Edmonton Oilers claim Adam Clendening off waivers

Clendening, Adam

Well, how about that. The Oilers have made a waiver claim. Right-shooting defenceman Adam Clendening, most recently of the Anaheim Ducks, is now property of Edmonton. 

The bullet points on this one are pretty straight-forward:

  • Clendening is 23 years of age and was a second-round pick in the 2011 Draft
  • He is a right-shooting offensive defenceman
  • Perhaps most critically of all, he is a restricted free agent this summer, coming off a one-year, $760,000 contract.

This is a profile that makes some sense for the Oilers. Edmonton adds a still-improving player, one with an offensive dimension and who plays on a side of positional weakness, and does so at essentially no risk since they can walk away in the summer if they so desire. 

And then there’s that. The trade deadline is approaching, and as we discussed this morning the Oilers are going to be sellers. Any or all of Justin Schultz, Eric Gryba or Mark Fayne (probably in that order of likelihood) could be dealt and among other things the addition of Clendening gives Edmonton a warm body to slot in as a replacement. 

None of this touches on how good a player he is, however, so we should probably look at that, particularly since the Oilers will be the seventh team Clendening has dressed for since the start of 2014-15 (AHL: Rockford, Utica, Wilkes-Barre; NHL: Chicago, Vancouver, Pittsburgh). 

In his draft year, Clendening was known as for his offensive brilliance, with The Hockey News saying that he might have put up the same numbers Ryan Murphy did if he’d played junior hockey instead of the college game. However, the two scouts quoted by THN in their draft preview both had significant concerns about his size and his speed.

“Some people thought [he would score more] but you have to remember he’s playing college hockey against men,” said one scout. “The knock is his skating and his size.”

“I’m not a fan of his skating and he struggles with his lateral mobility,” echoed another. “He gets beat wide and is an average-sized guy. He has skills, but I don’t think his feet are good enough to get by on that size.”

Still, those concerns have to be kept in context. Clendening was a second-round pick that year despite his modest size and underwhelming footspeed. In 2014, THN talked to Chicago’s director of amateur scouting, Mark Kelley, and while  Kelley acknowledged that skating was still an issue he praised the rearguard for his poise with the puck, calling him “an elite passer in all three zones.”

Clendening put up 12 goals and 59 points in the AHL in his last full season there before his trek around North America started in earnest in 2014-15. Since then, he’s played 30 NHL games and recorded just five points. Most of the defencemen he’s played with have seen their numbers improve with him; the exception are fellow right-shot Michal Rozsival and Vancouver’s Luca Sbisa in small, small samples. 

I was asked on Lowetide’s show yesterday whether I’d be interested in him as the Oilers’ G.M. and answered that I wouldn’t be, remembering mostly the comments about his skating. Having looked at his underlying NHL numbers, I’m a little more optimistic. 

This is a low-risk play, and it might pay off. There have been players I’ve liked better on the waiver wire, but Frankie Corrado isn’t a power play specialist, David Rundblad had term on his contract and Kevin Connauton is yet another left shot, so the Oilers decision to hold off and roll the dice on Clendening is understandable. Fit matters a lot with a waiver wire guy, and Clendening could not have asked for a better opportunity. 

Now it’s just a matter of seeing whether that undeniable offensive ability and patience with the puck is enough to overcome the twin knocks of size and skating. 

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  • Spaceman Spiff

    The Oilers are his seventh pro team in 18 months. If you’re devoting more than, say, 50 words to analysis on this, you’re overthinking it.

    If he doesn’t stick in Edmonton, it’s the AHL, Europe or the K-League for this guy.

    (41 words)