With only a week until training camps open around the NHL, many players still find themselves searching for employment. Unlike previous years, this summer’s leftovers feature a wide selection of capable veterans and promising prospects.
A few are beginning to accept training camp invites with the hope of landing an NHL contract, while others may follow the example of Miroslav Satan and wait until roster holes are created due to injuries.
Former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Garnet Exelby will be attending New York Rangers camp on a tryout and told Steve Zipay it’s critical to be at training camp and getting in shape no matter where he ends up.
Baseball conducts open camps in the spring for the unemployed such as the Pro Free Agent Showcase for this very reason. Their mission statement:
This showcase was designed for the elite player. It will give professional players who are trying to continue to play a chance to compete in front of MLB, International and Independent league scouts. This is an opportunity that did not exist in the past. This will give players maximum exposure to many different clubs all at the same time. Thus, eliminating going camp to camp trying to impress single teams and incurring much higher expenses.
Wouldn’t it make sense for the NHL to start hosting a camp like this in early September instead of individual teams flying Willie Mitchell in to see if he can play?
SBNation just wrapped up their Mock Expansion Draft this week and it made us at THW wonder what an NHL training camp and roster of leftover free agents might look like. The candidates did not include players on their way to Europe (Richard Park), players ruled out for the season (Paul Kariya), or retirees. Just NHL-caliber free agents waiting by the phone ready to go.
A few items stand out from our Replacements roster. The forwards are lacking dynamic scorers, but definitely not leadership and experience. These have obviously become expendable qualities. A third line of Tucker, Wellwood and Nolan would compete with many checking lines trotted out by NHL teams this season. Bill Guerin scored 45 points last season and still should have something left in the tank. He wants to finish his career with a contender and has singled out Philadelphia as his preference, but it’s hard to see where Guerin would fit on a team like the Flyers with very few openings and little cap space.
On defense, Kim Johnsson is one of the league’s premier puck-movers but concussion issues have put his future in doubt. Jay McKee did himself no favors when he took a discount to play with the Penguins last season, but the team that signs him will have a poor-man’s Anton Volchenkov for the league minimum salary. Last season Marc-Andre Bergeron showed can still contribute on the powerplay, but his defensive liabilities and small stature make him difficult to dress on a nightly basis, even on our Replacements roster.
Jose Theodore had zero regulation losses from January 13 through the end of the regular season in Washington last year. The Capitals had three young goalies waiting in the wings to take his spot, but Theodore is still capable of at least filling a veteran backup role. With no goalies in the Nashville system possessing NHL experience, Jose Theodore would be a great fit behind Pekka Rinne.
How do you think this team would compete against the bottom-feeders of the NHL? Would you want to see any of these players brought into your team’s training camp on a tryout or at the league minimum?