Clendening has yet to make his debut in European professional hockey. He’s spent the past four seasons exclusively in the AHL, including a strong 2021-22 campaign where he scored 42 points in 74 games. Clendening split last season between the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs and Hartford Wolf Pack, before joining the New York Rangers’ training camp on a PTO.
He did not earn a full-time deal with the Rangers, whose minor-league defensive depth chart is crowded with six players on NHL contracts. Rather than potentially return to the AHL, where Clendening has over 500 career games and is a two-time All-Star, he has opted to try his luck in one of Europe’s top professional leagues.
Clendening joins an Ilves team with the opportunity to make an impact on both ends of the ice. The team hasn’t received a ton of offense from blueliners so far this year (their leading scorer from the back end has just six points in 14 games) and despite sitting third in Liiga standings, has surrendered the sixth-most goals in league play.
With Ilves targeting long playoff runs in both the Champions Hockey League and Liiga, getting an experienced defensive reinforcement like Clendening is a major addition. For Clendening, he’ll have the chance to, at 30, begin his overseas career playing in a state-of-the-art arena while competing for some of the continent’s top trophies.