If you’re looking for feel-good stories of redemption from NHL veterans on professional tryout contracts, it’ll be a small chapter.
Only nine players on PTOs signed NHL contracts as of Monday, according to General Fanager:
- Scotty Upshall (St. Louis)
- Jonas Gustavsson (Boston)
- Corey Potter (Arizona)
- Michal Rozsival (Chicago)
- Tomas Fleischmann (Montreal)
- Lee Stempniak (New Jersey)
- Steve Bernier (New York Islanders)
- Brad Boyes (Toronto)
Let’s look at some of the notable names of the more than 85 players signed to a PTO during this offseason, according to a comprehensive list from The Hockey Writers. If those numbers are true, only 10 percent of players on a PTO signed a contract.
That number could be bumped up as Martin Havlat is working on a contract with the Florida Panthers, according to the Miami Herald’s George Richards and Scott Gomez could get something done with the St. Louis Blues, according to Andy Strickland.
[Update: Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Tuesday afternoon that Havlat will not sign with the Panthers, while Sirius XM NHL reports that Jack Skille signed with Colorado and Setoguchi, below, is signing with a Swiss league team.]
Actually, let’s construct a 23-man roster from the list because there are so damn many guys cut. We’ll leave off Havlat and Gomez giving them the benefit out the doubt.
Curtis Glencross-Derek Roy-Devan Setoguchi
Sergei Kostitsyn- David Booth-Patrick Kaleta
Daniel Paille-Tyler Kennedy-Kirill Kabanov
Jack Skille-Tomas Kopecky-James Sheppard
Extra Forward: Joey Crabb
Lubomir Visnovsky-Jan Hejda
Andrej Meszaros-Sergei Gonchar
Douglas Murray-Vitaly Vishnevski
Extra D: Ryan Wilson
What I see is that serviceable third-line and fourth-line shutdown forwards are being shown the door. There are plenty of younger guys available to take those spots, and some that are stuck in the bottom three because the team’s depth won’t allow them to get in the top six.
A few of those players are former snipers whose luster has worn off, some explained like Setoguchi who went through rehab to get his career on track. Others like Glencross who fell off a cliff when traded to Washington from Calgary and plummeted so much that he was released from two PTOs in this pre-season.
Overall, you’ll have a team full of checkers and grinders, doing a good job of wearing down the other team and allowing few goals.
On defense, it’s old and slow. Guys like Gonchar and Visnovsky can make your power play pretty, but keeping goals out of the net will be an issue. As much as the forwards can do, it’s a five-man unit, and the back-end is thinking offense too much.
Glance at the ages and length of time in the league, and you wonder if these guys know that they’re supposed to retire before injury makes them retire. Gonchar is 41; Visnovsky is 39; Hejda is 37 and Murray and Vishnevski are both 35. Meszaros is 29 but plays like he’s 35.
In goal, Ray Emery takes the reigns while Peter Budaj continues his career back-up role. Razor, cut from the Lightning camp after Tampa’s own goalies were coming back from injuries, would be best with a team like the Lightning where he can be sheltered by a good defense as opposed to the lineup above.
Looking at who’s available this year, you could imagine there would be a similar crop come 2017-18 when the NHL could expand to Las Vegas, or even to Quebec City.
Remember, these are just the guys who would accept a PTO.
Look at some of the other UFAs who are without a team and didn’t sign a tryout:
Dainius Zubrus, Eric Brewer, Sean Bergenheim, Olli Jokinen, Stephen Weiss, Michael Ryder and Brenden Morrow. Out of that list, Morrow showed he should be ready to sign retirement papers. Zubrus is getting there at 37 years old and 10 points in 72 games last season in New Jersey.
With the European leagues already underway, can any of these guys still find jobs playing?