For the last 14 years, there has rarely been much certainty in what the future held for goalie Scott Clemmensen.
In 14 professional seasons, he has had nine one-year contracts — including this season’s deal with the New Jersey Devils — and has played 11 times in the final season of a contract.
The Saratoga Springs resident, who played much of this season with the AHL’s Albany Devils, will turn 38 this summer and is uncertain if he’ll seek a new contract to play next season.
“I think I’ve been going these past two seasons not knowing what was lying ahead for me,” Clemmensen said. “My only thought during the whole process was to just lay it all out there, because I don’t want to have any regrets when this thing is over.”
In parts of 11 seasons in the AHL, Clemmensen is 82-108-26 with eight shutouts, a goals-against average around 2.76 and save percentage of .911. In parts of 12 NHL seasons, he is 73-59-24 with seven shutouts, a GAA around 2.79 and save percentage of .905.
This year with Albany, Clemmensen finished 12-11-2 with a 2.23 GAA and a save percentage of .918, both stats being the best of his AHL career, among seasons playing more than one game in the league.
He finished the season with 12 appearances in the last 20 games, going 7-3-1 with a 1.57 GAA and a .941 save percentage. He played, and won, the last three games of the season in a span of four days as the Devils fought for a playoff spot that just eluded them.
“He’s got such a calming presence and demeanor with our young ‘D’ corps,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “He makes the big saves . . . breakaways, two-on-ones, when he needs to and at times, almost makes it look easy. I think that really settles things down for us at times. Credit to him, ever since he’s come here, his attitude, everything about him has just been professional.”
“I do want to be the guy that encourages them and helps them,” Clemmensen said, “and at the same time, if there’s a mistake, I want to be the one that makes that save, that backs them up. Not to say bails them out, because I don’t think that’s the proper wording, but I don’t want them to feel like they have to be perfect back there.”
Clemmensen said he has recovered nicely from a couple of knee surgeries a few years ago and feels physically able to continue playing.
“I hope I’m not lying to myself when I say that I think I can perform at the professional level, at this level and at the next level, in the NHL, still,” he said. “Obviously, that’s something that I believe in myself, but in order to keep playing, you’ve got to have other people believe it. You’ve got to have people offer you jobs and contracts.”
He started this season with New Jersey as the backup for regular starter Cory Schneider. Union College product Keith Kinkaid later got a shot at that job, and he performed well enough to keep it and earn a new one-way contract for the next two seasons.
That means if Clemmensen re-signs with the Devils, he will likely be staying in Albany and only see time in the NHL if Schneider or Kinkaid are unavailable because of injury or illness.
Clemmensen was drafted by New Jersey in the eighth round of the 1997 NHL draft, 215th overall, and said he has always considered himself a Devil, even when playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs or Florida Panthers of the NHL, or the Toronto Marlies or San Antonio Rampage of the AHL.
“If I have a chance to play in the NHL, I’m going to seriously consider that, regardless of what organization it is, but having said that, I’ve always believed myself to be a Devil, no matter where I’ve been or what I’ve done,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time in this organization and I’ve spent some time elsewhere, but I’ve always believed in this organization and the people running it. That’s the organization I attach my professional career to. After I’m done playing, I would very much like to be a part of that.”
Whenever he does retire, Clemmensen said he wants to stay in the game in some capacity.
Until the day that decision is made, the only certainty for Clemmensen is the effort he puts into the next workout, the next game, the next shot.
“My biggest fear, my entire career, was that I would retire as a player and then regret not working a little harder to see what would have happened, or put the extra time in, or wishing I had come to the rink with a better attitude,” he said. “Your playing days are so short, that’s why you have to appreciate it every day and work hard every day, so when it is over, you have no regrets. If this is my last year . . . I can retire and be happy about it, and I’m not going to regret anything.”