Tampa Bay Lightning signs free agent D Brett Clark

Defenseman Brett Clark spent six seasons with Colorado but saw his playing time drop last season.

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Defenseman Brett Clark spent six seasons with Colorado but saw his playing time drop last season.

Brett Clark admitted last season was frustrating but said it also provided an opportunity.

A healthy scratch 13 times with the Avalanche, and in 11 of the team's final 19 regular-season games, Clark said he was forced to take stock.

"I had to get my mental game to where I had to improve a little bit in tough situations," he said.

Clark said he will bring that higher standard to the Lightning, which on Monday gave him a two-year, $3 million contract.

"It is," the defenseman said, "a new and exciting start."

Clark, 33, who will make $1.3 million per season but also received a $400,000 signing bonus, has made his name as a shot-blocker. He was second in the league in 2008-09 with 263 blocked shots. In just 64 games last season, he was 11th with 162, including 12 in a Nov. 6 game against the Blackhawks.

His offense has dipped since surgery in February 2008 to repair a dislocated shoulder. Clark has five goals, 32 points the past two seasons compared with 19 goals and 75 points from 2005 to 2007.

But Clark said his shoulder is "100 percent" and added, "I think I can still put up numbers. With the team we have, I'll just get the forwards the puck and let them do what they do."

"He's a steady, intelligent defenseman who moves the puck," Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said. "Very understated, plays his position well, has good hockey sense. Just a nice, solid defenseman who will complement our group and round out the defensive unit."

Not that Yzerman gives Clark a pass on last season, his 11th in the league and sixth with the Avalanche.

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

Yzerman said Clark should use that as motivation:

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

The Lightning will give Clark every opportunity.

ARBITRATION: Center Nate Thompson, a restricted free agent, was the only Lightning player to file for arbitration. The sides can negotiate until the hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Lightning signs free agent D Brett Clark 07/05/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 6, 2010 8:20am]

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