, probably the most important addition to the Preds franchise in years, was 4th overall pick Seth Jones.  Projected by most experts as the top prospect in this years draft, Jones,18, is expected to fill the massive void left by Suter.  He and captain Shea Weber could form a truly stellar top-pairing on the blueline.  GM David Poile also added forwards Eric Nystrom and Matt Hendricks to bring a little grit to the Preds forward group.  As long as All-Star netminder Pekka Rinne has a bounce-back campaign, Nashville should rebound in a big way in 2013.

The 2013-14 will be a huge campaign for these four franchises, amongst others.  The true winners of the off-season won’t become clear until the actual contests begin.  Some teams that look like surefire Cup contenders in August aren’t even in the playoff picture come April.  Some new additions will propel their respective squads to untold heights, others will drag their organizations down to cap hell.  It’s a crap-shoot that will only reveal the results with time.  But, as of right now, the Flyers, Red Wings, Stars, and Predators look like they’ve won the off-season odyssey, if only by a nose.

Up next in the Off-Season Series: Breakout Candidates.