By Jim Hagerty
SAN JOSE — A former IceHogs crowd favorite is expected to be in the lineup Friday as Rockford faces the San Jose Barracuda at the SAP Center.
Adam Clendening, who spent three seasons in Rockford, was traded back to the Blackhawks Tuesday. He made his pro debut with the IceHogs in 2012, a year after Chicago drafted him out of Boston University. The defenseman scored 22 goals and recorded 96 assists in 185 games with the IceHogs before he was traded to Vancouver in exchange for Gustav Forsling.
Clendening, 25, assumed the role of journeyman since leaving Rockford. He’s had stints with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers, and was in a one-year deal with the Arizona Coyotes when Tuesday’s transaction also landed Anthony Duclair in Chicago and shipped Richard Panik and IceHogs forward Laurent Dauphin to the Coyotes.
In 21 games with the AHL Tuscon Roadrunners this season, Clendening has one goal and four assists. He saw action in five NHL games with Arizona. It’s not known what the Blackhawks have planned for him though.
Tuesday’s move was more about Duclair than bolstering the defensive core. The Hawks were close to landing Duclair last year, but couldn’t come to terms before the deadline. Clendening only saw action in four games with Chicago in the last year of his entry-level deal before the Forsling trade. Forsling was only 18 at the time and is now a core Blackhawks blueliner.
Clendening could immediately help Rockford fill the void left by recently recalled Eric Gustafsson. While not as skilled as Gustafsson, Clendening is an offensive-minded D-man who can put the puck in the net at the AHL level.
The trade also came with financial perks for Chicago. Moving Panik’s two-year, $5.6 million contract cleared $1.8 million in cap space. Duclair, 22, signed a one-year, $1.2 million deal with Arizona ahead of this season, meaning the Blackhawks with have nearly $3 million of salary cap space to clear the way for more possible trades.
Who those players could be is anyone’s guess, however. But if the Blackhawks follow recent roster moves, they would seek speedy forwards to further complement Nick Schmaltz, Vinnie Hinostroza and Patrick Kane for a vital playoff push. That could keep Clendening in Rockford until adjustments are needed with the big club’s defenseman.
The IceHogs (20-15-1-2) have points in their last three games with wins over Cleveland and Ontario, and a shootout loss against Milwaukee. Rockford is 1-1-0-0 all-time against the Barracuda. The team returns to the BMO Harris Bank Center Jan. 23. R.