James Neal signs PTO with Blues; updated list of top remaining UFAs

NHL Training Camps will open next week and a flurry of activity has taken place. Tyler Bozak signed a bonus laden deal to remain with the St. Louis Blues while a handful of UFA’s have inked a PTO (professional tryout).

What is a PTO? It’s basically a contract that teams can offer unsigned free agents in order to invite them to training camp. This will give the club a closer look at a potential free agent they may want to sign.

Below is the updated list with recent transaction information.

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PTO Signings

James Neal (F): The 34 year-old had just five goals and five assists (10 points) in 29 games during his season with the Oilers. Overall, he has 294 goals and 261 assists (555 points) in 13 NHL seasons. To date there’s been little interest from teams in adding him. He is a prime candidate for a PTO.

Update: Signed a PTO with the St. Louis Blues

Nikita Gusev (F): At 29 years of age, Gusev is already a reclamation project. Highly touted coming out of the KHL, the disappointed Devils terminated his contract. The Panthers signed him mid season, where he finished with 10 points in 31 games split between the two clubs. He could be worth a cheap flyer or at least an invite to camp on a PTO.

Update: Signed a PTO with the Toronto Maple Leafs

Erik Gustafsson (D): At 29 years-old, this left handed shot defender still has some mileage to give to an NHL team. IN 29 games for Philadelphia and Montreal he notched 12 points. He did play in 16 games for the Canadiens magical run to the finals and added another 3 points.

Update: Signed a PTO with the New York Islanders (not yet official)

Top Remaining UFAs

Jason Demers (D): He’s a right-handed defenseman that can still play third pair minutes. In 41 games, the 33 year-old veteran picked up just 4 helpers for the Coyotes. He’s a prime candidate for an invite to a training camp on a PTO.

Sami Vatanen (D): I am always shocked that a solid right-handed defender like Vatanen continues to be available. He certainly doesn’t put up the offensive numbers as he used to, but he can still help a defense out. He’s only 30 years-old so he should at least get a PTO. The Oilers are rumored to possibly give him one.

Alex Galchenyuk (F): He’s just 27 years-old but has struggled to live up to being the third overall selection in the 2012. Last season, he scored 13 points in 34 games split between the Senators and Maple Leafs. Galchenyuk would be great as a reclamation project. This could be another option for the Penguins and will likely be cheaper than Bozak.

nhl free agents
May 6, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Alex Galchenyuk (12) celebrates scoring a goal at the bench during the first period against the Montreal Canadiens at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Zdeno Chara (D): The 44 year-old defender isn’t even sure if he will play next season or retire. “I think it’s not always a decision I can make myself,” he said at season’s end. “I have to have a conversation with my wife and children and see where we want to be in the next few days or weeks. After those conversations, I’m going to probably let the emotions settle in and see where I’m at.” If he does play, he’d be a great value add to shore up a team’s bottom pair.

Eric Staal (C): Last season, the 36 year-old pivot split time between the Sabres and Canadiens but only managed a career low 13 points in 53 games. To make matters worse, he set a career high with a -30 plus/minus rating. The Penguins may also look at him as a temporary fix to start the season.

Travis Zajac (C): The Islanders acquired Zajac at the trade deadline along with Kyle Palmieri for additional center depth heading into the playoffs. At 36, he score 20 points in 46 games and added another 2 points in 14 playoff contests.

Bobby Ryan (F): The 34 year-old was hoping to return to the Red Wings but remains unsigned. He scored 7 goals and 14 points in 33 contests last season. For his 14 year career he’s registered 569 points 866 games.

Devan Dubnyk (G): The 35 year-old netminder is sitting at home waiting for an opportunity. Last season was a tough one for him as he split time between the Sharks and Avalanche. He played in 22 games going 6-11-2 with a .895 SV% and 3.20 GAA.