Five experienced NHLers who could need training camp to score deals - The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated

Five experienced NHLers who could need training camp to score deals

Signing season is slowing down and spots are filling up throughout the league. That's going to leave some experienced players searching for work, and a trip to training camp on a professional tryout might be the best bet for these veterans.
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Before Alex Chiasson became a cheap, effective goal-scoring winger for the Edmonton Oilers – and before he inked a two-year, $4.3-million deal, the most lucrative of his career, to remain with the organization – he was a six-year NHL veteran who had to prove himself to find work.

That’s exactly what Chiasson did, too. Fresh off of a Stanley Cup victory with the Washington Capitals, for whom he played a fourth-line role and chipped in a couple of points during the post-season, Chiasson found himself on the free agent market with few suitors. The 2009 second-round pick was 27, still in the prime of his career, but despite a few double-digit goal campaigns and three 20-plus point campaigns, he hadn’t really made his mark in the big league. And so, when no deal came in, Chiasson went the professional tryout route, inking an agreement with the Oilers that led to a roster spot and subsequently a 22-goal, 38-point season, the best of his career.

Now that he’s locked in for a couple of campaigns in Edmonton, though, Chiasson won’t have to worry about taking the same tack to land an NHL gig next season. Others, however, won’t be so lucky. There are several players who are prime candidates to enter training camps looking to land contracts, including these five notable veterans:

Derick Brassard
Suggesting Brassard wouldn’t be able to find work would have been somewhat laughable a few seasons back. Following 2015-16, Brassard had just put the finishing touches on a two-season run in which he scored 46 goals and 118 points. He was a consistent playoff performer. He was a second-liner for the Rangers. But then he was shipped to the Ottawa Senators – for New York’s current No. 1 pivot Mika Zibanejad, no less – and his career hasn’t really been the same since. His offense dipped to 39 points in 2016-17, he recovered with a 46-point season in 2017-18 but the 2018-19 campaign was a disaster. Brassard mustered 14 goals and 23 points in 70 games, was traded twice and ended his season as a fourth-liner with the Colorado Avalanche.

It wouldn’t have been all that odd to see someone take a flyer on Brassard by now, but that we’re nearly two weeks into signing season and he’s without work points to the possibility that his best bet is trying his hand through training camp. He still has game and he’s likely got a sizeable chip on his shoulder and wants to prove himself. If someone hasn’t inked him to a one-year pact by September, chances are he’s going to land in camp and vie for a job that way.

Andrew MacDonald
MacDonald’s time in Philadelphia was a mess. By the second season of his six-year, $30-million deal, he had an extended stay in the AHL and played only 28 big-league games during the 2015-16 campaign, and it was about that time that talk began about when, not if, a buyout would happen. And this summer we got our answer. The Flyers bought out the final campaign of his contract. Now MacDonald finds himself on the hunt for a new home, but he does so with spots on bluelines around the league filling up fast.

Any team that might bring MacDonald into camp won’t be doing so with the intent of having the rearguard play anything that resembles regular minutes, but there’s offensive upside to his game and a club that’s lacking some punch on the back end might consider bringing the 32-year-old to town.

Riley Sheahan
He was a bottom-six fixture in Detroit for several seasons and was sought after when it was clear the Red Wings were ready to move on. Since departing Motor City, though, Sheahan has bounced around a bit, spending the bulk of the 2017-18 campaign with the Pittsburgh Penguins before getting sent to the Florida Panthers in a mid-season swap last season. But still unsigned at a time when most teams are beginning to shift their focuses, Sheahan is hardly a top candidate to get snapped up before the campaign begins. Thus, he’s a prime PTO candidate.

There are teams that are going to be after what Sheahan, 27, brings. Though his underlying numbers are decidedly mediocre, he’s a faceoff-winning pivot who can play bottom line minutes and fill a spot on the penalty kill. The best thing about bringing him in, too, is that it removes the need for a club to miscast a skater as a bottom-liner or shoehorn an inexperienced player into the role. He’s a mere stopgap option, though.

Devante Smith-Pelly
His seven goals during the Capitals’ run to the Stanley Cup two seasons ago made ‘DSP’ a hero in Washington and he was rewarded with a one-year, $1-million deal. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to translate his post-season success into an effective 2018-19 campaign and he spent nearly as much time out of the Capitals’ lineup as he did in it. He ended the season with four goals and eight points in 54 games, averaged roughly 11 minutes per game and spent the final two months of the regular season in the minors.

It’s unlikely the 27-year-old’s phone is ringing off the hook, but there will probably be teams who want to bring him to camp to see if he can fit as a fourth-line winger. He’s physical, skates well and a team seeking some fringe depth or an injury replacement presents a possible fit.

Tobias Rieder
Rieder’s name hit the headlines a few months back because of comments made by Bob Nicholson regarding the winger’s inability to find the net. More specifically, Nicholson, who made clear Rieder wouldn’t be returning after inking a one-year deal with the Oilers last summer, said that if he had scored a dozen goals last season, Edmonton would have been a playoff team. Nicholson later apologized, and while there’s no knowing about the whole make-the-post-season thing, it’s true that Rieder fell well short of any offensive projections. He didn’t score once last season, racking up 11 points, all assists, in 67 games. Oof.

It’s hard to fathom no team will want to take a shot on the 26-year-old, though. Prior to last season, he had 55 goals and 117 points in 312 career NHL contests and two 30-point campaigns under his belt. His inability to score last season can be chalked up to some dreadful puck luck, too. He had 92 shots in 2018-19, and if he had scored at his career rate, that would have translated to an eight-goal campaign. Sure, that’s not going to lead to GMs duking it out for Rieder’s services, but there’s upside there on a flyer if he brings it in camp.

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