Calgary Flames

Potential PTO candidates for the Calgary Flames in 2023-24

It is officially September, which means training camps begin this month. As is fashion, the talk in NHL circles is about Professional Tryout Offers (PTOs) as the remainder of the UFA crop starts to dwindle down.

Calgary used PTOs quite regularly under Brad Treliving’s tenure, and signed a number of them to NHL contracts. This list includes Matt Bartkowski, Tanner Glass, Tobias Rieder, Zac Rinaldo, Brett Ritchie, and Michael Stone; (Nicklas Grossmann as well, whose contract was terminated a month after it was signed). They also used PTOs to invite Cody Eakin and Sonny Milano to camp last fall, but neither received contracts.

The use of PTOs has been a topic of discussion for Craig Conroy since he took over the GM chair. Conroy mentioned the use of PTOs from the previous regime and how they blocked young players from getting spots in the lineup. Given the Flames’ desire to rightfully allow more spots for younger players in the lineup, I wouldn’t anticipate many PTOs, if any, coming to camp in a matter of weeks. However, if they are going to bring in a PTO, I would imagine it is a younger forward. So, I have outlined some potential options that fit this description:

Jesse Puljujarvi

Yes, you knew this was coming. Embrace the chaos.

After pretty decent 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons, Jesse Puljujarvi struggled to make an impact in 2022-23. Puljujarvi was shipped off to the Carolina Hurricanes a few days before last year’s trade deadline. He never caught on with the Canes, either, and had just two assists in 17 regular season games. While Puljujarvi doesn’t use his frame effectively, I still think there is some potential there.

The Flames were extremely close to moving up in the 2016 NHL Draft to select Puljujarvi (I think Matthew Tkachuk was a pretty darn good consolation prize) and he was also talked about in the Milan Lucic/James Neal trade. So, there was some interest from the Flames previously, and there is some use for a RW in their lineup now. Puljujarvi has some consistently great defensive results when looking at analytical models, so there’s something there. A PTO is a tryout for a reason, and I can’t think of a better example of someone to take a shot on and see what happens.

Mason Shaw

The Wainwright, Alberta product is small, but had a decent season with the Minnesota Wild last year. Mason Shaw notched seven goals and 17 points in 59 games with the Wild, mainly used on the fourth line. You wouldn’t think a 5’9″ forward would be effective in a fourth line role, but Shaw’s tenacity and hard-nosed play proved to very beneficial for the Wild. Unfortunately for Shaw, his season ended abruptly on April 1st last year, when he went crashing into the boards and shattered the ACL in his right knee. This is the already the fourth time (twice in his left, twice in his right) the 24-year old Shaw has had his ACL rebuilt, so I’d imagine teams have some concerns there. Unsure of his progress to date, it’s not clear if Shaw will be ready when training camps begin. But if he is ready, he would be a fun player to root for, given what he’s gone through in such a short time. His versatility to play centre and wing as well as good analytical results last year also make this an appetizing PTO option.

Noah Gregor

Noah Gregor, a 24-year old Beaumont, Alberta product, remains a free agent after spending the last four seasons with the San Jose Sharks. The winger has 26 goals and 51 points in his 178 game career to date. The Sharks didn’t give him a qualifying offer this summer, making him a free agent. I’m not sold on Gregor, as he has some consistently bad metrics, including some of the worst on the Sharks last year. But, he fits the age bracket of someone who could make sense to bring in.

Danton Heinen

The 28-year old Langley, British Columbia product is a free agent after spending the last two seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins. To date, Danton Heinen has 70 goals and 176 points in 413 games. His career high season dates back to 2017-18, where he had 16 goals and 47 points in 77 games. More recently, Heinen had a good 2021-22 season where he had 18 goals and 33 points in 76 games. However, he trailed off in 2022-23 with only eight goals and 22 points in 65 games. I would definitely take a chance on Heinen, as he has put up consistently good offensive and defensive metrics throughout his career.

Other options

Zach Aston-Reese, Adam Erne, Tyler Motte, Nick Ritchie, Colin White, Jujhar Khaira, Saku Maenalanen.

Ethan Bear had shoulder surgery and is out until December, but he could be an interesting option for the Flames if they have moved Noah Hanifin by that time.

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