It's not a contract, but for players who are desperate to prove that they still have what it takes to play in the NHL, a professional tryout agreement sure beats sitting at home.
More than 30 players with recent NHL experience are in camp this week on a PTO. And while most are long shots to do anything more than help fill the required veteran quota in preseason games, it's likely that a few will climb off the scrapheap and turn their opportunities into actual contracts.
Here's a look at some of the most prominent names on the PTO list, along with our take on their chances to land an NHL job:
Start house hunting
* Ilya Bryzgalov, G, Wild:Josh Harding's broken foot opened the door for Bryz to return to the Wild. After a remarkable stretch run last season that saw him go 7-3-1 with a 2.12 GAA he's still a good bet to make the club—even after RFA Darcy Kuemper signed with the team Thursday night.
* Ruslan Fedotenko, F, Devils: After scoring seven goals and 17 points with HC Donbass of the KHL last season, the 35-year-old is coming back for one last kick at the can. At this point in his career, he could be a serviceable depth option on the wing, and given that the Devils have Mike Cammalleri, oft-concussed Ryane Clowe, and a batch of kids clamoring for a spot on the left side there is a chance Fedotenko will earn a contract.
* Dan Carcillo, LW, Penguins: The Pens were undone last season by, among other things, a lack of depth and a fear of the trenches. Carcillo, for all his flaws, addresses both of those issues. He'll be a nice add to the fourth line.
* Shane O'Brien, D, Panthers: The Cats are famous for giving PTOs a legitimate shot at making the club. Three—Tim Thomas, Brad Boyes and Tom Gilbert—earned contracts out of camp last season, and given the team's need for toughness and blueline depth, O'Brien is a good bet to be the next in line. The Panthers have six D-men on one-way deals—Willie Mitchell, Erik Gudbranson, Brian Campbell, Dmitry Kulikov, Dylan Olsen and Colby Robak—and are all but certain to hand a spot to first round pick Aaron Ekblad. But there are no guarantees that Ekblad will get to his 10th game or that Robak is ready for a full-time shot at the Show. O'Brien slots in nicely as a veteran presence in the seven spot.
* Simon Gagne, Ville Leino, F, Bruins: Boston has a clear need for top-nine talent. Gagne, a perennial Bruins-killer, is coming off a season aborted by a concussion and groin issues. Leino was a highly paid square peg who couldn't find a fit in Buffalo. Both were desperate for a fresh start and, given their skill sets, could grab a job ... assuming that GM Peter Chiarelli addresses his salary cap situation. If the Bruins GM moves a forward to get into compliance, one or both of these vets could stick.
* Jeff Deslauriers, G, Kings: Goalie Jonathan Quick is targeting opening night for his return after undergoing off-season wrist surgery, but that could be optimistic. Martin Jones is set to pick up the slack for as long as necessary, but that creates possible opening in the back-up role. Deslauriers, last spotted fishing pucks out of an NHL net in 2012, comes into camp as the only legitimate option.
* Henrik Tallinder, D, Maple Leafs: Toronto's starting six looks set— Dion Phaneuf, Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly, Cody Franson, Stephane Robidas and Roman Polak—but there's not much depth beyond that group, especially in light of Robidas' lingering injury issues. Rookie Petter Grannberg would be the team's first preference, but his lack of experience could be exposed. Tallinder is a low-upside option, but as a veteran he could step right in and buy the kids some time to mature.
* Jamie McBain, D, Coyotes: There's a reason why his last employers took a pass on him this summer—mainly questions about his ability to read and react to the pace of the current NHL game—but his pedigree and physical tools could earn McBain another NHL shot. The Coyotes would like to give Connor Murphy and Brandon Gormley regular minutes, but the team needs a veteran who can fill in if/when they stumble. McBain fills the bill.
* Francis Bouillon, D, Canadiens: The Habs passed on re-signing the 38-year-old defender this summer, preferring to keep a spot open for one of the team's emerging prospects (Nathan Beaulieu, Jared Tinordi or Greg Pateryn). It was the right move considering his lousy possession numbers and the need for quicker feet on the back end, but GM Marc Bergevin understands that camp can quickly turn a prospect into a suspect. The veteran could suit up as the team's seventh defender (he averaged nearly 18 minutes per game last season with Montreal) if the kids falter.
* Krys Barch, Matt Kassian, Coyotes: Phoenix (now Arizona) ranked 26th in the league last season with 18 fighting majors. Given how things turned out, the Yotes may be looking to address that issue. Neither Barch nor Kassian can be counted on to play regular minutes, but they're interchangeable for spot duty. Barch, who finished sixth in the NHL with 13 fights, would appear to have the upper fist.
* Sheldon Brookbank, D, Flames: As long as Brian Burke is involved in calling the shots, you can't write off a truculent player like Brookbank.
* Aaron Rome, D, Red Wings: Rome reminded everyone in Dallas last season that he's no longer a viable NHL player. That said, the Wings don't have a lot of team toughness, and while they've gotten along just fine for years now without employing a goon, there's a slim chance he could displace Brian Lashoff as Detroit's seventh defenseman.
* Kevin Westgarth, RW, Oilers: Westgarth was walloped by incumbent enforcer Luke Gazdic back on March 1. Gazdic finished third in the league with 15 fighting majors, and while he doesn't bring much to the table other than a willingness to scrap, neither does Westgarth, whose only hope is that Gazdic is not ready to start the season after undergoing shoulder surgery during the summer.
* Paul Bissonnette, LW, Blues: St. Louis is overloaded with forwards on one-way deals, plus the Blues already have Ryan Reaves (10 fighting majors in 2013-14) on hand. Hard to see where BizNasty fits in.
Grab a memento
* Scott Gomez, C Devils: “For whatever reason, last year didn’t work out,” Gomez said of his tenure in Florida, apparently forgetting that he scored just two goals and 10 assists in 46 games for the Panthers. With the Devils already having five centers on one-way deals, this looks like the end of the line for the 1999 Calder Trophy winner.
* Tomas Kaberle, D, Devils: Maybe he put his game back together last season with Kladno of the Czech league where he scored 24 points in 48 games. But it's more likely that Kaberle is every bit as washed up as he was when he was last seen robbing the Canadiens every time he cashed a check back in 2012-13.
* Jordin Tootoo, RW, Devils: There's not a lot of grit on this roster, but the Devils are so stacked on the right side (six players with one-way deals) that it's hard to imagine where the former Red Wing fits in, barring a trade to clear some space. Best case for Toots would be a performance that's strong enough for him to catch on elsewhere in the league.
* Mike Komisarek, D, Devils: Somewhere there's a beer league that's about to add a true impact player.