Owen Nolan has a shot at joining the Canucks; most of the other tryouts do not.

One of the reasons NHL teams sign veteran players to Professional Tryout Offers (PTOs) is to give an unsigned free agent a chance to make the team, but this is not the only reason. For Mike Gillis, it’s likely not even the primary reason. Coming off the shortest off-season in team history, Gillis and Vigneault clearly had no interest in icing a lineup in either Calgary or Vancouver last night that bore any resemblance to the actual Canucks.

The only players on the ice in either game that saw action in the playoffs were Cory Schneider, Keith Ballard, Chris Tanev, Cody Hodgson, Victor Oreskovich, Aaron Rome, Andrew Alberts, and Maxim Lapierre. Heck, Lapierre was only in the lineup because Stefan Schneider broke his hand.

But if Gillis wanted to keep his veterans off the ice, why not just keep around more of the players from the Young Stars tournament? Why so many tryout contracts? Because NHL teams must dress a minimum number of NHL “veterans” in the pre-season. From the CBA:

15.3 (d) A Club shall be permitted to dress a minimum of eight (8) veterans for any Exhibition Game. For purposes of this Section, a veteran shall constitute either: (1) a forward or defenseman who played in thirty (30) NHL Games during the previous season, (2) a goaltender who either dressed in fifty (50) or more NHL Games or played in thirty (30) or more NHL Games in the previous season, (3) a first round draft choice from the most recent year’s Entry Draft or(4) any Player who has played one-hundred (100) or more career NHL Games.

The minimum number allowed is eight. Suddenly the tryout offers for Anders Eriksson (572 NHL games played), Niko Dimitrakos (158 NHL games played), Manny Legace (365 NHL games played), and Todd Fedoruk (545 NHL games played) make a lot more sense. Sure, tryout players Steve Begin and Owen Nolan do have an outside shot at cracking the Canucks lineup in a bottom-six role, but they also provide the team with the requisite number of veterans for these preseason games.

In Vancouver, the Canucks actually had 10 players who qualify as veterans: Ryan Parent, Keith Ballard, Marco Sturm, Andrew Ebbett, Aaron Rome, Maxim Lapierre, Cory Schneider, Nolan, Tanev, and even Nicklas Jensen, who qualifies by virtue of being the Canucks’ 2011 first-round draft choice. That group of veterans almost looks legitimate, with only one player on a tryout deal.

Where it really comes into focus is when you look at the lineup that played in Calgary. The veterans in that lineup were Andrew Alberts, Victor Oreskovich, Alexander Sulzer, Anders Eriksson, Steve Begin, Manny Legace, Niko Dimitrakos, and Todd Fedoruk. Five of the eight veterans in the lineup were on tryout deals.

By inviting so many players to training camp, Gillis and Vigneault were able to keep their veterans like Luongo, the Sedins, Burrows, and their entire top-four defence corps out of meaningless pre-season games. And Vigneault has indicated that the same will be the case on Thursday against the Oilers and that Luongo likely won’t get a start until next week.

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13 comments

  1. SteveB
    September 21, 2011

    Thanks, that makes a lot of sense.
    I was scratching my head at some of the PTOs, but now I can see the reasoning.

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  2. Rituro
    September 21, 2011

    Clear-headed rationale, logic and insight — just what I needed to get the latest Gallagher column out of my head. Good stuff as always, PITB.

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    • peanutflower
      September 21, 2011

      No kidding. Tony loves Hodgson. Too much, I think. I still think he’s a momma’s boy. Anyway, you might be right, PITB, but it kind of seems sad, don’t you think? These old guys are playing their proverbial hearts out trying to get a place on a great team in a great city with a great organization, and all for what? Just so the “real” team can get a rest? That probably makes sense from GMMG’s perspective, but it is kind of sad, really. Now I’m going to think about that for the rest of the day. Thanks for that. I feel really bad.

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      • Daniel Wagner
        September 21, 2011

        Whoops, ruined your day. My bad.

        On the plus side, some good performances in the preseason might get them noticed by other NHL teams. There may not be room on the Canucks for them, but it gets them back in the conversation and other GMs may notice.

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      • Harrison Mooney
        September 21, 2011

        Trust me, these guys know how much of an outside shot they are to make the team, and they also know they’re being somewhat used. But, like Daniel said, they get a chance to show off their wares for other NHL GMs, plus they get to find their legs in an NHL training camp, which is a far better venue for getting up to playing speed than the German league.

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      • nuckluck
        September 21, 2011

        All these players on PTO’s know what the deal is. They all know that there is a slim chance to make the team, but they also know that this is one of their last chances to show their abilities to ‘the team’ or other teams for a contract.

        If I was a NHL’er that has been overlooked because people were thinking that I was too old, I would relish the opportunity to prove that I still have the abilities to keep playing…

        It depends on how you look at things…

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  3. Tom
    September 21, 2011

    Mike Gillis is the GM of the year for a reason!

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  4. ArtemChubarov
    September 21, 2011

    This is great stuff Daniel – really good work.

    I noted another unintentional side benefit today, that everyday we get a new “Owen Nolan – laying it on the line despite long odds to make the team” feature. How many stories about the PTO guys have been churned out this week alone? Well over 10. Seems to me that the PTO dudes are sucking up a lot of the O2, and sparing the vets from having to deal as much with the media as they normally would.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      September 21, 2011

      Definitely true. Everyone likes an underdog story, particularly people who tell stories for a living. The more stories in the paper about Owen Nolan, Manny Legace, and Todd Fedoruk, the fewer stories about Cody Hodgson getting shafted.

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  5. John Andress
    September 21, 2011

    There was still one “Hodgeson getting shafted” story too many though.

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    • Noodle
      September 21, 2011

      God that was bad. Who is he, Cody’s grandpa? Its a bit embarassing that he gets that kind of thing published…it was bad enough when he donned his tin foil hat during the playoffs to suggest that Colin Campbell would have a hand in the finals. Anyways, thank goodness IWTG is back. Oh how I missed it.

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  6. John in Marpole
    September 22, 2011

    When the Stanley Cup is paraded down Georgia Street (please don’t disrupt my 41 year long dream with reality, thanks), Gallagher’s column the next day will focus on the gridlock caused by road closures, and speculate that (insert name of then serving Canuck coach here) and (insert name of a senior NHL official here) conspired to make (insert name of underperforming/overrated player here) ride in a clearly inferior vehicle to publicly humiliate said player. And he won’t like the cotton candy, either.

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  7. tom
    September 22, 2011

    I was trying to figure out where gallagher was coming from, but now that i`ve seen the lineups, it doesnt look like anybody from yhe top six or barely anybody from even the top nine was dressed. anyways, isn`t it good for every player to be able to make good things come from whatever position they`re put in?

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