The Detroit Red Wings will begin training camp later this month, and there is plenty of excitement given all of the moves general manager (GM) Steve Yzerman has made. However, teams around the league often sign players to professional tryout (PTO) contracts before the regular season, so we could see Detroit do just that. If this is an avenue Yzerman is open to exploring, three PTO candidates stand out from the rest. Here’s why.
As we get closer to October, P.K. Subban remains without a contract. With this being the case, I wonder if the 33-year-old would be open to the prospect of signing a PTO. If he were to, Yzerman would be wise to see what the Toronto native could do at training camp. This is especially true when noting that the Red Wings have plenty of cap space to work with, so if Subban impresses, they would be able to afford him with ease.
I recently argued that the Red Wings should sign Subban, and that is an opinion that I still possess. When looking at the team’s defensive group, it’s apparent that the veteran would be a perfect fit on their bottom pair. Gustav Lindstrom is currently expected to man the right side, but Subban would provide them with an experienced upgrade. With that, Subban’s offensive ability would help improve the Red Wings’ second power-play unit.
Ultimately, bringing in Subban on a PTO would come with zero risk. If Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde ends up liking what he sees from his younger defenseman, the team could simply not send Subban a contract offer for the year. Thus, what’s the harm in taking a look at him?
The Red Wings lost a grizzled veteran in Sam Gagner through free agency this offseason, and his leadership will be missed. With that, he also just had a strong 2021-22 season that saw him record 31 points in 81 games. That kind of secondary scoring is something that the Red Wings will miss, so I wonder if they would be open to bringing in another player like Gagner. If so, Tyler Ennis could be a perfect PTO candidate worth pursuing.
Like Gagner, Ennis has plenty of NHL experience, as he has played exactly 700 regular-season games over his 13-year NHL career. With that, he also had a pretty solid season with the Ottawa Senators last year, as his eight goals and 24 points in 57 games show effectively. With numbers like these, he could be a solid addition to the Red Wings’ bottom six and force a player like Adam Erne out of the lineup.
Look, Ennis is not a star, but there’s no denying that he can be an effective point-producer even at this stage of his career. Therefore, bringing him in as potential insurance on a PTO could end up being a very beneficial move for the Red Wings. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s capable of playing all three forward positions, so he could also be an excellent 13th forward if signed to a contract for the season.
Another decent depth forward who the Red Wings could take a look at is Riley Nash. From an offensive standpoint, the 33-year-old forward does not offer much of anything at this point. During the 2021-22 season, he had just four assists in 49 games split between the Winnipeg Jets, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Arizona Coyotes. Thus, it’s clear that his days of producing solid offense in the bottom six are long gone, but he deserves consideration because of his excellent defensive play.
If Nash were to impress on a PTO and earn himself a league-minimum contract with the Red Wings, he could be a good depth forward for them to have when injuries arise. His reliable defensive ability would allow him to fill on the fourth line, and penalty kill if needed, and that’s an area where the Red Wings could use some assistance. Therefore, this could be a player who would make sense for them to observe at camp.
Like Ennis, Nash would also give the Red Wings more experience if signed, as he has played in 627 career games over his 11-year NHL career. He could be a good veteran to have around to help motivate the club’s younger players, so there’s ultimately no issue with the Red Wings signing him to a PTO.
Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see if the Red Wings decide to sign any of these three players to a PTO contract. Subban would of course be the biggest name out of the bunch, but there’s no guarantee that he would be willing to sign one. However, when it comes to Ennis and Nash, that is potentially the only way for them to find an NHL home this season, so they are certainly worth considering.
Michael DeRosa is a contributor who covers the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers. Since 2017, he’s written and edited for numerous websites. Besides his work for THW, you can also find him on NHLTradeRumors.me, BBallRumors.com, BaseballRumors.me, FootballRumors.me and The Rat Trick.