The dog days of the off-season may be upon us, but with training camp in the offing, the summer signing season will see its second wave in the coming weeks. These signings won’t be the big-money, headline-making deals, of course. Those are all but done by the time July concludes and the calendar rolls over to August. But the pacts we will see are those of tryout contracts, with teams looking to plug holes adding a veteran name or two to the training camp roster.
Already, one such player has inked a professional tryout, or PTO, with a chance to land a gig. That’s Simon Despres, formerly of the Pittsburgh Penguins and a buyout of the Anaheim Ducks ahead of last season, who will be joining the Montreal Canadiens in training camp. Despres, 27, is an interesting case, too. In all likelihood, he’ll be one of the younger players looking to find work by way of a PTO. Coming off of a season in which he turned some heads in the KHL and was on the Canadian Olympic radar, there’s a fair chance he earns himself a pact, too, which would make him among the youngest players to turn a PTO into a contract in recent memory.
Despres will be far from the final player to ink a PTO this summer, however. Here are 10 others, all of whom appeared in the NHL last season, who could be seeking a contract by way of a training camp tryout:
TROY BROUWER, RW
A combination of a bad deal and steadily declining offensive totals landed Brouwer a buyout ahead of the third season of his four-year, $18-million deal with the Flames. It’s hard to fathom that the buyout will be the last we hear of the 32-year-old winger, however. Sure, his past five seasons have seen him go from 25 goals, to 21, then 18, down to 13 and finally six last campaign, but he’s got size, some scoring touch and a solid playoff resume that is going to make bringing him aboard an intriguing option for several clubs. Will he sign for much more than league minimum? Probably not, and he’s unlikely to get term, either. But a motivated Brouwer could add something to a bottom-six next season.
MIKE CAMMALLERI, LW
Cammalleri’s last season was a whirlwind. Bought out ahead of free agency, he was signed by the Kings, shipped to the Oilers and finished his season as a near half-point per game player in Edmonton. The issue with Cammalleri, though, is age. He recently celebrated his 36th birthday and he’s not the natural scorer he once was. Even still, as a bottom-six scoring option and a power play triggerman, teams in need of some extra offensive punch might be wise to bring Cammalleri in for a look. He has scored at about a 15-goal, 48-point pace across his past three campaigns. If he even chips in half of that at slightly more than league minimum, it could make for a helpful late-summer signing.
TOBY ENSTROM, D
Enstrom’s tenure with the only franchise he’s known throughout his NHL career came to an incredibly unceremonious end this past season when he saw himself in the press box for the final game of the Winnipeg Jets’ post-season run. Statistically, Enstrom has been on a steady decline from his heyday in Atlanta. That said, the 33-year-old still has some tread left on the tires. Injuries are a problem, but a team in need of a mobile, bottom-pairing defenseman could do far worse than giving Enstrom a look. He’d make a nice veteran option at the right price.
KARI LEHTONEN, G
There aren’t a ton of teams in the market for another goaltender right now, but Lethonen is among the few puckstoppers who will likely get a shot at making a roster in training camp. His time as a starter is no doubt over in the NHL, but the 34-year-old would bring plenty of experience to a backup job somewhere. That has to be enticing to some teams, particularly given Lehtonen is coming off of his best campaign in four years, posting a .912 save percentage in 37 games for the Stars.
MARK LETESTU, C
Letestu, 33, is somewhat of a specialist. He’s not going to skate top-line minutes and is unlikely to end up in a top-six anywhere, but he might catch the eye of a team looking for some middle-of-the-road power play goal scoring. During the 2016-17 season, Letestu blasted home 11 power play tallies and more than one-third of his career goals have come with the extra man. He probably won’t climb higher than 13 or 14 minutes per night wherever he plays, but some specialized special teams scoring doesn’t hurt, particularly if the league continues its crackdown on stick infractions.
STEVE MASON, G
It’s been a difficult run for Mason. Last season, after signing a lucrative two-year, $8.2-million deal with the Jets, Mason fell injured early and often en route to losing the starting job to eventual Vezina Trophy runner-up Connor Hellebuyck. Then, with money tight in Winnipeg, Mason was dealt away to the Canadiens, only for Montreal to turn around, waive Mason and buy out his contract. The 30-year-old remains on the market, but he should be a lock to earn a shot at a backup job. While he’s had his ups and downs, Mason’s .930 5-on-5 SP across the past five seasons ranks fourth in the NHL.
LEE STEMPNIAK, RW
Hard not to feel for Stempniak, 35, who finally found himself a steady home in Carolina over the past two seasons only to end up missing much of the campaign due to injury and now finding himself spending the summer as an out-of-work veteran. That said, Stempniak is only one season removed from a 16-goal, 40-point season on a fairly low-scoring Hurricanes club and teams will be hard-pressed to find another veteran winger as adept at driving play. His three-goal, nine-point output in 37 games last season hurts his case, but whoever brings him in could end up landing one of the more useful bottom-six signings of the summer.
SCOTTIE UPSHALL, LW
Think Upshall is used to this process by now? In September 2015, Upshall made his way to training camp with the Blues and earned himself a job and eventually an extension. In September 2017, he again found himself on the tryout market and earned a pact with the Canucks only to leave Vancouver for another go-round in St. Louis. And now Upshall, 34, finds himself staring down the potential for another off-season tryout. Upshall has been nothing if not consistent, though, which should earn him a look somewhere. He’s not going to escape bottom-six duty, but he’ll still manage anywhere from 15-20 points.
KRIS VERSTEEG, LW
Versteeg has been down this road before. He almost bolted from the NHL ahead of the 2016-17 season for a chance with Switzerland’s SC Bern. Contract issues complicated matters, though, and he ended up back in the NHL with the Flames, with whom he’s spent the past two seasons. The 32-year-old doesn’t appear to be headed back to Calgary, however, which means another team will have to take a shot on the veteran winger. Teams looking for some second-unit power play help or a depth winger with offensive upside should come calling. Over the past four seasons, Versteeg has scored at a rate that would work out to 17 goals and 42 points across a full 82-game campaign.
TOMMY WINGELS, RW
Brought in by the Blackhawks on a one-year deal last season, Wingels was flipped to the Bruins at the trade deadline where he continued to skate fourth-line minutes. And while he may not be the hottest commodity on the market, the 29-year-old has shown a clear usefulness in a checking-line role. His nine goals and 17 points last season weren’t half-bad totals given he averaged less than a dozen minutes of ice time per outing, and he could shift up the lineup in a pinch.
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