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These Guys Might Deserve a Look As Training-Camp Tryouts



Pittsburgh Penguins Zach Aston-Reese

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ roster looks to be fairly settled, although management is going to have to find ways to pare a few million dollars from the payroll to become compliant with the NHL’s salary-cap ceiling of $83.5 million.

Of course, if Kyle Dubas’ effort to pry Erik Karlsson away from San Jose is successful, that will all change. Karlsson’s cap hit is $11.5 million, and if the Penguins take on all — or even just part — of that, the roster figures to need a major makeover.

That presumably would necessitate shedding some seven-figure salaries (the Penguins have nine forwards and five defensemen earning $2 million or more), which might lead to some players being bumped up the depth chart.

While they currently have a surplus of guys on one-way contracts, moves rooted in the acquisition of Karlsson could open some holes, especially on the bottom two lines.

Whether those voids could be filled internally is hard to say, so it’s conceivable that Dubas might want to invite some free-agent NHL veterans to training camp on Professional Try Out agreements.

The odds are against those players earning contracts, but it does happen occasionally; Brian Boyle did it with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2021.

Because they have virtually no leverage, players who parlay a PTO into a contract generally sign for the league minimum, or close to it, so they can provide an inexpensive option for management.

Here, presented alphabetically, are six candidates who, assuming they don’t pick up a contract elsewhere before training camps open in September, could merit a Professional Try Out offer:

Zach Aston-Reese

Position: Left wing
Age: 28
Size: 6-foot. 204 pounds
2022-23 statistics: Ten goals, four assists in 77 games (Toronto)
2022-23 salary-cap hit: $840,630
The skinny: Mike Sullivan and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ coaching staff know all about Aston-Reese’s game. So does Dubas, since he was GM in Toronto when Aston-Reese earned a contract with the Maple Leafs last fall after going to their camp on a PTO.

Anders Bjork

Positions: Both wings
Age: 26
Size: 6-foot, 197 pounds
2022-23 statistics: Two goals, six assists in 14 games (Chicago)
2022-23 salary-cap hit: $1.6 million
The skinny: Bjork has developed into a reliable defensive player, but never has lived up to the offensive promise he showed while playing at Notre Dame.

Jujhar Khaira

Position: Left wing
Age: 28
Size: 6-foot-4, 212 pounds
2022-23 statistics: Six goals, eight assists in 51 games
2022-23 salary-cap hit: $975,000 (Chicago)
The skinny: He can use his size effectively, especially on the forecheck, but has limited offensive ability.

Brett Ritchie

Position: Right wing
Age: 30
Size: 6-foot-4, 220 pounds
2022-23 statistics: Eight goals, five assists in 51 games (Calgary, Arizona)
2022-23 salary-cap hit: $750,000
The skinny: Doesn’t always take advantage of his considerable size and toughness, and contributes little offense.

Devin Shore

Positions: Both wings
Age: 29
Size: 6-foot-1, 206 pounds
2022-23 statistics: One goal, eight assists in 47 games (Edmonton)
2022-23 salary-cap hit: $850,000
The skinny: He’s versatile enough to play all three forward positions, and can kill penalties and win faceoffs. What he can’t do is generate much offense.

Colin White

Positions: Center
Age: 26
Size: 5-foot-11, 191 pounds
2022-23 statistics: Eight goals, seven assists in 68 games (Florida)
2022-23 salary-cap hit: $1.2 million
The skinny: Ottawa bought out the final two seasons of his six-year contract in 2022. Modest size works against him, but White skates well and is responsible defensively.