I’ve wanted to put together some kind of all-encompassing set of thoughts on the Red Wings’ signing of Daniel Cleary but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I find myself just repeating what I said when Kyle Quincey was brought back just over a week ago, that the Red Wings’ youth movement is a lie.
The Red Wings – personified by Ken Holland but lets not pretend this was him going rogue here – gave Cleary a contract because they had told him they would take care of him this year when they signed him last summer.
Not because Cleary earned one last season. Because they felt they owed him. Not because for hockey reasons. For personal ones.
Daniel Cleary, who scored eight points in 52 games last year, got a $2.5 million contract (because, let’s face it, he’s going to get the $1 million bonus for ten games played). Four goals got him a raise of $750,000.
Four years ago, Kirk Maltby scored four goals in 52 games and missed the end of the season due to injury, just as Cleary did last year. The case could be made that Maltby, part of four Detroit Stanley Cups and a 14-season Red Wing, could have been owed something from the team. What did he get that summer? An invite to training camp, which led to a two-way contract offer, which he turned down in favor of retirement.
Maltby, a veritable Detroit legend, got a two-way contract. Cleary got $2.5 million.
Some will try to justify it. Detroit is no worse than they were last year and they made the playoffs last year so that’s good enough. Cleary has been hurt but he was good when he was healthy and he’s healthy again so we can expect a return to form.
True, the Red Wings made the playoffs. And if making the playoffs – keeping that streak alive – is all that matters, then this is a team that might be good enough to do it. And, yes, Cleary has been hurt, and might be able to be better, but he’s also older and coming off of surgery.
Justify it if you want. I just don’t buy it.
“Taking care of” Cleary could have been a two-way deal at the league minimum. It could have been a front-office gig. If he turned those down, it’s not in Holland’s hands anymore. There was absolutely nothing that required Cleary getting $2.5 million on a one-way deal and a no-trade clause (not that anyone would trade for him, especially on that contract).
Holland and the Red Wings went above and beyond to make an unnecessary move even worse. There is no excuse for that.