COLUMBUS, Ohio — It says a lot about the NHL in the salary-cap age that Colin White is attending the Pittsburgh Penguins’ training camp on a professional tryout.
White, after all, is just 26, which means he’s only on the cusp of entering the most productive years of his career. He’s a good skater who is versatile enough to play center or on the wing, and has earned a reputation as a reliable, responsible player in all three zones while appearing in 268 games with Ottawa and Florida.
He’s the kind of guy who could fill a bottom-six role on almost any team in the league … assuming that club could dig up the cap space needed to give White a contract.
None had done so by earlier this month, however, and White — fully cognizant of how the odds are stacked against players on PTOs — accepted Kyle Dubas’ offer to try to convince the Penguins that they should clear a spot for him on their depth chart.
“You want a contract,” White said. “But there are a lot of different things going on in the league this year and a lot of guys are taking PTOs.”
Not many are getting a chance to catch on with the team for which they rooted when they were younger, but White is among the lucky few.
“I grew up a fan of (the Penguins), as a kid, so it was a pretty special opportunity to get this chance,” he said.
Although he said the Penguins cemented his loyalty during their run to the Stanley Cup in 2009, it turns out that the roots of his fandom stretch all the way into the South Hills.
“My parents grew up in Upper St. Clair,” he said. “My grandpa still lives there, so it’s pretty cool for them, too, for me to have this chance in Pittsburgh.”
White’s audition began with three practice and a pair of scrimmages during the early days of camp, and continued in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-3 overtime loss to Columbus Sunday night at Nationwide Arena.
He centered what passed for the Penguins’ No. 1 line, with Vinnie Hinostroza on his left side and Valtteri Puustinen on the right.
White logged 18 minutes, 29 seconds of ice time, including 3:10 while the Penguins were shorthanded and 2:15 of the six minutes when they had a man-advantage. He was credited with two shots and one hit, but had a miserable night on faceoffs. winning just six of 21.
How that performance will affect his prospects of earning a contract with the Penguins is hard to say, but one of the people who will be involved in making personnel decisions acknowledged in casual conversation before the game that it can be difficult to accurately assess a player when one team dresses a decidedly more experienced and accomplished lineup than the other.
That clearly was the case Sunday night, when the Blue Jackets deployed a group loaded with its most prominent personnel.
White, of course, is in no position to worry about the factors that will influence how management and the coaches go about passing judgment on players. His only concern is making the most compelling case possible.
“For me, it’s just playing the right way,” he said. “Just (show) my speed. I can finish, too, when the chance is there, and just playing a 200-foot game, being strong in my (defensive) zone.”
Although he is versatile enough to play wing or center, White said he is most comfortable in the middle. He realizes that he is competing for a spot on the Penguins’ third or fourth line — barring injury, all the slots on the top two are taken — but volunteered that “I have some versatility and can kind of play up and down the lineup.”
Understandably, though, he seems ready to fill whatever niche the Pittsburgh Penguins would deem appropriate for him.
“Anywhere they want to fit me in,” he said. “If I earn a spot.”