As the new NHL season inches closer, general managers are adding the final touches to their roster— it’s the time of year when teams generally sign players to a Professional Tryout Contract (PTO). Players invited to camp on a PTO can be an unsigned European player, career minor leaguer, but most often they’re NHL veterans trying to impress and earn another NHL contract.
So far this preseason, the Edmonton Oilers have only signed Colton Sceviour to a PTO, but over the years, the organization has invited many NHL veterans to showcase their skills. Although a tryout doesn’t always lead to a contract, in 2016, the Oilers signed two-time Stanley Cup winner Kris Versteeg to a PTO, only for him to sign with the Calgary Flames. However, sometimes these players prove to be stable depth options and more. Below are some of the Oilers’ best PTO signings.
After six seasons splitting time between the Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks and Columbus Blue Jackets, and producing modest 32-and 33-point seasons, the Oilers signed Devin Shore to a PTO on Dec. 28, 2020. He impressed well enough in training camp and turned the PTO into a one-year, two-way contract on Jan. 13, 2021.
In the shortened 2020-21 season, the Ajax, Ontario native dressed for 38 games with five goals and four assists. While most of his ice time was spent on the fourth line, he was a utility player. He killed penalties, averaging 1:11 minutes per game and scored a shorthanded goal. He played on the wing and at centre while boasting a 52.8% faceoff percentage (FO%).
Shore played two out of four games against the Winnipeg Jets in the playoffs. In Game 4, he earned the trust of head coach Dave Tippett and logged 24:56 of ice time (TOI) and had a grade-A scoring chance in a 4-3 loss in triple overtime. He was effective with his defensive stability and solid two-way play. On June 9, 2021, general manager Ken Holland signed him to a two-year contract extension with an annual cap hit of $850,000.00.
Eric Gryba was a unique PTO signing; he originally arrived in Edmonton on June 27, 2015, via a trade with the Ottawa Senators. That season, he played 53 games, registering six points, 75 penalty minutes and 132 hits; however, his season was derailed by a knee injury.
The Oilers did not offer the rugged defenseman a contract extension when he became a free agent that offseason but offered him a PTO instead, which prompted Gryba to take a unique approach. Instead of entertaining offers from other NHL teams, Gryba — who wanted to stay in Edmonton – bet on himself and accepted the PTO. The bet paid off, and thanks to his stability and physicality as a right-handed shot on the third pairing, the team offered him a contract on Oct. 12, 2016.
He signed a one-year, two-way deal and played 40 games for the big club rotating between the sixth and seventh defenseman role. He was sporadically paired with Darnell Nurse and provided depth on the second penalty-kill unit. His defensive stability and familiarity led Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli to re-sign the veteran to a two-year deal worth $900,000 a season.
While Gryba had a moderately successful season after parlaying his PTO into a two-year deal, things did not work in his favour in 2017-18. He played in 21 games for the Oilers, with two assists and 31 penalty minutes, before he was sent down to the Bakersfield Condors. The Oilers then bought out the final year of his contract.
Still, for a season and a half after his PTO, he was a serviceable player, providing defensive depth and toughness and receiving 10 fighting majors in his time in Edmonton.
Before the 2018-19 season, the Oilers were looking for a veteran presence to add to their lineup. Fresh off a Stanley Cup win with the Washington Capitals, they signed Alex Chiasson to a PTO on Sept. 10, 2018.
Known as a depth player with 124 points in 381 NHL games before arriving in Edmonton, Chiasson won a final spot on the roster out of training camp. He was a big body who could chip in on the scoreboard, and the team signed him to a one-year deal worth $650,000.00.
While most PTOs who receive contracts usually serve as depth players in a limited role, Chiasson made an impact that season. He produced early and found himself on the first power-play unit, parking his big body in front of the net. He scored 22 goals and 38 points, including 15 on the power play. Chiasson, who signed for the league minimum, provided the team with exceptional value.
Edmonton rewarded Chiasson on July 1, 2019, by re-signing him to a two-year deal worth $4.3 million. In his final two seasons with the club, he was a net-front presence on the power play; however, he wasn’t able to repeat his point totals from the 2018-2019 season. In his final 110 games with the team, he produced 40 points and provided veteran leadership.
Most teams sign players to a PTO contract to fill out their training camp roster, create preseason competition or find a depth player, but every so often the gamble pays off and they find serviceable NHL players. Chiasson proved to be one of the Oilers’ best PTO signings.
First ever Ultimate MVP fan of the NHL as declared by Upperdeck – CBC Radio Oilers’ Fan Panel Analyst – Freelance Writer. Edmonton Oilers’ Sportswriter for the Hockey Writers.