Revisiting PTO Success Rates in the NHL

How often do PTOs lead to NHL contracts?

This was a question posed last year when we at The Win Column first looked into the success rates of PTOs in the NHL over the past three seasons. An interesting strategy used by teams, PTOs are often overlooked when it comes to training camp decisions, but do they provide value? Last year we wanted to see which teams utilize PTOs the most, what value does a PTO provide to a team during the regular season (if any), and are signing PTOs even worth it to begin with? We were able to provide some answers, albeit over just our three year period.

With the 2019 Training Camp season well under way, we wanted to continue our assessment using CapFriendly’s PTO tracker, while taking a look back at the PTOs from last season and those currently signed to them at this point in time. Perhaps the PTO could make a serious comeback?

PTO Signing Metrics

In addition to the 342 PTOs signed from 2015-2017, there were 36 signed in 2018-19, which brings our population up to 378 PTOs total. With 42 confirmed signings, that brings the success rate to 11.11%. How does this compare year over year?

Although we saw a spike in the first two seasons, there was an eventual drop off of 70% and 40% in the final two years respectively. The PTO isn’t being used as much as it was in the 2016-17 season, but then again there weren’t many successful contracts that year. In 2018-19, the highest percentage of contracts signed to PTOs signed was observed:

At 19.44%, last year showed that teams perhaps are becoming more selective with the PTOs that they sign. Rather than just getting bodies to camp, perhaps NHL teams are identifying key players that they want to be a part of their roster and giving them legitimate NHL shots. That may be a way of thinking, but the player statistics show a different story.

PTO Player Stats

Seven players were signed to NHL contracts last season, after being on a PTO, and all seven of the faced varying degrees of success. Two players, Michal Cajkovsky and Jason Garrison were bought out during the season, which must have been a tough pill to swallow. That being said, Alex Chiasson ended up generating the second highest point total of all PTO players signed during our assessment, with 38 points and 22 goals for the Edmonton Oilers. The player stats can be seen here:

We can see that last year, successful PTO players played on average in less games, and produced less offence when compared to previous seasons. The biggest drop was in games played, which decreased by just over 46% compared to last season. Although the success rate in PTO players being signed went up, the actual production on the ice went crashing down.

The Financials

How much did these PTOs cost their teams on the books? In reality – not much:

Total Contract ValueAverage Contract Value
2015-2016$9,225,000$658,928
2016-2017$8,050,000$731,818
2017-2018$6,920,000$768,888
2018-2019$5,560,000$788,412

Last season was the smallest amount of money spent on PTOs total at $5.56M across the league. That being said, the average contract value went up, primarily due to Luca Sbisa‘s $1.5M value. Most contracts that were signed were around the league minimum $650K, which goes to show that even if the player ends up impressing, the team isn’t keen on making a large financial commitment.

PTOs by Team

The Calgary Flames continue to sign a wealth of PTOs season after season. Including PTOs from this current training camp, the Flames have signed a total of 39 players to PTOs over that time-span. Although most teams appear to be hovering in the teens, the Flames truly feel the need to gain an influx of players into training camp year after year.

Interestingly, the Nashville Predators have not signed a PTO in the past three seasons, and only four overall. Clearly there isn’t any notable correlation between the two teams, but it would appear David Poille isn’t a huge fan of the PTO path.

Same Story, Different Year

Although it is interesting to see teams appearing to be more selective in their PTO signings, it is still evident that PTOs are meant to fill out training camp rosters and promote competition for roster spots. Even though there is still a chance to get decent NHL production, like Chiasson last season, teams appear to be moving away from that gamble and fill out roster spots with younger prospects. The Flames being the only notable exception.

With 31 players currently signed to PTOs, and one player already signing an NHL deal, we could potentially see this change for the upcoming season. There are a handful of players that could end up earning a roster spot, and a decent one at that, but it’s too early to tell.

A PTO gives a player an excellent opportunity to prove themselves for the upcoming season, but with total PTO numbers dropping, how long until they become a thing of the past?


What are your thoughts on PTOs in general? Let us know in the comments!

Photo courtesy of Sean McCullen: NHL.com

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3 thoughts on “Revisiting PTO Success Rates in the NHL

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