Wilson signed a two-year deal last year, but his remaining year was terminated by the Flames, making him a free agent to sign with Donbass Donestsk.
"In accordance with NHL rules and regulations the Calgary Flames have terminated the contract of Clay Wilson," said Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster. "He is no longer on our reserve list. We wish Clay and his family well as he pursues his career."
Wilson had a fantastic season with Abbotsford last year. In 66 games, the blueliner put up 16 goals and 27 assists to finish third in team scoring - 25 points clear of the next best Abbotsford defenceman! Unfortunately, he's only played 36 NHL games between his time in Columbus, Atlanta, and Calgary, so you had to know something had to give. Next season, he'll suit up for the new Ukraine entry in the KHL, Donbass Donestsk.
It appears he'll be given some major minutes in Donestsk as well. Jaroslav Obsut and Karel Pilar are the most recognizable names on the Donbass roster, but the team will have a solid core in goaltender Erik Ersberg, winger Lukas Kaspar, winger Evgenii Dadonov, and captain and centerman Sergei Varlamov. These players will certainly help fill the net for Donbass, but getting a puck-moving defenceman like Wilson will certainly help the transition game and the special teams.
Wilson consistently produced at the AHL level, amassing 60, 48, and 43 points in the last three seasons split between Rochester and Abbotsford. He made his third AHL All-Star Team last season, so it appeared the blueliner wanted more in asking the Flames to terminate his deal. The KHL is generally viewed as being a level of hockey between the NHL and the AHL, so if Wilson can produce in the KHL, he may be ready for an NHL job. While the Abbotsford Flames will certainly miss his production, the Calgary Flames may be better in the future for letting him skip across to the Ukraine if Wilson decides to return to Calgary.
Of course, when the KHL is offering contracts in the range of a million bucks tax-free for mid-level talent, the one-way deal that Wilson had for $525,000 probably made it easier to leave.
If anything, all he has to do is look at Mark Giordano's path. Giordano was used in much the same way as Wilson was this season before he walked away from the Flames and their AHL affiliate, the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights, to play one year with Moscow Dynamo. When he returned to Calgary one year later, he was a much more complete player instead of a one-dimensional offensive defenceman. Since his return, he has been a mainstay on the Calgary blueline, and one of the Flames' best players.
While some critics have said that players jumping over to the KHL are killing their own careers, a few have found their careers revitalized by getting something they weren't receiving in North America: major minutes at the top level of hockey.
Sometimes, all one needs is an opportunity.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!