The Devils began formal contract talks with potential restricted free-agent David Clarkson yesterday, according to Bergen Record reporter Tom Gulitti.

Clarkson is being represented by his agent, Pat Morris, in the talks.

With the hiring of John MacLean last week, Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello has been able to begin trying to sign free agents. Lamoriello would like to make an offer to all the team’s restricted free agents, but stressed the priority in re-signing Clarkson.

“[Clarkson is] a Group 2 free agent that we have to re-sign,” Lamoriello said to Gulitti.

Clarkson was excited to here that his signing is a priority.

“That’s good to hear,” Clarkson said. “I have a lot of respect for Mr. Lamoriello. All I can do it wait, but I’ve worn that Devils’ jersey for three and a half years. That’s the jersey I’ll always want to wear. I love playing there. The fans have been good to me. He’s been good to me. I really enjoy myself there.”

Usually, general managers and agents get together during the NHL draft, which begins this Friday (round one) and continues on Saturday (rounds two through seven).

Clarkson also expressed excitement for possibly playing under MacLean this season.

“I was happy to see John MacLean get picked as the coach,” Clarkson said. “That’s a positive thing I think for the organization. When he was (an assistant), he would pull me aside and help me and he was very understanding of the players. He’d go out and tell you what you could do better. But I just think he’s going to be a very good head coach and I thought it was a real positive when I heard the news. Especially having Larry Robinson back (as an assistant coach) was just amazing because he’s such a nice guy.”

If the Devils cannot re-sign Clarkson by noon on July 1, he then becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. He would have until 5 p.m. on July 5 to file for arbitration. Clarkson’s restricted status allows the Devils would have the ability to match any offer from another team.

A few weeks ago, I put up a post debating what the worth of Clarkson would be to the organization. With the cap increasing to $59.4 million, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Clarkson get a raise and a two or three year deal. I think Clarkson has some solid potential, but the ankle injuries derailed him last season. Lamoriello won’t break the bank, but I think we’ll see him get a slight increase from his $875,000 he made last season.

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