Minnesota Wild: Are the Wild Looking to Use Tryout Contracts to Fill Roster?


With the offseason coming to a close very soon the Wild’s chances to acquire a much needed forward or two seems to be coming to a close as well.  Still the possibility exists that they might be seeking to bring a veteran forward or two into training camp on Professional Tryout Contract (PTO) to possibly join the team.

With less than a month to the September 19th opening of Minnesota Wild Training Camp, it seems as if most of the free-agent and trade chips have played out for the Wild.  It should come as no surprise that the Wild have chosen to pass on the available UFAs out there right now, but still the issue of filling out the roster remains.  Right now the Wild are in need of a solid forward or two that can play the fourth line or be a depth player and it seems they don’t really have a whole lot of cap room to do it.

One option the Wild have to bring players in that seems to be starting to play out for some of the other clubs in the NHL is the use of the Professional Tryout Contract or better know as PTO.  Right now six different teams have extended PTOs to nine different veteran players.  A PTO in the case of an NHL player looking to make a team is used for teams to bring in a player to participate in training camp and exhibition games without committing to them.

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Apr 7, 2014; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Minnesota Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (30) during the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 7, 2014; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Minnesota Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (30) during the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports /

Very seldom does a PTO workout.  More often than not the player’s tryout period ends in them being cut from the team altogether.  The best example from the recent Wild past is when the team brought in Ilya Bryzgalov in for a PTO when it looked like Darcy Kuemper wasn’t going to sign and Josh Harding had just broke his foot.  We all know that Kuemper did sign and Bryzgalov became expendable, just underlining the hard road for a PTO player.

Still there have been cases where some players have played solidly enough to be offered a contract.  One of the best examples is Lee Stempniak who signed a PTO with the Devils and played so well that he was offered a contract.  It ended up being a great decision to sign the then 32-year-old Stempniak to a contract, as he proceeded to have his second best career season for point total with 51 points.

So the Wild could be looking at the uncertainty that is the free-agent market and looking get some certainty from it.  By having a player come in to camp on a PTO you force them to give their best and prove what they have to make the team and get a contract.  It really takes the guess work out of signing a player and in a lot of cases gets the team a capable player at a value.

The resulting contract is usually a big value for the team, and in the case of Stempniak he signed a 1-year deal worth $850,00 with the Devils.  The Wild could be looking for that kind of value in one of the unsigned veteran players that is still remaining out there.  Sure they could offer the same kind of salary and sign a UFA right now, but if they offer them a PTO it could be a better way to insure they are indeed ready to join the team.

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Perhaps the biggest flexibility a PTO player can offer the Wild is security to give their young players a chance to make the roster.  If the Wild have a plan for a player like Alex Tuch or Joel Eriksson-Ek for example to make the roster and they don’t quite perform up the coaches’ expectations in training camp to make the Minnesota roster, then the team still can offer a contract to the PTO player to fill the roster.  If the young player plays well enough to make the team, then the PTO player can be let loose with no financial or roster complications.

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Expect that in the next week or two expect that the Wild will sign at least one to two players to a PTO.  With training camp starting on the 19th there seems to be very little time left for any transactions to play out be it a free-agent signing or trade.  The PTO option may seem like nothing may come of it, but really it is a standard practice and part of the game plan of any good NHL franchise.