The summer has almost turned to fall, and the battle for Lord Stanley’s cup is almost underway once again. To challenge their players and sometimes to fill depth roles, clubs bring in a number of vetern players on professional try-outs (PTOs) to see what they can do. These are players who are currently unsigned and looking to earn a contract for the upcoming season.
With the exception of Greenier, who was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks but spent the last season playing for the Laval Rocket in the AHL, these players have all been around the league since the 2014-15 season. With the Flames lack of depth at right wing, it is no surprise that of the four forwards brought in, three play on the right side.
Smith-Pelly seems to be the one generating the most buzz around Flames circles. A right winger, he has won a cup with the Washington Capitals and has experience working under Associate Coach Geoff Ward while with the New Jersey Devils. That being said, he has never put up more than 25 points in any of his eight seasons in the NHL nor has he been a positive possession player. Some have pointed to Smith-Pelly’s physical upside as a reason to give him a look in Calgary, but he averages just 1.65 hits per game and has only taken one major penalty in the last three years. For reference, Sam Bennett has averaged 1.71 hits/game over the past two seasons.
Using our handy Player Offensive Evaluation Tool (POET), while Smith-Pelly is about average on shot generation, he is far below average in possession and scoring. There does not seem to be much that he can do that one of the Flames prospects couldn’t.
Rieder made headlines at the end of last season Oilers’ executive Bob Nicholson said that if he had scored 10-12 goals, they would have made the playoffs. After failing to put up a single goal last season, he is looking for a shot in Calgary to reignite his NHL career. In his most productive years in Arizona, he put up 37 and 34 points in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons respectively, however he has been unable to replicate those numbers since.
Using the POET, he is below average in all the statistical categories shown. Closest to average on shot generation, his numbers are similar to Smith-Pelly’s in terms of scoring (or lack thereof), and though better in terms of possession, still well below average.
Rinaldo is a gritty fourth line guy, most of his success coming with the Philadelphia Flyers. While never cracking the ten point mark, he has logged over 700 penalty minutes over the course of his career. Interestingly, he has not taken more than 50 penalty minutes in a season since 2015-16 in Boston. The POET on Rinaldo also does not look good. Far below average in all three categories, there does not seem to be much upside to him at all, except for his incredible ability to get suspended for terrible hits.
Unlike the other players the Flames have brought in on a PTO, Grenier has minimal NHL experience to his name. Having bounced around the AHL, he is likely a player they are looking at for a spot in Stockton. A bigger guy who plays a physical brand of hockey, he has also posted decent numbers in the AHL, putting up 48, 45, and 44 points in the last three seasons respectively. Because the POET analysis only takes into account a players NHL numbers over the last three seasons, we are not able to use it on him. He likely will not be a player that will be in Calgary anytime soon unless he can force his way into the conversation over the course of training camp.
Finally, defenceman MacDonald comes to Calgary after spending the last few seasons in Philadelphia. With the Flames losing Juuso Valimaki to injury for what could be the whole season, the Flames will be looking for someone to fill their defensive depth. While only putting up nine points in 47 games last season, MacDonald has put up decent numbers for a defenseman over the course of his career with 18 and 21 points in the two preceding seasons.
After signing a 6 year, 30 million dollar contract to play top four defensive minutes with the Flyers, he seemed to only find some success as a bottom pairing player in the City of Brotherly Love. Perhaps that will be his role with the Flames, but his POET does not look good. While he is below average in all three categories, it is worth noting that if he is coming in to play third pairing minutes (at least until Valimaki returns), he will not likely be called on to provide offense. However, with a number of years in the league along with some playoff experience, he may be a cheap 6th or 7th defenseman that could also provide veteran leadership with the Stockton Heat should things not work out with the big club. The eye-test doesn’t favour MacDonald, but he could find a role on a depleted Flames blueline.
Where will they end up?
On the whole, the five PTOs will likely find a home somewhere in the NHL or AHL come opening night, however it seems unlikely that many will stay in Calgary. Because of a serious lack of cap space this season, the Flames may find it tricky to sign any of these players. With a number of prospects looking to stay in Calgary, the Heat may be in need of some serviceable talent. Perhaps one or two of these players find a role down in sunny Stockton to start the season.