The Young Stars Classic has wrapped up, meaning we are getting very close to the 2023-24 NHL season. Most assumed that given their cap situation and the lack of moves over the summer, the Calgary Flames were going to enter training camp with their current roster and go from there. However, that may not be the case.
Despite saying that he wanted to give his young players a chance to crack the roster this season, Flames general manager Craig Conroy is considering signing one or two players to professional tryouts (PTO). Given the roster, it seems unlikely he would be interested in bringing in a defenceman, and with the log jam in net, it won’t be a goaltender either. Unless he has a major surprise in store, Conroy is likely considering a forward, and these four players who are still unsigned could be of interest.
After being drafted second overall in 2017, Nolan Patrick is still without a contract. The 24-year-old has struggled to become the high-impact player many believed he would become, due mainly to migraine and concussion issues that forced him to miss the entire 2019-20 and 2022-23 seasons.
If the Flames are forced to retool in the near future, given that several players are entering the final year of their contracts, bringing in a player like Patrick who still has plenty of potential seems to be a no-brainer. Thanks to his high hockey IQ and solid two-way play, Calgary could use him in many different situations.
Whether Patrick is healthy and able to play is unknown. Not much has been said about the Manitoba-born centreman recently. But, if he is indeed back to full health and waiting to get another opportunity, bringing him in on a PTO to see what he can provide would be a great move by the Flames.
Similar to Patrick, it is unknown exactly how healthy Jesse Puljujarvi is right now. The 25-year-old underwent double hip surgery this offseason but has been back on the ice skating as he continues his recovery.
Through his years with the Edmonton Oilers, Puljujarvi always appeared to be on the cusp of a breakout but failed to do so. That said, his 14 goals and 36 points in 65 games during the 2021-22 season show that, at the very least, he is capable of contributing to a team’s secondary scoring.
Puljujarvi, who was selected fourth overall in 2016, has also struggled to establish himself in the NHL. His offensive game hasn’t developed as hoped, though he is much better in his own end than he’s given credit for. If he can fully discover his offensive touch, he could still turn into a very good NHLer. The Flames would be wise to take a look at him in camp if he is indeed good to go.
Many teams have been hesitant to sign Phil Kessel as he continues the NHL’s longest-ever ironman streak of 1,064 games. That said, the 35-year-old recently explained that he isn’t worried about that streak coming to an end should he be made a healthy scratch. All he wants to do is play another season, and the Flames could give him that.
Despite getting up there in age, Kessel is still talented. Averaging less than 13 minutes a game last season, he put up 14 goals and 36 points. Those numbers would be highly beneficial for a Flames team that struggled to score goals in 2022-23.
One issue here is that Kessel reportedly isn’t interested in a PTO, as he still believes he can secure a contract. However, his mindset must be changing slightly as the days go by, and he may have to settle for a PTO if he is really serious about playing another season. At the very least, the Flames could benefit from giving him a call and seeing where his head is at.
After failing to find a deal last offseason, Tyler Ennis chose to play in Switzerland. With Bern HC, it was clear that the 33-year-old still has plenty of skill, as he registered 13 goals and 33 points in 37 games. After such a solid campaign, he is reportedly hoping to find his way back to the NHL this season.
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While Ennis is no longer the top-six forward he was earlier in his career, he is still very capable of playing lower in the lineup while providing secondary scoring. His skill level is undeniable, and he has good speed to go with it. At the very least, he could help provide some extra competition in camp, but he should also have a real chance at earning a contract if he can play up to his ability.
Few Players Remaining on the Market
In years past, there have been several great players remaining on the free-agent market come September. That isn’t the case this offseason, as most free agents who hit the market on July 1 have either signed contracts or are already on PTOs. That said, the Flames seem to be considering offering a PTO, and any of the four players mentioned above are worth looking at.