Adam Clendening has been traded twice in his short career in professional hockey. He was selected 36th overall in the 2011 NHL entry draft and has yet to significantly impact a team. During the 2014-15 season Clendening officially began his NHL career. He played in four games as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, where he tallied a goal and an assist, and 17 with the Vancouver Canucks, where produced two assists.
It certainly was not a flashy debut and Clendening failed to stick at the NHL level. However, he is now 22-years old and will have to pass through waivers in the 2015-16 season. The Pittsburgh Penguins are in a bind. Clendening has had an excellent training camp and has looked great during preseason action. But it is just preseason play and no where near the intensity of regular season hockey. The Penguins have dramatically improved their forward depth, but it’s came at the expense of their blue line.
Clendening Could Improve Penguins Blue Line
Defensemen Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff both left in free agency and the remaining players leave much to be desired. Sure, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Ian Cole and Ben Lovejoy are solid NHL players, but that is it. Dumoulin, Clendening and Derrick Pouliot all have a lot of potential, but are very young and have yet to consistently play at a high level. It’s been assumed that Dumoulin will be in the Penguins opening lineup, but he has not played with a lot of intensity this preseason.
Then there are the veterans Rob Scuderi and Sergei Gonchar. Scuderi counts for $3.375 million against the $71.4 million salary cap and Gonchar is on a professional try-out contract. But all signs have pointed to “Sarge” being signed to a contract before the season begins. Both of these two players are no longer viable NHL defenders. They have had long and great careers, but their skills have faded with age. Gonchar can still produce offensively, but his defense game is worse than ever. This is where Clendening steps in.
I like Adam Clendening's game today. Pretty solid player. Moves the puck nicely. Worth keeping an eye on.
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) September 26, 2015
He’s capable of putting up points, while playing a reasonably responsible defensive game. He is not the biggest player, the fastest skater and he won’t be challenging Letang as the team’s top defender, but he can improve the blue line. At this stage of his career, Clendening is a much better option that Scuderi, Gonchar or even the talented Derrick Pouliot. But Pittsburgh needs to be careful with Clendening because he does have to pass through waivers.
The Penguins cannot afford to lose a promising blue liner for no return and that makes Pouliot a better candidate to see NHL time since he will not be eligible for waivers. But at the same time, Pouliot’s preseason has been abysmal and head coach Mike Johnston made it very clear that he’s no lock to make the NHL roster.
A few short months ago, Clendening was considered a throw in on the Sutter trade, but he is proving to be much more than that. The Penguins have made a habit of “recycling” old players to attempt to rebuild the glory days, but it’s time for an infusion of youth. Clendening can contribute and help the team now, so utilize his talents while he’s still a cost controlled asset.
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Michael Pityk is an analyst who has written for numerous sites since beginning his professional career. He’s acted as a credentialed member of the media for the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Penguins. His work has been featured in Sports Illustrated, The Sports Journal, MSN, PensLabyrinth, Montreal Hockey Talk, ESPN Pittsburgh, The Hockey Writers, Todays SlapShot and The Bleacher Report. He formerly was the editor of Pens Labyrinth and an analyst for The Sports Journal. Michael presently acts as an NHL Analyst for The Hockey Writers