Clay Wilson to the KHL – some thoughts



Possibly the biggest news of last week – if it can be called that – was the departure of defenseman Clay Wilson. Wilson signed a deal with Donbass Donetsk, which raised a few comparisons and questions.

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First and foremost, the big question was “Hey, didn’t he have an NHL contract?” I asked the Flames via e-mail and the answer amounted to “Yes, but it was terminated.” The timelines on the contract in the KHL and the termination are a bit fuzzy. If the Flames terminated the deal prior to Wilson signing in the KHL (e.g., they bought him out), there wasn’t any announcement that he had gone on or cleared unconditional waivers. However, there is a clause in the existing CBA that allows a team to terminate a deal if one of the parties is in breach (signing a contract with another league would probably constitute a breach.) Confusion aside, there is no loan agreement and Wilson is no longer part of the Flames organization. The Flames are now at 47 contracts on their reserve list for 2012-13.

Second, the departure of Wilson may leave the Abbotsford Heat a bit thin on the blueline. Then again, Wilson has already played over 500 pro contests and his inclusion on the Heat’s roster would’ve meant some shuffling due to the AHL’s development rule. Wilson leaving opens the door for an every-day role for another AHL veteran, or for the inclusion of more youngsters on the farm. As it stands, the Heat’s blueline will include notables such as Chris Breen, James Martin, Joe Piskula and a bunch of guys on AHL contracts.

Another Gio? Nah.

Lastly, there were a few comparisons being made between Wilson’s departure for the KHL and Mark Giordano’s following the 2006-07 season. Outside of their position and the league, these comparisons aren’t that relevant. Wilson is 29, while Giordano was 24 when he went to Russia. Wilson had a valid NHL contract in place, while Giordano was a hold-out restricted free agent. And Giordano had established himself (at 24) as an everyday NHLer and was bristling at signing a two-way contract, while Wilson is almost 30 and hasn’t established himself as anything more than an excellent AHLer as of yet. He’s played just 36 NHL games (for four NHL clubs), while Giordano played 48 NHL games the season before he went to the KHL.

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All-in-all, the Wilson departure probably works for all parties. The player probably gets better money overseas, along with comparable ice-time. The Flames are able to shed an expensive one-way contract – only eight left on the books! And Wilson’s exit probably gives somebody a chance at better minutes and a bigger role in Abbotsford.

  • Stockley

    I wish Wilson all the best and all but I think at this point in his development it’s obvious he will never be more than an injury replacement and depth player. He couldn’t even stick in Columbus. As iffy as Calgary’s D depth looked sometimes last season I would take it over the Blue Jackets any day.

    I think all parties decided this was best for everyone. The way the Heat are signing veterans they might be more fun to watch than the Flames this coming season. Might be good for kids like Reinhart, Horak and Howse to get a taste of winning so they can bring that with them when they graduate full-time to Calgary.

  • I’d like to know why the team granted Wilson a one-way deal on the second year of his contract in the first place. Seemed unnecessary at the time and more so now.

    Good thing for the team’s pocketbook he bolted I guess. Good luck to him.

  • McRib

    After Clay Wilson put up good numbers in Abby was interested in watching him during his call up, but was very underwhellming. Good at a few aspects of the game not great at any.

    Agree with Pike that Clay Wilson is not another Gio, Wilson will never be anything more than a depth player.

    Just not a good enough skater to make up for his complete lack of physical presence and only decent vision at the top level.

    Gone to better money in the KHL, Best of luck.

  • Reidja

    With the flames contract number situation, was Clay a buy-out possibility? Other than overtly stating a likelyhood of him being sent down to Abby, I don’t see where the Flames gained leverage to lose this contract. Losing contracts being one of the last of Feaster’s final off-season goals mentioned.

  • Reidja

    Another thought. About this time last year Feaster was loading-up on this type of player (depth d-men with potential). I recall a lot of questions like “why have we added another depth, borderline NHL d-man”. Seems like that crop didn’t bear fruit. Maybe Derek Smith?

    • Yeah, it was a low-reward gamble anyways. Smith wasn’t a bad find, although I think some of the superlatives we heard about him at times last year were out of touch with the player he really is.

      Funny thing is all that helped do was usurp the now needlessly expensive Anton Babchuk. Sarich should have the been the target to replace, but instead the club re-signed him after several seasons of moving him in and out of the press box.

      • T&A4Flames

        I think with all the signings last year Feaster was just trying to create a winning environment, something he has some knowledge in at that level.. As Stockley said, having the kids come up in a winning environment is a good thing.

  • Colin.S

    They are trying to build a winner in Abbotsford as well which why a bunch of the higher tier AHL, almost NHL type player. There are routinely crowds of 500-1000 people at games(even playoffs), so they were hoping winning would attract people.

    Either way best of luck to Wilson, this Blueline wasn’t going to be easy for him crack without the giant log jam we created. Think he would have been an okay 7th D.