Some NHL vet­er­ans look­ing to ex­tend their ca­reers as camps open

Packet & Times (Orillia) - - SPORTS - KYLE CICERELLA Brooks Laich, then of the Toronto Maple Leafs, dur­ing a pre-game skate at SaskTel Cen­tre be­fore fac­ing the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors, on Tues­day, Oct. 4, 2016. Af­ter spend­ing last sea­son buried in the mi­nors in Toronto, Laich is one of many vet­er­ans

NHL ros­ters will be mostly set when train­ing camps open this week, with only a cou­ple of spots in each team’s 23-man lineup up for grabs.

Every sea­son, there are vet­er­ans look­ing to ex­tend their ca­reers by tak­ing those spots — usu­ally from a younger prospect — even if it means en­ter­ing camp on try­out ba­sis.

Play­ers on a pro­fes­sional try­out con­tract, known as a PTO, have no se­cu­rity, only an op­por­tu­nity to prove they de­serve an­other NHL deal. Very few play­ers are suc­cess­ful and many are left pon­der­ing whether they should play over­seas or in the mi­nors, or re­tire.

“You never want to hope there’s an in­jury to get a job but for some of th­ese guys, it’s what needs to hap­pen,” said agent Al­lain Roy, of RSG Sports. “You’re ex­cited to get an op­por­tu­nity but you’re not happy to be at that point (in your ca­reer.)”

He calls play­ers on pro­fes­sional try­outs an “in­sur­ance pol­icy.”

“A very small per­cent­age are true op­por­tu­ni­ties,” he said. “But I think if a guy goes through camp and he out­per­forms a young guy then that con­ver­sa­tion has to hap­pen.”

As of Tues­day morn­ing, there were 40 play­ers ex­pected to at­tend camps on try­ouyts.

Many are fa­mil­iar names who once had lu­cra­tive guar­an­teed con­tracts: De­fence­man Cody Fran­son, 30, with Chicago; for­ward R.J. Um­berger, 35, with Dal­las; for­wards David Booth, 32, and Pier­reAlexan­dre Par­enteau, 34, with Detroit.

There are plenty with Cana­dian teams too, in­clud­ing de­fence­man Eric Geli­nas, 26, in Mon­treal; for­ward Chris Kelly, 36 in Ed­mon­ton; for­ward Chris Van­deVelde, 30, in Ot­tawa; for­wards Tan­ner Glass, 33, and Joseph Cra­marossa, 24, in Cal­gary; and for­wards Scot­tie Up­shall, 33, and Ryan White, 29, in Van­cou­ver.

Up­shall has been through this be­fore when he con­verted a try­out with St. Louis into two sea­sons with the Blues.

Twenty-one teams have at least one skater at­tend­ing camp look­ing for a last hur­rah. The L.A. Kings lead the way with five in­vi­tees, in­clud­ing for­ward Brooks Laich, who spent last sea­son buried in the AHL with the Toronto Mar­lies.

“Fired up to be at­tend­ing the #LAKings train­ing camp, grate­ful for the op­por­tu­nity and can’t wait to put all my sum­mers prep into ac­tion!” the 34-year-old tweeted.

Last sea­son, Kris Ver­steeg was one of the lucky ones. He went to Ed­mon­ton’s camp on a try­out and got the at­ten­tion of the Flames, who of­fered him a one-year NHL con­tract.

Ver­steeg did have to set­tle for less money as he was com­ing off a fouryear, US$17.6-mil­lion con­tract and had his salary cut to just $950,000. He went on to pro­duce 15 goals and 37 points in 69 games and was re­signed by the Flames for $1.75 mil­lion this sea­son.

“I def­i­nitely feel the eco­nomics of the game are kind of crunch­ing the mid­dle (salary) guys out a lit­tle bit,” said Roy. “That’s driv­ing some vets out be­cause some of the younger play­ers com­ing up are go­ing to be a lit­tle cheaper. The (salary) cap hasn’t gone up a lot the last few years and it just seems as it inches along with the salaries of the topend guys go­ing up, guys who seem to be pay­ing the price are the mid­dle guys.”

While most play­ers on try­outs are try­ing to ex­tend their ca­reer, 37-year-old Ryan Malone is us­ing one to at­tempt a come­back.

Malone last suited up in the NHL in 2014-15 with the Rangers, but is at­tend­ing Min­nesota train­ing camp.

Mean­time, sev­eral high pro­file free agents, in­clud­ing Jarome Iginla, Jaromir Jagr, Brian Gionta, Jiri Hudler and Den­nis Wide­man, aren’t go­ing to camp on try­outs.

De­fence­man James Wis­niewski, who spent 2016-17 with Chicago of the Amer­i­can Hockey League, is hop­ing to gen­er­ate some buzz on so­cial me­dia.

“Still look­ing for a job or an op­por­tu­nity, any­one want a for­mer 50 PT right handed d man lol #nhl #olympics,” he tweeted on Sept. 5, be­fore fol­low­ing up two days later with: “Might have some­thing last chance peo­ple.”

GREG PENDER/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK FILES

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