Should the Flames sign any of their PTOs?

Training camp is nearing its end and the Calgary Flames still have three players hanging around on professional tryouts: Chris Higgins, Lauri Korpikosi and Nicklas Grossmann. It could be that these guys are just extra bodies to fill the veteran quota for the last two exhibition games – or it could be that the club is actually considering keeping one of them around.

Let’s not bury the lede here. No, the Flames shouldn’t sign any of their PTOs. The club’s cap situation is precarious as things stand, and none of the players offer anything that can’t be found elsewhere for nothing. 

Shorter version: they’re all pretty lousy. 

The 3 PTOs

Nicklas Grossmann, D 

The 31-year-old Swedish defender is big, slow and has next to no offense to speak of. He played in 58 games for the Coyotes last year, averaged about 14 minutes a night, and by just about any measure you care to look at, he was one of the worst players on the Arizona blueline.

Here’s how his 2015-16 looked by various underlying measures relative to his peers (via Own the Puck):

Story 1-18

The sliders with no circles mean Grossmann didn’t even register by that metric. So yeah, he’s bad. 

There’s no upside with Grossmann. He’s over 30 years old, so he’s more likely to get worse rather than better. And he’d have to get better just to be a bottom pairing defender. 

If Calgary is in the market for a depth defensemen, then they have a much better option in Jakub Nakladal. Of course, they also have hopefuls like Brett Kulak and Tyler Wotherspoon who are already signed, are much younger and are a good bet to be at least as good as Grossmann at the NHL level. 

Lauri Korpikoski, LW

Quick… name the worst regular forward on the Oilers last year. I know, competition is stiff, but from many angles the answer is “Lauri Korpikoski”. The 30-year-old swift skating LWer appeared in 71 games and garnered the worst relative possession rate on a team packed with bad even strength players. Korpikoski’s season was so horrendous it spurred Jonathan Willis to write an article entitled “Lauri Korpikoski has been unbelievably bad for the Edmonton Oilers“. From that piece:

When Korpiksoki takes the ice, the opposition manages to out-attempt the Oilers 62-38. Only two other forwards in the entire NHL (min. 100 minutes played) can claim a worse on-ice number than that.

All the other shot metrics, from Fenwick to scoring chances, are similarly skewed. Individual contributions to scoring chances say the same thing; Korpikoski has easily the worst numbers of any regular Oilers winger. The numbers for high-danger chances are most damning of all; Edmonton is out-chanced by a 70-30 margin when Korpikoski is on the ice. That’s worse than even Steve MacIntyre managed during either of his two 20-plus game seasons as an Oiler.

Unlike MacIntyre, Korpikoski is not an enforcer. He’s not taking on tough opponents; he’s not even being asked to take on a particularly ridiculous diet of defensive zone starts. It’s been more than a month since he’s contributed an even-strength point. He has no particular value to the Oilers and has been a millstone around the neck of whichever forward line he’s been assigned to.

Just to pile on a bit more: over the last two seasons with the Oilers, Korpikoski has been outscored 71 to 30 (-41!) at 5on5, outshot by almost 400 shot attempts and boasted an expected goal ratio of just 42.7%. Those are all straight-up awful results and indicative of player who is completely in over his head at the NHL level. 

Forget Korpikoski. Stick with Linden Vey or Garnet Hathaway or Freddie Hamilton or Lance Bouma or… 

Chris Higgins, LW

The only faintly interesting option is former Flame Chris Higgins. A useful NHLer for years, Higgins is now 33 years old and seems to have entered the “rapid decline” phase of his career. Last year he spent about half the season in the AHL with the Canucks’ farm team. 

Of the guys here, Higgins is the only player who wasn’t at the bottom of the barrel by various underlying measures on his team last year. Nope, he was usually fourth or fifth worst, at least at even strength.

Maybe special teams work can redeem Higgins? Unfortunately, no. The wily vet is known for his PK ability, but last year his team got murdered with him on the ice at 4on5 – they gave up the second most shots against and second most scoring chances against per 60 minutes of ice of any Canucks penalty killer. 

Like Korpikoski and Grossmann, there’s no sense to keeping Higgins around. The Flames could claim better bets on the waiver wire on any given day and there are plenty of internal options who should be as good, with the added bonus that they might also improve since they aren’t turning 34 this season. 


So yeah, as stated, the Flames’ PTOs this year aren’t of any interest. 

There’s no upside to any of them and no reason to believe they’ll provide anything above replacement level hockey. They are low risk, no reward options. Move on and leave some space for the kids and existing organizational hopefuls. Better to find out if you have something than sign someone who is practically guaranteed to be bad. 

  • T&A4Flames

    BT must have invited these guys strictly to fulfill the vet quota for games because none of them were a good bet to make the team. It’s too bad CGY couldn’t have signed Versteeg to a PTO. As a right shooting RW, he at least would have been useful to us.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    It’s almost confusing… like the Flames absolutely don’t look at advanced stats or are trying to trick the rest of the league into thinking they don’t!

    If they sign one of these guys we’ll know it is the former vs. the latter.

    • DestroDertell

      They paid July 1st price for Engelland and Brouwer, they overpaid on term for Bouma after a high shooting% year, traded a 3rd for Bollig then kept him over Byron and went with Vey / Chiasson over Jooris.

      Most of good moves they made to fill a need were done because they failed to badly overpay enough. Tried hard to re-sign Russell and Glencross but dodged bullets on both, tried to acquire Myers before Hamilton found his way in the market and tried hard to get Bishop/Fleury before having to settle on Elliot.

      Always expects the worse, hope for the best from any NHL team.

      • Derzie

        Great points. the analytics crew should really use these examples when they refer to ‘luck’ with regards to GM performance. The bad intended moves are starting to pile up on Brad’s resume. Our forward depth right now is horrible. That’s WITH Johnny in the lineup. Playoffs with this forward group and a new untested coaching system will be ‘luck’.

      • FireScorpion

        What the hell are you talking about?
        I don’t remember him trying to resign either Russell or Glencross. They were always trade chips.
        Also don’t recall a try for Tyler Myers (Hamilton > Myers )and talks were had about Bishop and Fleury but I wouldn’t say he settled at all. Elliott is the better fit for the team on a short deal and great numbers than reevaluate the goal situation.

    • Parallex

      Stand in for regular players? I mean you don’t want to keep the kids who won’t make the team in camp any longer then you have to in order to decide whether they make the opening day roster (you want them to get settled in at Stockton and start working with the guys there). So you keep the PTO’s around to do line rushes, scrimmages, and give the guys who need a rest some time for the last few preseason games.

      But yes… please don’t sign any of these guys.

  • Backburner

    I thought Higgins might have some gas left in the tank, at least for the PK, but I wonder if the Flames have way better options with the players in Stockton, that they really should start to give those opportunities to, and help them develop into a functional roster players.

  • Craig

    I’m actually afraid that one will be signed. Although Korpikoski is awful, I feel that Grossman would be even worse. Our bottom pair is already so bad, if you start rotating in that boat anchor, we’re screwed.

    And my trust of management would be lowered instantly, just doesn’t make sense.

    • Parallex

      The only argument I could see for Grossmann (and even it’s a stretch) would be to get a guy that could easily meet the minimum requirements for expansion draft exposure. We currently do not have anyone that meets the requirements on the blueline outside of Gio, TJ, and Dougie…

      “i) One defenseman who is a) under contract in 2017-18 and b) played in 40 or more NHL games the prior season OR played in 70 or more NHL games in the prior two seasons.”

      … Jokipakka only needs 12 games to meet the requirements but he is not currently under contract for 2017-18. A two year two-way contract for Grossmann might be a contingency plan.

  • mattyc

    They’re still here to drive the pace and promote competition (in my opinion). These guys are effectively fighting to promote their careers. As a young guy trying to establish yourself, it must be pretty eye-opening to see how quickly the game can pass you by.

    One quibble: while I agree there’s probably not much point in keeping any of the PTOs (maybe Higgins is the exception), they are effectively ‘free’ since they cost no assets to acquire, and likely come in with contracts near league minimum (less than some of the kids they would have to beat-out to get in the lineup).

  • Baalzamon

    Quick… name the worst regular forward on the Oilers last year.

    You’re being kind. He was the worst regular forward in the NHL last year.

    Still don’t understand why he was handed the benefit of the Backlund bump (it should have been Shinkaruk, who has been the best LW in camp by far outside Tkachuk).

  • Newbietwo

    Maybe they are still around in case and I say just in case there’s a trade, a need for a trade or a win win true hockey trade who knows but that’s the only reason I can see why they are still here.. Our younger players deserve the opportunity to evolve in their development

  • ThisBigMouthIsRight

    *UNGH* The last couple of years the Flames “Reclamation Projects” have been at the very least pretty Big Disappointments with the likes of T.J. Galiardi – Mason Raymond – Devin Setoguchi – Raphael Diaz – David Schlemko and others I’m sure.
    Most have left little to be desired in the hearts of Flames Fans. Of these five Only Diaz & Schlemko was worth his weight and they both left the following year for other opportunities.
    This 16/17 year brings the Flames, Chris Higgins, Alex Chiasson, Linden Vey, Nicklas Grossmann and Lauri Korpikoski… Anyone excited or optimistic?
    Yes they all (but Korpikoski, I believe) have past ties with Glen Gulutzan so I get it, But please don’t sign and take a spot on the team just to help an old drinking buddy out(as a figure of speech). I’d personally ditch all these guys to have Jooris & Nakladal back.
    Seriously None of the PTO’s this year have shown or earned a spot on the Flames (not even close). I’m really hoping Chiasson & Vey can turn things around otherwise it just seems like a waste of a spot and time again.

  • Pizzaman

    Triple pass.
    What’s the point of developing your farm system if you bring in a bunch of PTOs. By definition a PTO is inadequate or past their best before date.
    Now, saying that, we haven’t seen the rookies and AHL’ers knock one out of the park either.
    GO Tkachuk GO!

  • calgaryfan

    So the Canucks sent Higgins to the AHL, Korpikoski is not wanted by the Oilers and Grossman is not wanted by the Coyotes but Treliving thinks they could make the Flames.