Now is the time of year when NHL teams start extending professional tryout offers to long-time veterans en masse. And for good reason.
League rules dictate that you have to have at least eight “veterans” on your roster for any given preseason game. A veteran in this context is a skater who played at least 30 NHL games the previous season, a goaltender who dressed for at least 50 or played in at least 30, a player who has at least 100 NHL games in his career, or a first-round pick from the most recent draft.
Not sure how the last of those constitutes a veteran, but okay.
A PTO, then, allows NHL players to bring in guys who fit the various definitions of “veterans” outlined above but who have little to no chance of actually making the roster once the season begins. To date, 16 players have been signed to PTOs, of which 10 actually played in the NHL last season, and only one (Troy Brouwer) played more than 70 games.
More PTOs have likely been agreed to but not announced. Currently, just three teams have locked in 10 of the 16 tryout deals: Toronto with two, Dallas with three, and Calgary with a whopping five. Six other teams have one guy each who hope they can impress enough to lock in a contract for the coming season.
The two questions for any of these teams is whether the PTOs are being extended merely to fill out preseason rosters — and thus reduce the risk of injury to players they actually want on the big club roster when the season begins — and whether any of these guys could actually be of use as a fringe contributor.
For the most part, it would appear as though the answer is a firm “no.” Of those 16 guys, only 10 even played in the NHL last season. Those who didn’t are at least recognizable names like Chris Stewart (last seen as a middle-six forward, at best, for the third-best team in the UK’s Elite league) or Scottie Upshall, who did not play professional hockey last season. Those guys got a shot in Philadelphia and Dallas, respectively, and would have been in tough to make the roster even if those teams didn’t have decent forward groups.
Other guys who did play in the NHL, like Zac Rinaldo (trying out in Calgary), Matt Read (Toronto), and Drew Stafford (Minnesota) are more or less replacement-level players who would do in a pinch. However, most teams would be better served rostering their top forward from the AHL rather than sign these guys.
There are, however, a few guys who might be worth a shot in a specific circumstance, but they may surprise you. One is Stefan Noesen, who is trying out in Dallas and had a rotten season in New Jersey by any standard, but who was also quite good (relative to most of these other PTOers) as recently as 2017-18. If the Stars add him as a bottom-six guy and put him with talent, there’s little reason he wouldn’t be worth a shade under $1 million on an actual contract.
Another is Andrew MacDonald, who’s one of five players on a PTO with Calgary, but the only defenseman. He was never worth his contract and definitely not a fit for his role in Philly, but he can be put in a position to succeed farther down the lineup. He’ll likely also get plenty of opportunity to actually make the team, since Juuso Valimaki is likely to miss a lot of time to start the year. As a bottom-pair defender, he likely still has some utility.
Even Brouwer, who’s on a PTO with the Panthers (the club that employed him last year) could be a contributor at the bottom of that forward group. He would know Joel Quenneville well enough from their time together in Chicago, but he scored 12 goals last season in a very limited role and also played a solid defensive role. There might be something there.
Other than that, there aren’t many legit options for NHL teams. You never want to count guys out. Some may have great camps overall, and certainly a few have legitimate arguments that they deserve NHL deals.
But if you want to call those teams’ use of players almost entirely to fill out preseason rosters cynical, it’s tough to find fault with that.
Anaheim Ducks: What’s a guy gotta do to get an A+ around here?
Arizona Coyotes: “Trying hard isn’t good enough any longer. It’s time to win something besides the off-season news conference.” Hoo boy.
Boston Bruins: Unfortunately the answer to this question is “no” and everyone from last year’s Bruins team will go to their graves with regret.
Buffalo Sabres: I love to get excited about players’ performance in rookie tournaments.
Calgary Flames: Oh jeez, our little guy is growing up.
Chicago: Kirby Dach is learning.
Colorado Avalanche: I’m seriously excited for this.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Okay, cool.
Detroit Red Wings: A kid on Detroit’s Traverse City roster had a Gordie Howe hat trick the other night. Why on earth do they still allow fighting in rookie tournaments? Good lord.
Edmonton Oilers: Context matters here, but far as bleak headlines go, this is way up there.
Florida Panthers: Yes, there is basically no way to accept anything short of a playoff appearance for these guys after the summer they had. And yet, it’s the Panthers, so...
Los Angeles Kings: Tidy little bit of business to re-sign Jack Campbell. This deal could work out quite well for LA.
Minnesota Wild: All the Wild have to do to improve is wait out their cap situation for the next two seasons. Very easy!
Montreal Canadiens: I think this is very fair but I’m sure the fans in Montreal will have an even more rational and extremely normal reaction.
Nashville Predators: The Preds can’t re-sign Roman Josi yet because they think the big RFAs will significantly change the market. They’re probably right.
New Jersey Devils: Should be: Will Butcher. Will be: Sami Vatanen.
New York Islanders: Mat Barzal said he’s not worried about the money on his next contract, presumably while winking a lot.
New York Rangers: Okay and is five points good?
Ottawa Senators: Good news, Logan: Ottawa almost fits that definition.
Philadelphia Flyers: Man they really are already on Carter Hart’s case.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Not talked about much but the local media acts like Marcus Pettersson was the reason Jack Johnson and Erik Gudbranson weren’t a complete disaster down the stretch. He doesn’t have a contract yet.
San Jose Sharks: I simply love Joe Thornton.
St. Louis Blues: The only jersey the Blues should ever wear are the powder blue ones they brought back already. Don’t overthink this.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Sounds like a nice summer for Mikhail Sergachev.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Ah, ah jeez.
Vancouver Canucks: First time he turns the puck over at the attacking blue line for a breakaway, the local media is gonna go in on Quinn Hughes so hard he’ll want to retire.
Vegas Golden Knights: I also believe this of Cody Glass.
Washington Capitals: People love to talk about this thing that is almost certainly not going to happen.
Winnipeg Jets: This take is really smart.
Gold Star Award
I’m so happy Joe Thornton is back again. Hooray hooray.
Minus of the Weekend
A billion thumbs down emoji on this one.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User “Sick Nuzuki” is connecting the dots.
A top pairing defenceman to help stabilize the weakened d, helps maintain 34 year old Buff's minutes to keep him at a high level during Winnipeg's current win now window
Toronto's conditional 1st
to offset the contract lengths
30+ goal scorer to help turn Carolina closer to being a contender.
Which fan base hates this more?
You may purchase this charming Hamburglar adventure. A child has already solved the Jumble using crayons. The answer is “fries.”
Ryan Lambert is a Yahoo! Sports hockey columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.
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