When the Devils hit the ice for the start of training camp in a couple weeks or so, they will do so with a number of players at both the forward and defense positions looking to make their presence known and either win an NHL roster spot or at least leave a lasting impression on the front office and NHL coaching staff. But even though the expectation is that at least one of these guys will show enough to earn a roster spot, it never hurts to have a contingency plan. And this is where professional tryouts (PTOs) become a useful option for Fitzgerald and co. For those unaware, a player can be invited to training camp on a PTO agreement, and at any point be cut, no need for a buyout. And while it is a risky proposition for the player agreeing to the PTO, seeing as if they sustain a major injury in camp or a preseason game they’re SOL, it’s a last resort, so many players will take that chance if they’re dead set on playing in the NHL.
While most players agreeing to a PTO don’t have any other options, that doesn’t mean a team will just toss out a bunch of try-outs to anyone who will come. In general, team’s tend to target one or two guys that they genuinely think have a shot to make the roster, even if it’s as an extra skater most nights. Currently, there are still a handful of players that could likely help an NHL team still left unsigned. A few of them, such as Evan Rodrigues, who according to Elliotte Friedman on the most recent 32 Thoughts podcast has interest from a number of teams, will likely sign a contract prior to the start of camp, but even so, there are a number of intriguing options still left on the market. Let’s Look at a few players the Devils could potentially make late additions to their camp roster.
Note that I will be relying heavily on information from CapFriendly for this list. If something isn’t linked it’s from there.
Milano is someone I’m surprised is still on the market. He seemed to have good chemistry with Trevor Zegras in Anaheim and it’s not like the Ducks don’t have the cap space to sign him. Yet, here we are on September 7th and Milano doesn’t have a home. Milano, was the 16th overall draft pick by Columbus in 2014, and while it’s clear that he has skill, this past year was the closest he’s come to a breakout season. The 26 year-old winger finished the year with 14 goals and 34 points in 66 games. Milano’s player card from this past season indicates that it wasn’t all just on surface either, he genuinely had a strong impact at both 5 on 5 and on the power play.
Given that we know he can contribute if given the right line mates, he is someone any team looking to add some more talent should be taking a closer look at.
Rask got put in a tough situation in Minnesota a few years ago after he was traded for Nino Niederreiter where he was asked to play a role that was clearly above his capabilities. But when given a more limited role, he is capable of excelling. Rask is a bottom-6 center, so he doesn’t really fit a major need for the Devils at the moment seeing as they already have 5 centers on the team (including Boqvist). That said, if the Devils decide to shift Boqvist to the wing this season, he could be a nice upgrade over McLeod.
As you can see from his player card, Rask is a very strong defensive player at even strength. He is capable of driving play and was above 50% CF% for his whole tenure with Minnesota and short stint with the Kraken. He can provide a small amount of offense (he finished with 21 points in 47 games last season), but it’s not something I’d count on him for.
Continuing with the list of forwards, next on the list is 25 year-old right-shot RW Daniel Sprong. Sprong split last season between Washington and Seattle, joining the Kraken at the trade deadline in return for former Devil Marcus Johansson. Sprong is a one dimensional player and that dimension is shooting the puck. Last season, he ended the year with 14 goals and 20 points in 63 games, which doesn’t sound that impressive until you realize he actually was a little snake bitten. He fired 153 shots on goal last year and only scored on 9.2% of them. This was all done while averaging just 13 minutes of TOI per game. Sprong isn’t going to drive play for you, but he’s at least not going to be a black-hole in that department and is at 50.4% CF% for his career. If the Devils want a shooter and insurance in case neither Holtz nor Zetterlund look ready during camp, Sprong is a solid option that is still left on the free agency scrap heap.
The final forward I want to touch on as a potential PTO option is Zach Aston-Reese. Like Sprong, Aston-Reese is a one-dimensional forward, but his dimension is at the other end of the rink. In fact, as you can see below, he provides minimal offensive value but is an excellent defensive player and is a capable penalty killer. He is the definition of a low-event hockey player in that pretty much nothing happens when he’s on the ice. The 28 year-old split last season between Pittsburgh and Anaheim and was good for 15 points in 69 games. He’s a perfect role player and if Lindy Ruff and co want another shut-down forward he’d be a great player to take a longer look at.
Calvin De Haan
There’s not a whole lot out there in terms of capable defensemen. You can pretty much forget about anyone who plays the right-side given the Devils strength there. Of the 14 names capfriendly lists as UFAs, most of the players available are either at the tail end of their career, bad, or both. Left shot defensemen Calvin De Haan is a decent option however. He has spent the last 3 seasons in Chicago after starting his career with the Islanders. De Haan has been a solid second-pairing guy throughout his career, but has slowed down a bit due to a combination of injuries and age. That said, he was playing just under 19 minutes a game last season and while he’s not going to be running a power play anytime soon, he managed to put up decent underlying numbers on the defensive train-wreck that was the Blackhawks last season. If the Devils were interested in De Haan it would be good insurance in case no one else can grab the 3rd pairing spot on the left side.
I do not see the Devils having a ton of interest in adding anyone on a PTO for camp this year given the plethora of fringe players they have at both the forward and defensive positions. That said, if they were to add someone, I think the options listed above are the best of what’s available. Do you think the Devils will sign anyone to a PTO? If so do you agree with the options I’ve listed here? Or is there someone you think I missed adding to this list? Please leave your comments below and thank you for reading.