You can say what you want and turn it the way you want saying it would have been stupid back then. At the end of the day.
1- Lou made his first and only offer the day before Clarkson can talk with other teams
2- He wanted more than was Lou was willing to spend.
3- He walked for nothing
4- Said the leafs would throw the bank at him.
5- Signed with the leafs
at the second Clarkson refused that offer it was over and Lou moved on.
i'm 5/5 on my predictions, called it months ago. it's not a coincidence. I was right and thats it. You can try to tweak it the way you want, i was right and it would have been the best move "in this particular situation" considering all the factors.
You are not Lou, nor are you Dave Nonis. The fact that you 'called it' has zero bearing on what actually took place, because none of those things were close to a certainty, especially since you don't have any idea whether Clarkson would want to play for the Leafs and would possibly give up money to do so. In fact, you don't even have any idea whether the Devils offered more money than the Leafs.
And again, the Devils could've made the playoffs, too, and won several rounds. They didn't, but again, I exist in the world of possibility, not in the world of hindsight.