Connect with us


Penguins Training Camp = NHL’s Full Employment Act



Colin White

The Pittsburgh Penguins will be operating more than a training camp at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex later this month.

They’ll be conducting a jobs fair, too.

Giving out-of-work NHL veterans — all of whom have impressive resumes, but no active contract — an opportunity to impress prospective employers around the league.

Of course, the Penguins’ objective isn’t purely altruistic; Kyle Dubas has loaded up on candidates to play on the team’s third and fourth lines to intensify the competition for jobs on what had been a soft spot on the roster.

That’s what motivated him to sign (or trade for) the likes of Rem Pitlick, Lars Eller, Noel Acciari, Matt Nieto, Vinnie Hinostroza, Radim Zohorna, Joona Koppanen and Andreas Johnsson, and to reach professional tryouts agreements with Colin White and Austin Wagner.

Some of those guys will be in uniform when the Pittsburgh Penguins open the regular season Oct. 10 against Chicago at PPG Paints Arena. Others will be with their American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre or simply out of work.

At least a few, however, figure to be on other NHL payrolls by then.

Perhaps it will be someone like White; it’s surprising (and evidence of how many clubs are flirting with the salary-cap ceiling) that no team was willing to offer a player with his speed, versatility and willingness to play a 200-foot game a contract.

White and Wagner,  along with defensemen Mark Pysyk and Libor Hajek, must overcome particularly steep odds to stick with the Penguins, since they’ll be competing for jobs with guys already under contract. Precedent suggests most of them will depart Cranberry early next month with little more than a handshake and best wishes for the future.

But no one challenging for positions on the bottom-six can take a spot for granted. Players on two-way contracts obviously have little security, and Dubas has publicly asserted his willingness to lose players on waivers if they can’t show they merit a place with the Penguins when the real games begin.

For all of the third- and fourth-line candidates, that should translate to performing at the highest level they are capable of attaining in early autumn, regardless of anything they have accomplished to this point in their careers.

Resumes and potential might be what got players to this camp, but performance is what will determine who stays.

It is, then, reasonable to expect that the battles for roster spots will be frequent and fierce, which means that some guys who reaffirm their credentials as NHL-caliber contributors during camp might still not do well enough to claim a berth on the 21- or 22-man roster the Penguins will carry when they face the Blackhawks.

However, they won’t necessarily be out of work for long.

Teams scout exhibition games, at least in part so they can identify players capable of filling a void in their lineup, or even to give it an upgrade, if they happen to become available, whether it’s because they go on waivers or because they’ve been released from a pro tryout agreement. Consequently, even if a strong showing in camp doesn’t yield a place with the Penguins for someone, it could lead to a spot on another club.

And that is why there’s a chance the Pittsburgh Penguins’ training camp could turn out to be a Full Employment Act for those who participate in it.