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Clendening Seeks Chance to Play More Regularly

New Coyotes defenseman wants to be part of rebuild in Arizona

by Dave Vest @davest4yotes / Coyotes Sr. Director of News Content

GLENDALE - The Coyotes added depth on defense when they signed free agent Adam Clendening to a one-year contract on Saturday, the first day of the NHL's free agent signing period.

Clendening, 24, spent last season playing for the New York Rangers, for whom he notched two goals and nine assists and a plus-3 rating in 31 games.

"It's a good opportunity," said Clendening, who is craving more games and ice time. "It's a chance for me to get maybe an opportunity every night, and really get my foot in the door in the League. I know it's been a little bit of a rough ride, but we'll go from there and hopefully it works … They have a lot of hope for me and I know they're very excited to see what I can do on an every-night basis … I think it gets easier the more you play."

The Coyotes are Clendening's sixth NHL team since Chicago drafted him 36th overall in 2011.

"I kind of look at it as a positive," Clendening said. "I'm still in the League, still kicking away here. People are still wanting me and giving me opportunities. Some teams are in different stages, and I think this is a good spot for me. I think they're in more of a rebuild and looking to stay young and not in such a win-now mode. Some of the teams I've been on have been that way and don't completely give their young guys a nice little look. I still consider myself relatively young for the League."

Clendening played with some elite players in Chicago, Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Edmonton and New York. He said some of them taught him how to manage the game and how sometimes less is more.

He lists Duncan Keith, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin as a few of his mentors.

"I've been lucky," Clendening said. "I've played with a lot of All-Stars and superstars. I just tried to take little bits and pieces from everyone and the way they handle themselves, and everything like that, on a daily basis." 

Clendening likely will compete with Luke Schenn and Kevin Connauton for a spot in Arizona's third defensive pairing. The top two pairs appear set with Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Jakob Chychrun and Alex Goligoski.

"We think he can be an impactful player," Chayka said of Clendening, who played for USA Hockey and Boston University before turning pro. "... He has a lot to offer and hasn't really gotten the opportunity or chance that he would have liked to date … He's just an efficient player. He moves the puck and he moves it effectively … He's got a good stick, he's smart and he makes plays, so when you put that all together then you end up getting a player that plays a lot in the offensive zone and allows his forwards to get the puck up quick and go on the offense. That's what we're looking for from him."

Meanwhile, the Coyotes learned Saturday they will move forward minus 36-year-old forward Radim Vrbata, the team's leading point producer (55) from last season. 

Vrbata signed a one-year deal with the Florida Panthers.

"We talked to his camp and let him know that we planned on being patient and seeing where the market set and looking at some other trade opportunities and where things evolved," Chayka said. "Obviously, he got a deal that he felt was right for him and his family, and that was kind of our communication with them. If there's something that makes sense on July 1, he can take it, right? And that's his right."

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