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Tampa Bay Lightning signs free-agent D Brett Clark; Nate Thompson files for arbitration

The Tampa Bay Lightning signed veteran defenseman Brett Clark to a two-year, $3 million deal that pays $1.3 million per season and also provided a $400,000 signing bonus. He has played 11 years in the league, the last six with the Avalanche.

Clark, 33, put up some offensive numbers from 2005-07 with 19 goals and 75 points. But a dislocated shoulder injury in February 2008 ended his season and required surgery. He has five goals and 32 points his past two seasons, but has remained a solid defender. He was second in the league in 2008-09 with 238 blocked shots. He was 11th last season with 162 in just 64 games, including 12 in a Nov. 6 game against the Blackhawks. But Clark had some trouble keeping his spot in the lineup last season and 13 times was a healthy scratch.

"Colorado made changes," Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said. "They had some young defensemen come in to play and beat him out for a job."

Yzerman said he hopes Clark uses that as motivation.

"You've got to play hard. You've got to earn your spot," Yzerman said.

Ultimately, though, Yzerman called Clark "a steady, intelligent defenseman who moves the puck. Very understated. Plays his position well. Has good hockey sense. Just a nice, solid defenseman who will compliment our group and round out the defensive unit."

With the signing, Tampa Bay has eight defensemen under contract -- Clark, Pavel Kubina, Mattias Ohlund, Victor Hedman, Matt Walker, Matt Lashoff and Matt Smaby -- and still could sign Mike Lundin and Paul Ranger. With that in mind, Yzerman said it is time to start rounding out the offensive lines, so his concentration will be more focused in that direction.

Here is the official announcement from the team:

The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed defenseman Brett Clark to a two-year contract today, Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman announced.

"In Brett Clark, we are adding an experienced, intelligent defenseman who plays the game efficiently," Yzerman said. "He'll not only help steady and stabilize our defense, we expect him to help mentor our younger defensemen as they grow and develop. We are pleased he elected to join the Lightning today."

Clark, 6-foot, 195 pounds, has played in 517 career NHL games with the Colorado Avalanche, Atlanta Thrashers and Montreal Canadiens. He has amassed 34 goals and 139 points with 11 power play goals. Clark has had a even rating or higher in five of the previous six seasons and averaged more than 20 minutes in ice time per game in three of the previous four. He led the NHL in shifts per game during the 2007-08 season.

A native of Wapella, Saskatchewan, Clark has also appeared in 10 career Stanley Cup playoff games, all with Colorado, recording two goals and four points. He scored a goal in his postseason debut in 2006 and finished the playoffs tied for the team scoring lead among defensemen with two goals and four points.

Clark played in 64 games with the Avalanche last season, recording three goals and 20 points with two power play goals. He led Colorado in blocked shots with 162 and was tied for fourth among defensemen in points.

Prior to beginning his professional career, Clark played one season at the University of Maine where he skated in 39 games, recording seven goals and 38 points. That season he was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team. The following season he joined the Canadian National Team.

Clark was drafted by Montreal in sixth round, 154th overall, of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.   

In other news, center Nate Thompson filed for salary arbitration. He was the only Lightning player to do so. Players are not locked in to arbitration as their contracts can be worked out at any time.

[Last modified: Wednesday, August 4, 2010 12:15am]

    

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