For St. John’s IceCaps fans hankering for some sort of change, this is probably not what they had in mind.
Popular winger Kevin Clark is leaving the team to play with the Krefeld Penguins of the DEL, Germany's elite league.
On Monday, the IceCaps and parent Winnipeg Jets announced the 25-year-old Clark was being released from his standard player contract. The right-winger was in the last year of a two-year American Hockey League deal.
Earlier in the day, Clark had met with St. John’s head coach Keith McCambridge to inform him of the offer to play in Europe and his decision to accept it.
“He was pretty choked up,” said McCambridge. “You could see he where it was a very emotional him, that this was something he had put a lot of thought into.
“He said he felt bad about leaving the team now, but that he felt he had to take this opportunity.
“You can’t blame a guy for taking advantage of a chance to make some good money and to cultivate a career in Europe.”
Clark’s contract with the Penguins is for the remainder of this season, with an option for 2013-14.
“You don’t make a decision like this without having thought about it long and hard,” Clark told The Telegram Monday afternoon.
Clark insisted the move has nothing to with his relationship with McCambridge, whom he first met when he was playing for the University of Alaska-Anchorage and when McCambridge was head coach of the Alaska Aces.
“It’s fine and always has been, ever since I knew him since when I was school,” said Clark, who added the fact St. John's is struggling to get into a playoff position also wasn’t a factor in his move across the Atlantic.
“That (the playoff picture) or our record had nothing to do with this," said Clark who scored his sixth goal of the season in a 7-3 loss to the Connecticut Whale on Sunday, a result that leaves the IceCaps in 13th place in the AHL's Eastern Conference, five points from a playoff berth
In 108 games with St. John's, the five-foot-eight, 180-pound Clark had 18 goals and 39 points. He had eight points this season.
He became an IceCap in 2011 when the AHL’s Manitoba Moose franchise moved to St. John’s. A Winnipeg native, Clark had turned pro with Moose after college.
He was used almost exclusively as a third- or fourth-line energy forward, one who played with consistent effort As such, he became a fan favourite. In 180 AHL games with Manitoba and St. John’s, he had 26 goals, 30 assists and 117 penalty minutes.
Lunden, Sol recalled
Clark’s departure will leave the IceCaps — who begin a six-game road trip this weekend — with just 12 healthy forwards, so the team is bringing back Josh Lunden from the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers. Lunden had appeared in six games with the IceCaps in an earlier call-up. As well, the team is promoting defenceman Cody Sol from the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles. Like Lunden, this will be Sol’s second stint with the team this season. The six--five rookie has already suited up in seven games for St. John’s.