Ben Hutton, Cam Ward, Free Agents, Previews and Predictions, Thomas Vanek, Tobias Rieder, Top Story

Predicting PTOs: 59 Potential Tryouts

Now that the calendar has flipped to August, the PTOs are going to start coming fast and furious.

There have already been a couple announced — Michal Neuvirth in Toronto and Chris Stewart in Philadelphia — but with training camps just over a month away, most of the players still without contracts are contemplating professional tryouts as a means of staying in the NHL.

Michal Neuvirth, formerly of the Philadelphia Flyers. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That doesn’t apply to Jake Gardiner, who is too good for a PTO and will be signed at some point, nor to the likes of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Justin Williams, who will either return to San Jose and Carolina or retire.

Patrick Maroon, Derick Brassard and Brian Boyle are also presumably above PTOs and shouldn’t need to audition for a contract this coming season, nor should defencemen Kevin Shattenkirk, Niklas Kronwall, Dion Phaneuf and Dan Girardi — not unless they really want to play for a contender where there doesn’t appear to be opportunity on paper.

Shattenkirk is a new name on the market, only getting bought out by the Rangers within the last 24 hours during their second window, but there should be some immediate interest in him.

Kronwall may not be healthy enough to continue his career and it’s difficult to envision him anywhere but Detroit.

Phaneuf got bought out by Los Angeles back in June and it’s uncertain what the future holds for him, with retirement among the options. Girardi could be leaning in that direction too, if he doesn’t find a desirable landing spot.

Chris Kunitz made that difficult decision this week, opting to end his playing career by accepting a player development advisor role in Chicago’s hockey operations department.

Chicago Blackhawks Chris Kunitz
Chris Kunitz, formerly of the Chicago Blackhawks. (Aaron Doster/USA TODAY)

For those not ready to hang up their skates and not keen on the tryout route, expect to see several of the remaining unrestricted free agents seek guaranteed employment overseas sooner than later, with the European leagues getting going this month.

That applies more to the younger, less proven UFAs, who will attempt to play their way back to the NHL while potentially making more money — more than the NHL league minimum — in the meantime.

Most NHL teams are getting close to their 50-contract limit and one-way deals are going to be hard to come by. So are seven-figure salaries. Thus Europe might be more appealing than ending up in the AHL on a two-way pact paying under $500K at that level.

In saying that, European teams have been known to make room for players with NHL experience that are unsuccessful on PTOs, so trying to stay in North America is still the top priority for the majority of those remaining UFAs.

There are 70 leftover UFAs of note and now it’s time to predict their landing spots — starting with 11 signings followed by 59 PTOs listed by team in order of likelihood.

Predicting 11 Signings

Joe Thornton (LC)

TEAM: San Jose Sharks

ANALYSIS: This is a no-brainer and should only be a matter of time. San Jose is taking its time in re-signing Thornton, sorting out their cap situation before making that one-year extension official. Rest assured, it’s a formality.

San Jose Sharks' Joe Thornton
Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks. (Josie Lepe/AP Photo)

Patrick Marleau (LW)

TEAM: San Jose Sharks

ANALYSIS: Marleau didn’t love life in Toronto — or more so his family didn’t — but his hope is to return to San Jose and the Sharks should have room for him on the roster after losing a few forwards to free agency. Doug Wilson is a very loyal man and he’ll find a way to fit Marleau back into the fold.

Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks, NHL
Patrick Marleau is hoping to be back with the San Jose Sharks this season. (Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY)

Justin Williams (RW)

TEAM: Carolina Hurricanes

ANALYSIS: This is another formality, with Carolina fully intending to extend their captain for another season if Williams feels up for prolonging his career. He’s coming off a productive season, so the expectation is he’ll return rather than retire.

Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals and Justin Williams of the Carolina Hurricanes
Justin Williams of the Carolina Hurricanes, right, shakes hands with Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals after the Hurricanes eliminated the Capitals in the first round of this year’s playoffs. (Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

Jake Gardiner (LD)

TEAM: New Jersey Devils

ANALYSIS: There could be a handful of teams still in on Gardiner — the Islanders, Rangers, Buffalo and Montreal also come to mind, not necessarily in that order — but New Jersey is loading up this offseason and still has enough cap room to offer Gardiner a significant salary for 2019-20.

If Gardiner wants to bet on himself by taking a one-year contract — the way Wayne Simmonds is — the Devils could offer $6 million. He’d have to take less money if he wants term, even two years elsewhere. New Jersey wouldn’t be offering term since the Devils will need that money to extend Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier next summer, but they could overpay Gardiner in the present if need be, which would also allow them to ease Ty Smith into the NHL in more of a limited role.

Toronto Maple Leafs Jake Gardiner
Jake Gardiner, formerly of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Kevin Shattenkirk (RD)

TEAM: Nashville Predators 

ANALYSIS: This landing spot makes a lot of sense, with Nashville moving out P.K. Subban without replacing him thus far. Dante Fabbro is pencilled into that top-four role, but Shattenkirk would be a perfect fit in rounding out the Predators’ defence corps and keeping it among the league’s best.

Shattenkirk would need to sign a discount deal in the $2-million range, but he probably wouldn’t get much more anywhere else at this stage of the offseason. The Islanders, Columbus and Edmonton could be among the other teams pursuing the newest free agent.

New York Rangers defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk
Kevin Shattenkirk, formerly of the New York Rangers. (Adam Hunger/USA TODAY)

Patrick Maroon (LW)

TEAM: St. Louis Blues

ANALYSIS: Maroon is coming off a storybook season, winning the Stanley Cup with his hometown Blues while getting to spend much more time with his son Anthony. That meant a lot to Maroon, more than any money in the world, so expect him to take less again to stay in St. Louis.

St. Louis Blues Patrick Maroon Columbus Blue Jackets Zach Werenski
Patrick Maroon of the St. Louis Blues, right, battles with Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Billy Hurst/USA TODAY)

Niklas Kronwall (LD) 

TEAM: Detroit Red Wings

ANALYSIS: Detroit is the only team Kronwall has ever known and his loyalty will remain under new general manager Steve Yzerman, his former teammate and captain. If Kronwall wants to keep playing, Yzerman will welcome him back with open arms as a leader and mentor for a defence corps that will be getting younger as the Red Wings continue to rebuild.

Culture has always been a huge thing in Detroit and Kronwall is one of the few holdovers from the Yzerman era — Yzerman’s last two seasons were Kronwall’s first two. If he retires, a position in hockey ops will also be waiting for him in Detroit.

Niklas Kronwall Dec 2018
Niklas Kronwall of the Detroit Red Wings. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Dion Phaneuf (LD) 

TEAM: Winnipeg Jets

ANALYSIS: Winnipeg is going to have a bit of room left in the budget after eventually inking Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, and the Jets could benefit from adding another veteran on defence after losing Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot. Phaneuf could be a good fit for Winnipeg if he’s wanting or willing to play in another Canadian market after previous stints in Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa. But he might also be cool with continuing to hang out in Hollywood with actress wife Elisha Cuthbert and thus calling it a career.

Dion Phaneuf #3 of the Los Angeles Kings
Dion Phaneuf, formerly of the Los Angeles Kings. (Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)

Dan Girardi (RD)

TEAM: Columbus Blue Jackets

ANALYSIS: Girardi’s best years came under John Tortorella and Columbus could use a real veteran presence on their relatively young blue line. Girardi is no longer the warrior that Torts will remember from their time with the Rangers and might not be an everyday player at this stage of his career, but his leadership could still prove invaluable for a Blue Jackets team that will likely face some adversity after losing a lot of top-end talent this offseason.

Dan Girardi Tampa Bay Lightning
Dan Girardi, formerly of the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Derick Brassard (LC)

TEAM: Montreal Canadiens

ANALYSIS: The Canadiens were in the mix for Matt Duchene — losing out to Nashville — so they are still in the market for another natural centre. Brassard is a Francophone who would presumably welcome this homecoming. He could be a nice fit for Montreal on the ice and in the locker room, helping mentor young centres Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Ryan Poehling and Nick Suzuki while ensuring they aren’t rushed into roles that they might not be ready for.

Could Derick Brassard be coming back to Canada, having previously played for Ottawa? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Brian Boyle (LC)

TEAM: New York Rangers

ANALYSIS: The Rangers created some necessary cap space by buying out Shattenkirk, but they might now be able to squeeze Boyle into their lineup thanks to those savings. Boyle would also be a good mentor for all the Rangers’ young forwards, while still serving an important role on a team that could be a playoff contender as early as this coming season.

Brian Boyle Nashville Predators
Brian Boyle, formerly of the Nashville Predators. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY)

Predicting 59 PTOs

Edmonton Oilers

PTOs: Thomas Vanek (RW), Riley Sheahan (LC), Wade Megan (LC), Scottie Upshall (RW), Anthony Peluso (RW), Brett Pollock (LW)

ANALYSIS: There is opportunity in Edmonton for a couple forwards to earn contracts and to excel the same way Alex Chiasson did last season.

Vanek tops this list since he has a history with Ken Holland — signing in Detroit on two occasions — and fits one of Edmonton’s biggest needs as a scoring right-winger, perhaps to play above Chiasson in the lineup. Vanek was nearly an Oiler more than a decade ago when he signed an offer sheet with Edmonton that was matched by Buffalo and he also played some youth hockey in Alberta.

Red Wings left wing Thomas Vanek
Thomas Vanek, formerly of the Detroit Red Wings. (Raj Mehta/USA TODAY)

Sheahan and Megan also have familiarity with Holland from Detroit and Edmonton’s bottom-six centre roles will be up for grabs in training camp, but neither of them are right-handed, which is said to be the preference for that position.

Upshall, if healthy and recovered from the knee surgery that prevented him from playing last season, could get another chance with the Oilers after being unable to capitalize on last year’s tryout due to that lingering injury that flared up during camp.

Peluso is already under contract with Edmonton’s AHL affiliate in Bakersfield, but the Oilers might give him a token PTO as a preseason pugilist — specifically for the two games against Calgary if they feel the need to dress somebody to drop the gloves with Milan Lucic.

Pollock had been in Calgary’s system as a former Edmonton Oil King and a player that Bob Green would be familiar with from his junior days. Pollock would more so be auditioning for Bakersfield.

San Jose Sharks

PTOs: Tobias Rieder (RW/LW), Chad Johnson (G), David Schlemko (LD), Micheal Haley (LW)

ANALYSIS: San Jose will be welcoming competition at every position, even with the assumption that Thornton and Marleau will be signing there ahead of camp.

Rieder had a tough go in Edmonton, failing to score a single goal, but he could be a nice reclamation project for the Sharks, who wouldn’t be counting on him for much offence in a bottom-six role.

Kings center Tobias Rieder
Tobias Rieder has already played in California, albeit briefly with Los Angeles. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY)

Johnson didn’t fare too well in his California debut with Anaheim to end last season and the 33-year-old is coming off consecutive campaigns of posting sub-.900 save percentages, but his overall career numbers aren’t too shabby. It’s slim pickings for goaltenders, but the Sharks could bring in a veteran to push Aaron Dell as well as Martin Jones.

Schlemko had one of his best seasons with San Jose — looking especially good in the 2017 playoffs — before leaving for Montreal. A return could be in the cards, with the Sharks not overly deep on the back end in the present.

Haley seems to have a home in San Jose as the resident tough guy, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see him re-signed after being brought back from Florida to end last season.

Toronto Maple Leafs

PTOs: Ben Hutton (LD), Cody Franson (RD), Spencer Watson (RW), Nic Kerdiles (LW)

ANALYSIS: In addition to Neuvirth, who should be able to outduel Michael Hutchinson for the backup job behind Frederik Andersen, the Leafs could take a look at a couple defencemen and some younger forwards for the AHL Marlies.

Hutton is from Ontario and has been connected to the Leafs, so that PTO wouldn’t be too surprising if it comes to fruition.

Ben Hutton Vancouver Canucks
Ben Hutton, formerly of the Vancouver Canucks. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Franson already has a PTO lined up in Toronto — with the Marlies — but the former Leaf might also get a spin with the NHL club at camp. That could be part of his agreement to audition for the AHL team, even though that PTO was the first to be announced.

Watson is another Ontario kid and the now 23-year-old would be familiar to Kyle Dubas from his OHL days with Kingston and Mississauga. Watson was a standout in junior and likely left a positive impression on Toronto’s young GM.

Kerdiles was a promising prospect for Anaheim not too long ago and the Leafs just signed another player who had been developing alongside Kerdiles in Kalle Kossila. They could potentially be reunited with the Marlies.

Calgary Flames

PTOs: Rourke Chartier (LC), Griffin Reinhart (LD), Duncan Siemens (LD)

ANALYSIS: The Flames are pretty set on paper, but they could add a few more depth players with NHL experience for their farm team in Stockton.

Chartier played junior for Calgary assistant coach Ryan Huska with WHL Kelowna, where he was a teammate of Justin Kirkland, who the Flames signed for Stockton. Chartier overcame a concussion last season but wasn’t qualified by San Jose, to some surprise. He still has NHL upside at 23 years old and Huska will surely vouch for him.

Rourke Chartier, right, seen here in AHL action with the San Jose Barracuda. (Scott Dinn/San Jose Barracuda)

Reinhart didn’t pan out in Edmonton and didn’t get into any NHL games for Vegas over the past two seasons, so he’s largely considered a bust as the fourth overall pick from 2012 despite only being 25 years old. His dad Paul was a force for the Flames in the ’80s, so perhaps Griffin could salvage his career in the same organization by taking on a leadership role with Stockton to start.

Siemens is also seen as a bust, a first-rounder from 2011 turning 26 in September, but he’s quite capable at the AHL level. Calgary probably wouldn’t need both Reinhart and Siemens in Stockton, so they could be competing against each other more than anybody else in camp.

New York Islanders

PTOs: Devante Smith-Pelly (RW), Jason Pominville (RW), Stefan Matteau (LW/LC)

ANALYSIS: The Islanders have yet to make the big splash that many were anticipating — they lost out in the Artemi Panarin sweepstakes and didn’t follow through with the threat of a Mitch Marner offer sheet (or he didn’t sign their contract) — but they could take a look at a few forwards in training camp.

Smith-Pelly had success under Barry Trotz in Washington — scoring some key goals in that Stanley Cup run two years ago — so he’d stand a good chance of cracking the Islanders in a bottom-six role.

Washington Capitals Devante Smith-Pelly
Devante Smith-Pelly, formerly of the Washington Capitals. (Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY)

Pominville is a veteran nearing the end, but he could also contribute in a depth role while providing leadership.

Matteau would be more of an AHL addition but could be a capable call-up option. The Islanders are going to have some forward spots for the taking in camp based on their current roster, but they might want to take long looks at their top prospects like Oliver Wahlstrom, Kieffer Bellows and Josh Ho-Sang. 

Montreal Canadiens

PTOs: Joe Morrow (LD), Gabriel Bourque (LW), Emile Poirier (LW/RW)

ANALYSIS: The Canadiens could still be trying to reel in a bigger fish like Gardiner to play the left side with Shea Weber — left defence remains Montreal’s weakness on paper — but there will be PTO options at that position.

Morrow had a decent run in Winnipeg — so don’t rule out a return to the Jets — but Montreal already plucked one left-handed defender from there in Ben Chiarot and could go back to that well again. The Canadiens do like their WHL alums on defence — with Brett Kulak, Noah Juulsen and Josh Brook in addition to Weber — so Morrow might be on their radar.

Joe Morrow - Winnipeg Jets
Joe Morrow, formerly of the Winnipeg Jets. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Bourque and Poirier are both Francophone forwards that could be interested in playing for AHL Laval following PTOs for Montreal. They wouldn’t stand much chance of making the NHL roster out of camp.

Ottawa Senators

PTOs: Stefan Noesen (RW), Tobias Lindberg (RW/LW), Marc Methot (LD)

ANALYSIS: The Senators have a new coach and all kinds of opportunities in a rebuilding state, so Ottawa could be another popular destination for PTO candidates. But, in saying that, ownership concerns might scare off some of the more established players.

Noesen has no connections to Ottawa, but if he’s picking a spot based on the best chance of earning a contract, this would be a wise choice. His playing style could also endear him to D.J. Smith during camp.

Devils right wing Stefan Noesen
Stefan Noesen, formerly of the New Jersey Devils. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY)

Lindberg was originally drafted by Ottawa and spent part of his first pro season with the Baby Senators in Binghamton before getting traded to Toronto back in 2015-16. He was reacquired by the Sens this past December, only to be flipped to Vegas as part of the Mark Stone blockbuster in February. Lindberg could potentially get a third chance in Ottawa since he starred in junior for the new coach in Smith en route to winning the 2015 Memorial Cup with OHL Oshawa. Worth noting, Ottawa already signed another former junior standout in defenceman Nick Ebert, who played for Smith with OHL Windsor.

Methot had his best years in Ottawa as Erik Karlsson’s partner, but he’s struggled to stay healthy in recent seasons with Dallas. Pierre Dorion might offer a PTO to see if Methot has anything left.

Columbus Blue Jackets

PTOs: Magnus Paajarvi (LW), Oscar Lindberg (LC/LW)

ANALYSIS: The Blue Jackets took a few blows — a few losses — in free agency and now might have to rely on prospects Emil Bemstrom and Alexandre Texier to fill those holes, but a little extra competition couldn’t hurt.

Paajarvi and this Lindberg played well together as brief linemates in Ottawa to end last season, so perhaps they could team up again in Columbus. Paajarvi has developed into a reliable depth player and Lindberg has impressive underlying numbers as a positive difference-maker.

Magnus Paajarvi #56, Ottawa Senators
Magnus Paajarvi, formerly of the Ottawa Senators. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Blue Jackets will have a couple forward spots there for the taking in camp — barring any more signings between now and then — so Columbus should be another attractive spot for PTO candidates.

Detroit Red Wings

PTOs: Valeri Nichushkin (RW), Adam Tambellini (LW)

ANALYSIS: Yzerman has enjoyed a ton of success with Russians — as a player in Detroit and as a manager in Tampa Bay — so he could be kicking tires on Nichushkin, who didn’t pan out for Dallas. Yzerman may or may not be interested since one of his former managerial mentors in Detroit, Jim Nill, is the man who cut ties with Nichushkin as the Stars’ GM.

Valeri Nichushkin Dallas Stars
Valeri Nichushkin, formerly of the Dallas Stars. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Tambellini would be an AHL addition for Grand Rapids, a good-sized forward with good speed who turns 25 in November but has yet to get a look at the NHL level. Perhaps he could debut for Detroit or simply serve as organizational depth.

Vegas Golden Knights

PTOs: Marko Dano (LW), Nic Baptiste (RW)

ANALYSIS: Vegas is still in good shape on paper despite shedding some salary — in trading Erik Haula, Colin Miller and Nikita Gusev for futures — but a couple extra forward bodies would be welcomed in camp to increase the competition level.

Dano has some NHL skill but hasn’t been able to stick — similar to Vegas’ Valentin Zykov — while Baptiste would be another bigger body like his former Buffalo teammate William Carrier. Chances are, Dano and Baptiste would be destined to join the AHL runner-up Chicago Wolves, but there are worse places to wind up.

Marko Dano Manitoba Moose
Marko Dano, seen here with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Washington Capitals

PTOs: Troy Brouwer (RW/LW), Luca Sbisa (LD)

ANALYSIS: The Capitals are still in win-now mode and will want to be as deep as possible for this coming season to guard against injuries.

Brouwer had his best years in Washington and would love another chance there after managing to hang around the league while bouncing around in recent years. But he’d be in tough to crack the Capitals’ current roster, battling with Brendan Leipsic, Garnet Hathaway, Nic Dowd, Travis Boyd and Chandler Stephenson for fourth-line duties.

Troy Brouwer Florida Panthers
Troy Brouwer, formerly of the Florida Panthers. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Sbisa didn’t get much opportunity with the Islanders last season under former Washington coaches Trotz and Lane Lambert, but perhaps Todd Reirden would take more of a liking to him with the Capitals. Sbisa shouldn’t be washed up at 29 years old and could help mentor fellow Swiss defender Jonas Siegenthaler. Sbisa could get the PTO call if Michal Kempny (hamstring) isn’t ready for training camp.

Winnipeg Jets

PTOs: Alex Petrovic (RD), Drew Stafford (RW)

ANALYSIS: Winnipeg’s defence is depleted — as mentioned in the predicted signing of Phaneuf — and the Jets’ fourth line is looking awfully young right now.

Even if Phaneuf signed to bump Dmitry Kulikov from the depth chart on the left side, there could be room for Petrovic on the right side. He would need to beat out Sami Niku and Tucker Poolman, which would be easier said than done despite their relative lack of NHL experience.

Stafford had decent success in Winnipeg the first time around, so he could circle back on a PTO if Kevin Cheveldayoff isn’t confident in Mason Appleton being NHL-ready. Stafford might also be a better option coming out of the press box than Mark Letestu, Logan Shaw and Seth Griffith.

Drew Stafford #18
Drew Stafford, formerly of the New Jersey Devils. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Anaheim Ducks

PTOs: Ben Lovejoy (RD), Kevin Bieksa (RD)

ANALYSIS: The Ducks are embracing something of a rebuild under Dallas Eakins, but leadership will continue to be key for Anaheim. The defence is shaping up to be quite young and a veteran presence could be beneficial for camp and maybe beyond.

Lovejoy was recently named to The Athletic’s All-Interview Team — highlighting the NHL’s best communicators at every position — so that speaks to the character that he’d bring in a return to Anaheim.

Dallas Stars Ben Lovejoy
Ben Lovejoy, formerly of the Dallas Stars. (Jerome Miron/USA TODAY)

Bieksa would have surely been among the blueliners on that all-interview team too if he was an active player — he sat out last season, aside from playing for Canada at the Spengler Cup — but he has stayed active by training in the Anaheim area and even competing in a Spartan Obstacle Race. Bieksa’s on-ice ability might not be up to speed, but he could show the way in terms of conditioning and commitment, which would be welcomed by Eakins.

Tampa Bay Lightning

PTOs: Fredrik Claesson (LD), Connor Brickley (LW/LC)

ANALYSIS: Tampa Bay doesn’t have any glaring needs but could use a little more competition in rounding out their roster.

Claesson could battle with Luke Schenn, Luke Witkowski, Cameron Gaunce and top prospect Cal Foote for the depth spots on defence, with Gaunce the lone lefty among those four.

Fredrik Claesson #33, Ottawa Senators
Fredrik Claesson, seen here as a member of the Ottawa Senators in February 2018. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Brickley would be coming in to challenge Danick Martel and Cory Conacher for the final forward roles, though the Lightning have several prospects in that mix too.

Arizona Coyotes 

PTOs: Zac Rinaldo (LW), Scott Kosmachuk (RW)

ANALYSIS: The Coyotes value Rinaldo’s tenacity — as evidenced by signing him two seasons ago, the first campaign of Rick Tocchet’s coaching tenure in Arizona — so he could be brought back after spending last season in Nashville.

Zac Rinaldo
Zac Rinaldo, seen here during his first stint with the Arizona Coyotes in 2017-18. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY)

Kosmachuk would likely be ticketed for AHL Tucson, with the 25-year-old having starred for Scott Walker in junior with OHL Guelph. Walker served as a special assistant to Arizona GM John Chayka last season, so Kosmachuk could certainly be on their radar.

Boston Bruins

PTOs: Lee Stempniak (RW), Rob O’Gara (LD)

ANALYSIS: The Bruins go with what they know — or, rather, who they know — with these PTOs.

Stempniak only got into two games with Boston last season but produced 18 points in 20 games for the Baby Bruins in Providence. He’d be competing with mostly the same guys again, including David Backes, Chris Wagner and Karson Kuhlman, plus newcomer Brett Ritchie.

Stempniak Karlsson - Bruins
Lee Stempniak, left, and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson with the Boston Bruins in September 2018. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

O’Gara was drafted by Boston back in 2011 and suited up for 11 NHL games over two seasons in the Bruins’ system before getting traded to the Rangers ahead of the 2018 deadline. The Bruins are still deep on defence but more so on the right side, which could open the door for O’Gara to return as a lefty.

Chicago Blackhawks

PTOs: Jack Skille (RW), Conner Bleackley (RC/RW)

ANALYSIS: Chicago is already going to have plenty of competition for a couple open wing positions and a couple of the candidates to fill those spots are coming over from Europe.

Skille could be looking to make an NHL return after spending the past two seasons overseas — the first in the KHL and the second in Switzerland. The 32-year-old was a top-10 pick for Chicago back in 2005, so a PTO with the Blackhawks would be bringing his career full circle. Worth noting, the Blackhawks are already bringing back Kris Versteeg on an AHL contract with Rockford, so perhaps they could extend the same olive branch to Skille. And don’t be surprised if Versteeg also gets to attend Chicago’s camp, much like Franson in Toronto.

Jack Skille, left, formerly of the Vancouver Canucks. (Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY)

Bleackley has been a bust as a first-round pick from 2014, but he managed to at least stick in the AHL last season after spending time in the ECHL during his first two pro campaigns. Chicago would be taking a look at him with Rockford in mind.

Colorado Avalanche

PTOs: Cody McLeod (LW), Eric Gryba (RD)

ANALYSIS: Colorado upgraded their roster in a big way this offseason but could still use more grit — at least for the preseason.

McLeod is as gritty as they come, a middleweight who has been punching above his weight class for his entire career, including a decade-long run with Colorado (2007-2017).

Cody McLeod, seen here with the Colorado Avalanche in November 2015. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Gryba has more size on his side and grit is his calling card too. There might not be room for both or either of them on Colorado’s roster in the regular season, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve PTO opportunities with the Avs.

New Jersey Devils

PTOs: Jordan Subban (RD), Al Montoya (G)

ANALYSIS: The Devils got big brother P.K. Subban in a blockbuster at the draft and could also look at getting little brother Jordan for their AHL affiliate.

Jordan Subban, formerly of the Vancouver Canucks. (Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY)

Montoya would almost certainly be AHL bound too, serving as insurance should Cory Schneider get hurt again or should Mackenzie Blackwood struggle in his first full NHL season. New Jersey should really sign another goaltender with NHL experience — or bring back Eddie Lack — unless they plan on trading for Louis Domingue (Tampa Bay) or James Reimer (Carolina).

New York Rangers

PTOs: Adam McQuaid (RD)

ANALYSIS: The Rangers liked what they were getting from McQuaid before trading him to Columbus as a rental at this year’s deadline. The Rangers will have lots of prospects in the mix on defence this fall, but McQuaid’s toughness is a unique quality that could warrant a return to New York City.

Adam McQuaid, New York Rangers
Adam McQuaid, seen here with the New York Rangers in September 2018. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Pittsburgh Penguins

PTOs: Cam Ward (G)

ANALYSIS: The Penguins have resisted pairing Matt Murray with a veteran — instead partnering him with Casey DeSmith, who was extended for three more seasons in January, as well as Tristan Jarry at times — but Ward is still sitting there as a seemingly good fit. 

Cam Ward #30 of the Chicago Blackhawks
Cam Ward, formerly of the Chicago Blackhawks. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Jim Rutherford knows Ward well from their time together in Carolina — highlighted by winning the 2006 Stanley Cup — and Pittsburgh’s GM was a goaltender in his playing days, so he’ll definitely want to solidify that position going forward. If Ward were to retire, Rutherford might still reach out to him with an offer to mentor Murray in an off-ice role.

Los Angeles Kings

PTOs: Dmitrij Jaskin (RW/LW)

ANALYSIS: The Kings already signed a somewhat similar Czech forward in Martin Frk, but Jaskin could still be worth a look for Los Angeles. He could be an upgrade on some of the Kings’ depth wingers and would keep their prospects developing in the AHL rather than being rushed to the NHL.

Washington Capitals right wing Dmitrij Jaskin
Dmitrij Jaskin, formerly of the Washington Capitals. (Stan Szeto/USA TODAY)

Minnesota Wild

PTOs: Andrew MacDonald (LD)

ANALYSIS: Minnesota’s top four are solid — arguably top 10 in the league — but the four competing for third-pairing roles leave a lot to be desired. MacDonald could beat out any of Nick Seeler, Greg Pateryn, Brad Hunt or Matt Bartkowski — the latter three all being righties, thus improving MacDonald’s chances of earning a contract with the Wild as a lefty.

Andrew MacDonald, formerly of the Philadelphia Flyers. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Carolina Hurricanes

PTOs: Jamie McGinn (LW)

ANALYSIS: Carolina extended younger brother Brock McGinn for two years this summer and he could potentially become linemates with big brother Jamie if this PTO came to fruition. They are similar players, with Jamie a power-forward type that could work his way into Rod Brind’Amour’s good books.

Florida Panthers Jamie McGinn Vegas Golden Knights Shea Theodore
Jamie McGinn, left, formerly of the Florida Panthers. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY)

Buffalo Sabres

PTOs: Matt Read (RW)

ANALYSIS: The Sabres might have a bigger move up their sleeve — such as trading Rasmus Ristolainen for a top-six forward — but Read could be on their radar as a PTO option. 

Matt Read, seen here as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Jason Botterill would have seen plenty of Read while immersed in that Pittsburgh-Philadelphia rivalry. Read could remind Buffalo’s GM of a less offensive Conor Sheary, who Botterill acquired from his former team in Pittsburgh.

Dallas Stars

PTOs: Dennis Seidenberg (LD)

ANALYSIS: The Stars already signed a veteran defender in Andrej Sekera, but he’s been injury-prone in recent years and Seidenberg might be willing to stick around as an insurance policy.

Dennis Seidenberg - Islanders
Dennis Seidenberg, formerly of the New York Islanders. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That was the case last season when Seidenberg attended Islanders’ camp on a PTO and remained with the team before finally signing a contract in late February. But he never got into a single game down the stretch, so Seidenberg could be looking for a change of scenery and Dallas could be a decent landing spot for him.

Nashville Predators

PTOs: Scott Darling (G)

ANALYSIS: Nashville would be familiar with Darling from his rise as Chicago’s backup, and though he flopped as Carolina’s starter, the Predators could build him back up in the AHL.

Hurricanes goaltender Scott Darling
Scott Darling, formerly of the Carolina Hurricanes. (Karl B DeBlaker/AP Photo)

Like New Jersey, Nashville should still be in the market for another goaltender with NHL experience should anything ever happen to Pekka Rinne or Juuse Saros.

Florida Panthers

PTOs: Eddie Lack (G)

ANALYSIS: Florida got the best goalie on the market this summer — making Sergei Bobrovsky a $10-million man — but the Panthers also need another experienced netminder after losing Roberto Luongo to retirement and trading away James Reimer in a salary dump that resulted in buying out Darling.

Calgary Flames goaltender Eddie Lack
Eddie Lack has bounced around since leaving Vancouver, including this stop with the Calgary Flames. (Perry Nelson/USA TODAY)

Keeping Darling wasn’t an option at more than $4 million, but Luongo’s old buddy Lack would come cheap on a two-way contract. He would likely be destined for AHL Springfield, with Samuel Montembeault expected to serve as Bobrovsky’s understudy.

Vancouver Canucks

PTOs: None

ANALYSIS: The Canucks already have more than enough forwards on one-way deals and a good number of capable defencemen under contract too. The goaltending is in good hands as well, so Jim Benning’s offseason work is likely done.

Micheal Ferland Carolina Hurricanes
Micheal Ferland, formerly of the Carolina Hurricanes, was signed by the Vancouver Canucks on July 10. (James Guillory/USA TODAY)

Philadelphia Flyers

PTOs: None

ANALYSIS: The Flyers are also deep at every position, with no real need for any more PTOs. There certainly wasn’t a need for Chris Stewart and he doesn’t stand much chance of earning a contract with Philadelphia after playing in England last season. But Chuck Fletcher knows Stewart from their time together in Minnesota and is likely doing him a favour by giving Stewart one last look in the NHL.

Chris Stewart
Chris Stewart, formerly of the Minnesota Wild. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

St. Louis Blues

PTOs: None

ANALYSIS: Last but not least, the reigning Stanley Cup champion Blues will be returning the vast majority of their roster and therefore don’t have any holes to plug with PTOs. St. Louis will have a bit of internal competition, but that depth chart is essentially etched in stone heading into camp.

St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup
The St. Louis Blues pose for a photo with the Stanley Cup on June 12 in Boston. (Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

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