It appears PTO season is upon us across the NHL with several veterans inking tryouts in recent days. The Blue Jackets are the latest team to get in on the fun as CapFriendly reports (Twitter link) that they’ve inked goaltender Aaron Dell and defenseman Nicolas Meloche to tryout agreements.
Dell is no longer a full-time NHL backup but has seen action at the top level in each of the past seven seasons, spanning 130 total appearances where he has a 2.92 GAA along with a .905 SV%. Last year, he got into four contests with San Jose and fared relatively well, compiling a 2.71 GAA with a .913 SV%.
The 34-year-old has spent most of the last two years at the AHL level. With San Jose’s farm team last season, Dell played in 38 games but struggled as his 3.14 GAA was his highest single-season mark at that level while his .898 SV% was his lowest output.
Not surprisingly, his struggles affected his ability to secure a guaranteed contract this summer, resulting in this news. However, he should have a chance to land a deal from Columbus in the coming weeks. Daniil Tarasov is now waiver-eligible and should be a full-timer with the Blue Jackets, leaving only Jet Greaves in the mix with AHL Cleveland. A good showing in camp could allow Dell to be the other half of that tandem next season.
As for Meloche, things did not go as planned last season. After playing in 50 games with the Sharks in 2021-22, he had a strong enough market to get a one-year, one-way deal worth $950K from Calgary with the expectation that he’d land a spot on their back end. That didn’t happen.
Instead, after a tough showing in training camp landed him on waivers, the 26-year-old went unclaimed and was assigned to the minors, spending the entire season at the AHL. Meloche put up 21 points in 64 games with the Wranglers, matching his career best at that level but evidently, it wasn’t enough to land a guaranteed deal.
Meloche’s path to a contract isn’t as strong as Dell’s. Columbus made two big splashes on the back end this summer with the acquisitions of Damon Severson and Ivan Provorov while there are already eight blueliners on NHL contracts that are likely ticketed for Cleveland. Even if he can’t land a contract with the Blue Jackets, however, a strong showing in camp could allow him to catch on somewhere else.