As the summer wears on, many remaining unrestricted free agents begin worrying about future employment. Teams have usually filled their needs by now and are done handing out large contracts. The last hope for unsigned players becomes the professional tryout. A player is essentially invited to a team’s camp to earn a professional contract. Last year 91 players tried out for a team—and some tried out for two teams—but only 14 tryouts garnered contracts.
The criteria for teams varies. Some teams are just looking for warm bodies to play at an NHL level, while others are searching for players in a more defined role that cannot be filled by a team’s prospect pool. Most players did not impact their team, but some turned out to be pleasant surprises. Below is a list of players who signed a contract stemming from a professional try-out:
- Steve Bernier – NYI – $750K
- Eric Boulton – NYI – $575K
- Brad Boyes – TOR – $700K
- Tomas Fleischmann – MTL – $750K
- Scott Gomez – STL – $575K
- Jonas Gustavsson – BOS – $600K
- Martin Havlat – STL – $600K
- Tyler Kennedy – NJ – $600K
- Corey Potter – ARI – $575K
- Thomas Raffl – WPG – $575K
- Michal Rozsival – CHI – $600K
- Lee Stempniak – NJ – $850K
- Scottie Upshall – STL – $700K
- Dainius Zubrus – SJ – $600K
Lee Stempniak and the New Jersey Devils are the obvious beneficiary of last year’s professional tryouts. Stempniak scored 16G and 25A in 63 games for the Devils last year before being traded to the Bruins at the deadline. Four other players, however, used their salvaged year to obtain new contracts for the upcoming season as well. Gustavsson, Boulton, Rozsival, and Upshall all signed new contracts this year, one year removed from the possibility of not playing at all.
This year Maxim Lapierre is the first player to sign up for a professional tryout. The rugged forward will be on display for the New York Rangers this training camp after spending the previous season with MODO of the Swedish Elite League and HC Lugano of the Swiss National League A. Over the course of the offseason more players will do the same. Some will be looking to revitalize their career while others are looking for one last chance to prove that they have what it takes.