Andy Strickland reported this on Hockeybuzz earlier last week, however Jeremy Rutherford at the St. Louis Post Dispatch let fans know that the Blues made it official today. The Blues announced that Center Jay McClement has agreed to a 3 year deal worth more than $4 million dollars.
Per Strickland and Rutherford the deal breaks down this way:
2009-10: $1.4 million
2010-11: $1.45 million
2011-12: $1.5 million
Jeremy Rutherford quoted John Davidson on McClement:
I think he’s still improving. No. 1, he really has a defined role that he embraced last season. That was, he was the lead guy on the penalty kill, he was the lead guy on matchups, regarding the other team’s top lines. He’s maturing as a player in understanding what his strengths are, yet there's still upside."
High praise from one of the better guys in the NHL.
Is this a good signing? Yes it is. Why?
McClement produced 26 points while being the top forward on a Top 10 PK unit as well as being the primary Center to match up against the likes of Thronton, Datsyuk, Nash, etc. He finished a -10, which isn't bad considering how little offense his line is expected to produce. McClement was the top face-off man for the Blues at 52.1%. I am not counting McDonald's 58% due to the amount of face-offs he had compared to Jay. McClement was second on the Blues with 44 takeaways (Backes had 45). His 57 blocks were the most of any Blues Forward. McClement was the ONLY forward on the Blues to play more than 2:45min a night on the PK. SH TOI/G 3:50. Who was next? Yan Stastny at 2:34.
So Jay put up solid numbers and played a sound defensive game. Couldn't someone do this without being paid over $1mil per?
Would comparable players like Radek Bonk take $1.5mil? Would Lehtinen, Grier, Pahlsson, Madden? Sure you might be able to get Reasoner, Zigomanis, Kopecky, Yelle, Peca for the same or less. However they did not excel in the Blues system, McClement did. While that list is comprised of mainly vets, they would still have to come in to a new environment. Why not keep you have drafted and developed?
So if you don't go outside, why not stay inside. Could Stastny, Whitfield, or Paddock replace McClement?
In 37 Games Stastny had 9 takeaways, an average of (rounding) 0.3 a game. McClement per game rate was at 0.54. Stastny took 102 face-offs with a 45.1% winning %. Stastny had 18 blocks in 34 games for a .53 per game pace. McClement per game was at .70 per game pace. As far as offensive play, you aren't paying either player to be offensive minded, so this shouldn't be a major consideration. You are paying them both to back check, play the PK and shut down the other line, establish a forecheck and get pressure on the D. Scoring is like #5 on that list. 3 SHG for McClement in 08-09 (and many more opportunities)...how many for Yan? Just one.
Whitfield? If he was that good and deserving of the promotion, why did he not come up over Porter, Winchester, Regier, or Paddock earlier this year? They all have similar time in the AHL and play similar roles. Whitefield didn't look like a fish out of water in his 3 NHL games this year, but he didn't look much better than Stastny either. Paddock was given 16 games with the big club, not that he was bad, he just didn't play as well as who we already had in McClement, Stastny, and Hinote.
I know there are fans out there still upset that the 2nd Round pick didn't turn in to more of an offensive player. I know he is just a grinder. But you cannot refute that Jay found his role last year and played it well. The in house options aren't as good and the guys on the outside will cost more than Jay. McClement was the best option to fill the shut down Center role. Why did Ryan Jonhson not get this contract? Age and lack of offensive upside. You can say Jay is streaky and not offensively gifted, but he has produced as much in one year as a "checking center" than RJ did from 05 to 07 (2 seasons) and played the same defensive game. Not keeping RJ likely turned Jay in to what he is now, which is fine with me.