Fan Fuel NHL hidden gems: Clarke MacArthur

Fan Fuel's Peter Houston uses advanced statistics to show why signing free agent forward Clarke MacArthur was a great move for the Ottawa Senators.


Clarke MacArthur is a very valuable hockey player. He’s not a star, nothing about his game especially stands out and you won’t see many fans with his name on their jersey, but he quietly and consistently produces. The fact that the Ottawa Senators were able to pick him up for $6.5 million over two years is going to prove to be a very good deal for the now cash strapped club.

Consider this: Daniel Alfredsson reportedly asked for a one-year, $7 million contract or a two-year, $12 million contract. So for arguments sake, let’s say he was asking for double per year what MacArthur was. Is Alfredsson worth twice as much as MacArthur? Not at all.

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Not only is MacArthur 12 years younger, over the last three years (2010-13) MacArthur has tallied 86 points at even strength (125 total points, 0.64 PPG) while Alfredsson has put up only 58 (116 total points, 0.66 PPG). MacArthur’s puck possession numbers have also been better. Now, I understand that Alfredsson was the captain and the leader and the face of the franchise and countless other things that are unquantifiable, but in the categories that you can count like goals, assists, shots, age, dollars, MacArthur is much more attractive than Alfredsson. I realize it was never a choice between the two, it was just a convenient way to illustrate how much more efficient it is to allocate your limited dollars on MacArthur.

MacArthur has actually outperformed a lot of “big name” players at even strength over the last three years, not just Alfredsson. Here is a list of players who have the same or less points than MacArthur at even strength over the last three years (Only Carter played less minutes than MacArthur):

* Ilya Kovalchuk (now in the KHL, but was making $6 million a year)
* Joe Pavelski ($6 million starting in 2013-14)
* Patrick Marleau ($6.9 million)
* Nathan Horton ($5.3 million)
* David Backes ($4.5 million)
* Scott Hartnell ($4.75 million)
* Dustin Brown ($7.25 million starting in 2013-14)
* Jeff Carter ($5.27 million)

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Am I saying MacArthur is better than any of these players? No. What I’m saying is his you don’t need to invest that type of money to get similar production. And it’s not like MacArthur racks up all his points playing against the John Scotts of the world. He spent most of his minutes over the last three years playing alongside Mikhail Grabovski on the Leafs’ primary checking line.

The one knock on MacArthur is that his total points per game numbers have declined every year since his 62 point performance in 2010-11. Was that season just a fluke? Well, his on-ice shooting percentage and PDO were right around league average so it’s not like he was getting abnormally lucky. The thing is, those numbers have stayed more or less the same over the last three years as his point production has declined, which means you can’t attribute his declining production to bad luck. It probably has more to do with his decreased ice-time, which went from 17:06/game in 2010-11, to 15:50/game in 11-12, to 14:54/game this past year.

MacArthur probably falls somewhere in between the 0.75 PPG player he was in 10-11, and the 0.5 PPG player he was last year. The point is, Clarke MacArthur is definitely undervalued. It is truly quite extraordinary that the Maple Leafs were not willing to give him the contract the Sens did. Instead, they saved their money for guys like Tyler Bozak, who will make $4.2 million a year even though he has scored 22 less points than MacArthur at even strength over the last three years, playing more minutes with substantially better linemates.

Instead, the Sens swooped in and picked MacArthur up for $3.25 million per year and in the process have found a diamond in the rough.

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