September 13th: Sportsnet’s Mark Spector reports that Upshall failed his physical with the Oilers today. Upshall has been dealing with a knee injury and did not report to training camp at full strength. While this does not cancel out his PTO, it certainly hurts his chances of landing a contract, despite Edmonton’s need for veteran leadership and penalty killing ability. It is uncertain when Upshall will be ready to fully participate, with Spector speculating it could be “a few weeks”. In the meantime, Upshall will be unable to show that he is still in NHL shape and will likely lose his roster spot to a younger player or potentially another veteran brought in to replace him.
August 19th: It’s officially PTO season. After the Florida Panthers made Mark Letestu the first notable name signed to a professional tryout agreement this off-season with an agreement last week, the Edmonton Oilers have now joined in on the action. The team announced this afternoon that they come to terms with veteran forward Scottie Upshall on a PTO. The Oilers are not overflowing with forward depth, making the Alberta native’s odds of landing a contract relatively good.
This move comes as little surprise in regards to Upshall. The 34-year-old has been down this road before; he played on not one but two PTO’s last fall, first joining the Vancouver Canucks before eventually returning to the St. Louis Blues and earning a contract. He again stands a good chance of winning a spot, this time with Edmonton. Gone are the days when Upshall could produce 30+ points every year, but he still does everything else well. A smart, hard-working forward, Upshall can still give a team modest offense – he scored 19 points in 63 games last year – but it is his two-way play that keeps him valuable. Upshall was one of the Blues’ primary penalty killers last season and still plays with energy, grit, and toughness.
Ironically, Upshall’s frequent running mate in St. Louis, both five-on-five and shorthanded, was Kyle Brodziak, who signed with Edmonton earlier this summer. It seems likely that the Oilers considered that when inviting Upshall to camp. St. Louis was not a league leader in killing penalties or fourth line production last season, but the chemistry between Upshall and Brodziak would nevertheless be a major boost for Edmonton. In moving on from Letestu, the Oilers lost their leading penalty killer from last season. They would also likely enjoy not having to deploy Ryan Nugent-Hopkins while man-down as frequently as they did in 2017-18. Upshall could fit in nicely alongside Brodziak both on the bottom line and the PK, so long as he looks like he can still keep up in his sixteenth year in the league. This could end up being a shrewd PTO pickup by GM Peter Chiarelli and company.