As we inch closer to September and the beginning of NHL training camps, so begins the slow trickle of professional tryout contracts for veteran players looking to continue their careers by making a mark in training camp.
Last season, there were several players who entered camps on PTOs and managed to turn them into contracts. Included among those were a few defensemen – Brandon Davidson earned a spot with the Chicago Blackhawks, while Luca Sbisa and Dennis Seidenberg both inked deals with the New York Islanders – as well as forwards Drew Stafford and Alex Chiasson, the latter turning into one of the season’s biggest success stories. Brought in to battle for a roster spot, Chiasson was inked shortly before the regular season began and proceeded to register a career-best 22 goals and 38 points, all the while skating regular top-six minutes. He has since turned that one-year pact into a two-year, $4.3-million deal, making his PTO among the most successful in the post-lockout NHL.
Will there be another Chiasson-esque PTO this season? Only time will tell, with plenty hinging on fit and opportunity. But with camps on the horizon, here’s a team-by-team breakdown of familiar faces who will be arriving on PTOs:
(Last Update: Sept. 12)
Alex Petrovic, D: From top-four rearguard with the Florida Panthers – and expansion-protection worthy blueliner, according to the club – to bottom-pairing defenseman, trade fodder and now a 27-year-old seeking an NHL gig via tryout. Petrovic has some sandpaper to his game and he could be a seventh or eighth option in Boston, but the blueline is getting crowded, so he’ll have to wow the staff.
Alexandre Grenier, RW: The 2011 third-round pick has spent the past several seasons in the minors, and it seems his bid on a PTO in Calgary is hit shot at landing another minor-league deal. The 28-year-old can be effective on the farm – he scored 11 goals and 27 points for the Laval Rocket last season – and that's likely where he lands.
Eric Gryba, D: He's familiar with life in Alberta from his time with the rival Edmonton Oilers, but Gryba, 31, is likely a minor league signing rather than a full-time NHLer next season. He suited up in 10 games with the New Jersey Devils last season, though spent the majority of the campaign with the club's AHL affiliate in Binghamton.
Andrew MacDonald, D: The long-rumored buyout finally came with one year left on his five-year, $30-million pact, but MacDonald has intriguing potential as a bottom-six defender. He can move the puck well and can still rip it from the point, but he hasn’t been an every-game, top-four rearguard since he first arrived with the Philadelphia Flyers five seasons ago. The 32-year-old is a possible depth addition.
Tobias Rieder, LW: He had 55 goals and 117 points in his first 312 NHL outings before flopping hard last season with the Edmonton Oilers. Given the depth on the Flames roster, Rieder, 26, seems an unlikely candidate to crack the lineup, particularly if he's only going to play a bottom-line role, but you never know. Plus, who doesn't kind of want to see him score in a game against the Oilers after he failed to net even one goal last season?
Zac Rinaldo, LW: The crash-and-bang bottom-sixer spent last season as a fill-in for the Predators and scored one goal and three points during his 23 games with the organization. He's moving on and trying to find a spot in his fifth organization in four seasons. At best, the 29-year-old has a chance to become a fringe guy who bounces between the AHL and NHL.
Devante Smith-Pelly, RW: Not necessarily the unsung hero of the Washington Capitals' 2018 Stanley Cup run – he got some press – but certainly not the superstar talent who drove the bus. He's coming off of a disappointing season in which he was demoted to the AHL, but 'DSP' can be an effective grind-line guy. If the 27-year-old is going to find work, that will be his role.
Corey Elkins, C: He's taken a circuitous route to Stars camp, working his way through the AHL, into the Finnish League, back to the AHL two seasons ago. This is a PTO with AHL potential, plain and simple. The 34-year-old is bound for the Texas Stars next season if he can turn some heads.
Stefan Noesen, RW: A first-round pick of the Senators in 2011, and later included in the deal that sent Bobby Ryan to Ottawa, Noesen has had a tough time catching on in the NHL and it took until his arrival in New Jersey in 2016-17 for him to get his first real shot at regular big-league action. The 26-year-old had a minor breakout when he notched 13 goals and 27 points in 72 games during the 2017-18 campaign, but last season was marred with injury, he played on 41 games and didn't get a new deal with the Devils. He has a shot at bottom-six work.
Scottie Upshall, LW: He took the entire 2018-19 campaign off, but Upshall, 35, is back and looking for another go-round as a fourth-liner in the NHL. There are few players in the NHL, part or present, as familiar with getting work through PTOs as Upshall. He earned his spot with the St. Louis Blues by way of a PTO in 2015-16, and he left a PTO with the Vancouver Canucks to sign with the Blues again in 2017-18.
Troy Brouwer, RW: Given a chance by the Panthers last season after he was bought out by the Flames, Brouwer, 34, held down a spot on Florida's fourth line and chipped in 12 goals and 21 points in 75 games. And while that might be an indication he's a fit again on the fourth line, don't be so certain. With Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari aboard, as well as Aleksi Heponiemi and Owen Tippett fighting looking to make the team out of camp, there aren't many available spots up front. Maybe Joel Quenneville, who coached Brouwer in Chicago, will want the veteran winger around, however.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
Lance Bouma, LW: Once a middle-six fixture with the Flames, Bouma, 29, has been a bit of a journeyman in the time since Calgary bought out his three-year, $6.6-million deal ahead of the 2017-18 season. He played roughly half a season with the Chicago Blackhawks before spending the past season in the Swiss League. There's a bottom-six logjam in Los Angeles, but if the Kings don't want to rush along any of their kids, Bouma is a decent stopgap.
Drew Stafford, RW: The 33-year-old former 30-goal scorer isn't in his prime anymore, but he's managed to keep his NHL career chugging along by transforming into a bottom-six contributor. Last season, he mustered five goals and 13 points with the Devils. The former University of North Dakota and Shattuck St. Mary's standout will be close to his roots if he finds work, and don't overlook the potential for him to land a gig with the Wild.
NEW YORK RANGERS
Michael Haley, C: The 33-year-0ld is a rough-and-tumble character whose best bet comes by way of the Rangers' potential desire to have some toughness in the lineup. Over the past two seasons, Haley has played in 118 NHL games, notched five goals and 15 points and racked up nearly 300 penalty minutes.
Joe Morrow, D: A first-round pick in 2011 and one of the pieces included in the Tyler Seguin swap between the Bruins and Stars, Morrow hasn't caught on as a full-timer in the NHL. He has offensive upside, though, and showcased it last season by potting one goal and seven points in limited minutes across 41 games with the Winnipeg Jets. The 26-year-old has a shot at a depth spot.
Chris Stewart, RW: Stewart, 31, had a whirlwind 2018-19. He had signed with the KHL’s Slovan Bratislava, but didn’t report to the club and announced his retirement shortly thereafter. By January, however, Stewart signed in the UK’s EIHL and finished out the campaign with the Nottingham Panthers. He’s fourth-line fodder, but he did score 23 goals and 37 points in 133 games across the 2016-17 and 2018-19 seasons.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Michal Neuvirth, G: Part of the Flyers’ goaltending carousel last season, the 31-year-old posted atrocious numbers – an .859 save percentage and 4.27 goals-against average – in his seven appearances. With Michael Hutchinson as the only experienced backup in the organization, though, Neuvirth seemingly has the inside track on the second-stringer gig. He’ll almost certainly have to accept league minimum, though.
Matt Read, RW: Once a near finalist for the Calder Trophy – he finished fourth in voting in 2011-12, the same season Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins battled it out for the award – Read’s past two campaigns have been trying. He spent the bulk of both seasons in the AHL, where he played well. Last season, he notched 16 goals and 37 points for the Iowa Wild, farm club of the Minnesota Wild. He’s more likely to land with the Toronto Marlies than the Maple Leafs.
Landon Ferraro, C: He missed all but 12 games last season, which is a shame because he performed well down on the farm with the Iowa Wild, notching two goals and five points. Things are crowded in Vancouver right now, so he might have a tough time cracking the Canucks' lineup, but Utica is an option for Ferraro, who spent most of the 2016-17 and 2017-18 campaigns in the AHL.
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