Brett Clark: Edmonton Oiler?

Photo: Michael Miller/Wikimedia

Brett Clark, a veteran of 700 NHL games between the regular and post-season, has been a godsend for an Oklahoma City team that basically had to do a midseason rebuild once the 2012 lockout ended. Through 18 games he has 17 points and a plus-7 rating. Is he playing well enough that he’s going to get another NHL shot?

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Todd Nelson’s Take

Yesterday, Bob Stauffer asked Barons head coach Todd Nelson whether Clark was good enough to play in the NHL again.

I think he can. He’s not as fast as he once was, but he’s smart enough to make plays. He controls the game back there, Bob. He’s very calm, he finds breakout passes, makes the pass on the tape. He has a lot of experience, he’s a calming presence for us back there. I think that given the opportunity he’s a guy that could fill a role at that level as maybe a five/six. Right now I still think he has a lot left in him. He enjoys the game, he enjoys coming to the rink. I think he’s the biggest kid coming to the rink because he always has a smile on his face, he brings attitude. He’s a very welcome addition to our back end.

The last comment in particular stood out to me. Clark’s 36 years old, played hundreds of games in the AHL/IHL before finally making it to the majors full-time in 2005. Then he had a long run in the NHL – prior to this season, he hadn’t played a minor-league game since 2004-05. When a guy with that kind of mileage can come to the rink grinning about playing AHL hockey, it says a lot about his love for the game. It makes sense, though – the Atlanta Thrashers decided Clark wasn’t good enough for their blue line when he was 25, and he spent the next four years proving he deserved another NHL shot.

Where He Fits

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Essentially, the role Clark can play in Edmonton is the same one that Lowetide identified here a month ago when he recapped the Oilers defensive depth chart:

Brett Clark. Signed to an AHL contract by the Barons, I think there’s a chance he ends up in Edmonton at some point this season (depending on injuries and what happens at the deadline). Clark has a lot of miles on him but can also play the position.

Despite the Oilers’ impressive win over Chicago and favourable schedule the rest of the way – something that should make their second half an improvement over their first – the odds are very good that management has written off the season by the trade deadline (if they haven’t already). It will take a Herculean effort for this team to play its way back into the playoff spot, and while it is possible – a late season run like the team put together in 2007-08 might do it – it is also unlikely.

That means the Oilers will likely sell at the deadline. Ryan Whitney should be worth a draft and will almost certainly be dealt, but other defencemen could be in play. Ladislav Smid and Mark Fistric seem like good bets to be retained but both players are pending unrestricted free agents so the Oilers have a choice to make there. Theo Peckham could represent another interesting decision – would the restricted free agent be of interest to some team as a seventh defenceman? He is a physical force who has done well at times when paired with a competent puck-mover, and if the Oilers would rather move on the deadline might be a good time to do it.

Presumably the Oilers would prefer seven defencemen, so it will probably take some combination of two moves or two injuries for the team to decide that Brett Clark is worth an NHL contract. That seems like an entirely possible combination between now and the end of the season.

Update: The other issue with Clark not mentioned above is waiver eligibility. One example that was pointed out to me was Tom Kostopoulos in Pittsburgh – the Penguins had him on a tryout deal with their farm team but lost him on waivers to New Jersey when they signed him to an NHL deal. There isn’t really a definitive explanation of the new waiver system publicly available at this juncture, so it is unclear under what circumstances exactly Clark would need to clear waivers – but it could explain why the Oilers have not yet signed him to an NHL deal.

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    • justDOit

      That’s the way I understand it. If he signs an NHL contract, and they want him back in OKC, then waivers it is (like Kostopolous).
      Edit: They signed Kostopolous out of the AHL to an NHL contract, and then wanted him back in Wilkes Barre, which is why he had to go to the waiver wire.

      Now, KLowe wouldn’t lie to Clark, just to get him to sign an AHL contract, would he? Naw!

  • TigerUnderGlass: He didn’t play in Europe, that I can find.. and the sources I checked are usually quite good for that ( and So I think that’s not it.

    I think justDOit’s theory makes the most sense.. although maybe a little odd, cause it seems weird they’d have to recall a guy to sign him to an NHL contract, but the CBA is so convoluted that who knows. And really, why recall him just to sign him to an NHL contract and risk waivers if you’re just going to put him back down? I think I remember chatter about that actually.

    So if that’s the cause, then maybe they wouldn’t have to put Brett Clark on waivers because he will play in the NHL?

    Or is simply signing an AHL player to an NHL contract enough to grant waivers?

    BTW, the more I read, the more justDOit’s thoughts sound right..

  • Aitch

    Kostopoulos didn’t play in Europe either. So, I guess whatever applied to Tom will apply to Brett. I like the gamble of bringing him up after the deadline though – assuming we trade away more d-men than are brought in.

  • I’ve fiddled with the update a bit, because the waiver process is so opaque at this point. Waivers are certainly a concern in some scenarios – Kosotopoulos, for example, was re-assigned to the AHL after signing a two-way deal – but I’m not sure Clark would need to clear waivers to move into the NHL. Since there isn’t a spot open right now, that’s not what would likely happen – he’d almost certainly be re-assigned to the AHL right now, which would put him on the waiver wire.

  • RexLibris

    Timing could be a big part of the Clark deal.

    To keep the contract numbers down and allow room for some of their draft picks to be signed, the Oilers may want to wait until after the trade deadline when they can expect to move out one or two bodies.

    Depending on whether the same 4 callup rule is in effect after the trade deadline (I have this nagging memory that it was changed at some point during negotiations), then they may sign and recall him as one of their call-ups.

    The Oilers are currently running 49 contracts and will need to make room for Rieder, Bigos, Musil, and a few others graduating from junior this spring. Sutton, Whitney, Hordichuk, Vande Velde, House and Byers are the obvious ones. Plante and Tyrvainen may also be gone off that list.

    • By my count we are at 49 contracts, so the first note would be that it would put us at 50 pro contracts, which is the limit (which is still OK, but they probably wouldn’t want to stay at 50). Add to that, they’d need to send someone down to OKC or trade in order for Montador to be picked up. I wouldn’t send down either of our only waiver-free guys that make sense (Hartikainen and Paajarvi) because I think Paajarvi is looking real good right now, and Hartikainen’s size might be of use here (debates on that).

      That said, I think the Oilers need to shed some weight anyways. Hordichuk would be one I’d put on waivers. Maybe move Eager, Petrell, (unlikely since Krueger loves him) or a d-man?

      It’s unlikely anything would happen in that regard just yet. The Oilers management are definitely not known for being very quick at making any decisions or changes, so I wouldn’t see it happening. Plus, the deadline is coming, so they’ll probably wait it out a bit before trading someone like Whitney.

      Humoring that we’d pick him up, I think he’d be OK in the bottom pairing for our D, but wouldn’t expect him to be a big upgrade (if at all) on the guys we have there. He’s also just coming back from concussion, which might not be the greatest sign either. So I personally don’t think it would be a good fit for a pick up.

  • RexLibris

    Personally I believe that the Oilers should be talking contract right now with Smid and Whitney. They continually ship out proven Dmen in search for somebody better, but year after year fail at providing enough depth of actual NHL players on the back end. If the asking price doesn’t fit into the budget then you gotta do what you gotta do, but instead of getting rid of Whitney, who IMO can be a pretty solid 5-6 option if paired with someone other than Potter, they should see if he is willing to re-up at 1-2 years at $2M per. Whitney has shown signs he is starting to come out of his funk and it would be typical Oilers fashion to get rid of a guy for a pick or prospect that is years away from being an NHL player, only to see him do well on another team

  • I know that we likely won’t make the playoffs but at what point does the cycle of purging talent at the deadline end? Why do we feel the need to move out players that we developed for another draft pick? So that we can trade that draft pick 5 or 6 years down the road?

    I hope we re-sign Smid. Moving Whitney for a draft pick will be a lost deal IMO. It’s better than nothing but I am not sure that we find a better player than Whitney this summer unless we grow a pair and make a bold move.

    As for Clark, good for him and it’s nice to hear that he is still enjoying the game. I sure wish that more professionaly atheletes were like that. That said, unless this team is in playoff contention, I am not really that excited about a 36 year old player. He might do better off mentoring the youngsters in OKC.

  • vetinari

    Trade everyone with a vowel in his name!!! Or not… it really doesn’t matter at this stage of the season but for the record, I doubt that we’ll see Clark in an Oiler uniform this year unless there is a massive defenceman clearout at the deadline. Besides, OKC likely needs him more to stabilize their defensive corps.

  • vetinari

    If I am looking at trading anyone its Nick Shultz and Corey Potter. Shultz gets you a bigger return and really has he played any better than Whitney who has actually has shown some umph lately? Potter is a depth dman on a winning team going into the playoffs. If you can you would probably want Peckham and Fistric in your bottome pairing.You need a duo to be able to grind down the oppositions forwards. Does Potter and N Shultz scare anyone in the NHL. Couple of marshmallows if you ask me.

    Need more Mike Browns.Cripes the guy looks like a hockey player.Bit of ugly on that boy.Scars.Got the hillbilly beard going.Has that crazy eyes look. Where the frak was this guy all year? And why the frak wasn’t Tambo kickin Eagers ass to the curb sooner if this guy was available. He looks like some of Don Cherry’s old bull terriers. Need a couple more of that type in the lineup. We like lunch pail guys in Edmonton.But we like it even more when those lunch pail guys can hammer the opposition into the dirt and then go right back and do it again.

  • MarcusBillius


    The Oilers win over Chicago was perhaps more lucky than impressive?

    A Brett Clark would be a welcome addition to the blue, given the deplorable condition our puck-handlers are in.

    • Nyet,the win over Chicago was a well executed system win, the score matters not, we are an offensive team and we want teams to be coming back on us because that means we are executing properly and have a lead, no luck there, in fact Chicago will learn to hate us soon because we are going to bury their franchise for ten years, we are their present and future rivalry and so far things dont look good for them as we eat them up and spit them out on a regular basis even now and we arent even close to 100% dialed in as a team.

      Our defense needs to evolve into a standup defense as we are seeing already, this is a product of league evolution systemwise in the last two years, many teams are useing our system now and the only way to stop us it is to stand us up and pray. If Brett can fill this role he is set if not he is a part-timer. All our d-men save one, need
      to be tall, lanky, long reach players who can execute and recover from standup checks open-ice on the blueline before the opponents, and nasty TERRATORIALISM needs to be a pre-requisite.

      Our bench didnt have the right replys adjustment wise against Chicago, but it didnt matter because they didnt have the right replys to our initial system presentation and this is the dynamic we want every night, we want to be in the drivers seat. Having them come back but come up short is the way its supposed to be when you are an offensive team, we WANT this dynamic every game. Get ready because Ralph has learned a few things lately about the system he uses and the line combos he utilises. I believe this team is going to make a very strong run at the playoffs and i predicted a sixth place conferance finish and havent given up yet.

  • NewAgeSys wrote:

    Nyet,the win over Chicago was a well executed system win

    That’s right people – Edmonton MEANT to go the entire third period without a scoring chance, because that’s what teams with a good system do!

    I also look forward to Edmonton’s sixth place “conferance finish” – because I too expect them to win every game between now and the end of the season (which is basically what it will take)!