The Dan Cleary signing capped a dismal first two weeks of Free Agency for Wings’ fans. Mr. Cleary’s popularity among Wings fans right about now would be comparable to that of the car you bought a couple years ago. You know the one that was reliable and got you where you needed to go. But maybe, you put a few too many miles on that car and now, well, it is not so reliable. It shows flashes of its old self, but mainly it is too slow and its reliability is nonexistent.
But think about where that car has gotten you. No one doubts that Cleary is a warrior. In fact his status as an all guts type of player is precisely why, if anyone, Cleary could come back to form. Now, sitting here on July 25, should Cleary only be the Wings’ 13th or 14th forward? Absolutely, he failed to produce, pure and simple. But, if injuries occur (which they always do) or management swings a trade sending out a forward, or two, for a defensemen, then Cleary could become a valuable heart and soul third/fourth liner again. Cleary’s health is paramount to his ascension back into the good graces of fans, but with a potential cap hit of $2.5 million, it is a low risk scenario to bring in a valuable veteran. Or is that really the problem right there, another “valuable veteran”?
However, this is not the veteran loaded team of 2011 anymore. The Wings on opening day will have at least five players who individually played in less than one hundred regular season games. The Wings let go of two of the three veterans that slowed the growth of the young players, but management kept the right player. They kept the heart and soul guy, the warrior who battled through the playoffs in ’08. Cleary can instill in the kids a winning mentality and be valuable off the ice. The questions loom in his ability to be productive on the ice. Cleary might have lost the faith of the fan base, but the coach and GM believe in him. Maybe, just maybe, this was a smart low-risk signing.