The Wild added a veteran with more than 600 games of National Hockey League experience to its blue line today. Minnesota signed defenseman Brett Clark to a one-year contract.
The 36-year-old has skated in 681 NHL games during 13 NHL seasons with Montreal, Atlanta, Colorado and Tampa Bay. The 6-foot, 195-pound blueliner signed as a free agent after collecting 17 points (1-16=17) in 18 games with the Oklahoma City Barons in the American Hockey League (AHL) this season.
“He’s a veteran NHL defenseman who has played a lot of games in the League,” Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. “He’s a guy capable of being used in any situation. He certainly provides depth, but also the experience and poise he brings will benefit our back end.”
Clark notched 15 points (2-13=15) in 82 contests with Tampa Bay last season and ranked second in the NHL with 199 blocked shots and fourth on the team with 118 hits.
“He’s always been a two-way defenseman,” Fletcher said. “He’s a guy who thinks the game well and is solid (positional play) and can move the puck when he gets a chance.”
The native of Wapella, Sask., said that the Wild reached out to him on Monday and talks swelled from there. While in Oklahoma City, he was hopeful that he’d be able to work his way back into the NHL.
“It’s very exciting to get back up here,” Clark said. “I knew that I had to go down there and give everything that I had, like I was playing in the show. Because I’m playing for another deal or another opportunity somewhere.”
Clark said that he had interest from other teams around the league but felt that Minnesota was the best fit.
“I like the way things are going here,” Clark said. “This has always been a favorite place to play as on a visiting team.”
The veteran feels like he is prepared to play, having just come off of six games in nine days with Oklahoma City, but is unlikely to play tomorrow night as the Wild hosts the Colorado Avalanche.
“Brett’s going to have to get in some practices with us,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “I would like to see him for a couple of days (before inserting him into the lineup).”
But the blueliner will add depth and another piece to a defense that is keeping opposing offenses at 2.40 goals per game, seventh best in the NHL.
“Depth is very important,” Yeo said. “Our defensive group is doing a really good job for us, but this is a guy we can add that adds a veteran presence, puck moving ability and a guy who can think that game well and has been around for a long time.”
In 2010-11, he notched 31 points (9-22=31) in 82 games. He tallied three points (1-2=3) in 18 playoff games to help the Lightning reach the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals.
“He’s been in situations and he knows how to handle them,” Yeo said. “That’s certainly an asset.”
The blueliner is thrilled to be back in the NHL and is ready to contribute to the Wild any way that he can.
“I can’t wait to get on the ice. It’s going to be exciting to put an NHL jersey on, especially one here with these fans and this organization.
“It’s going to be a blast.”
When Clark slips on that Wild sweater, he’ll wear number 5.
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