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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

In three of four years, Treliving has turned a Flames PTO into an NHL deal

It’s September: the month of training camp, the month of preseason, the month before the Flames – are officially back.

And it’s this training camp, in particular, that will prove of interest for the Flames. Not just because it looks like there are really, truly spots open for prospects to make the roster, but because of the impending trip to China – and the fact that it’ll cause all sorts of unique challenges, from jet lag to groups split over a sizeable chunk of September.

One way teams fill extra roster spots and meet veteran requirements is through the use of professional tryouts. While the Flames have been quiet on that front (rumours aside), let’s take a moment to briefly look back on who they’ve brought in in the past.

2014 PTOs

For Brad Treliving’s first training camp as an NHL general manager, he brought in four players on professional tryouts:

  • D Sheldon Brookbank
  • D Raphael Diaz
  • F Trevor Gillies
  • D Nolan Yonkman

Brookbank ended up playing his 2014-15 season in the KHL, while Gillies and Yonkman both ended up with the Flames’ AHL affiliate in Adirondack. None have made it back to the NHL since.

Diaz is the lone exception here, as the Flames offered him a contract out of training camp, and he spent the 2014-15 season playing 56 regular season and three playoff games for them, scoring four points along the way as a depth defender.

2015 PTOs

The Flames signed just three players to professional tryouts for their 2015 training camp:

  • D Aaron Johnson
  • D Douglas Murray
  • D Ryan Wilson

Johnson spent his 2015-16 playing for the Stockton Heat in the Flames’ farm team’s inaugural season there. Wilson seemed to have a pretty decent shot of earning a contract with the Flames, but ultimately, they passed on him, and he ended up in the KHL. Murray did not play that season. None of these players have made it back to the NHL since.

2016 PTOs

The Flames added more players on professional tryouts to their 2016 camp, including a stronger look at forwards:

  • F Luke Adam
  • F Jamie Devane
  • D Nicklas Grossmann
  • F Chris Higgins
  • F Lauri Korpikoski
  • D Colby Robak

Adam ended up in the German league for the 2016-17 season, while Higgins didn’t play that year. Both Devane and Robak signed with the Heat, staying in the Flames’ system. The Flames didn’t sign Korpikoski, but the Stars did, and he played 60 games for them before being traded to the Blue Jackets for nine games.

The Flames did, however, end up offering Grossmann a contract out of camp – primarily for cap reasons –  but it was a decision that resulted in some angst (mostly because of the goals against), and Grossmann played just three games for the Flames before exiting the NHL to play in Sweden.

One notable PTO-related event? Kris Versteeg signed one with the Oilers in 2016, but ended up spurning them to join the Flames on an NHL contract instead. It turned out to be a great move, as he scored 37 points in a 69-game season (for comparison’s sake, Korpikoski had 20 points over 69 games) for the Flames.

2017 PTOs

Once again, the Flames brought in six players on professional tryouts for their 2017 training camp:

  • F Joseph Cramarossa
  • F Tanner Glass
  • F Joel Lowry
  • D Daniel Maggio
  • D Dylan Olsen
  • D Colby Robak

Lowry, Maggio, and Olsen ended up bouncing a bit between non-Flames-affiliated ECHL and AHL franchises for the 2017-18 season, while Cramarossa and Robak both played for the Heat: Robak for the entire season, while Cramarossa spent some time with the Penguins’ AHL affiliate as well.

Then there was Glass, who perhaps turned into more of a cautionary tale of professional tryouts than anything else. He was legitimately awesome during the Flames’ preseason games: one of the hardest working players on the ice, always working to get himself into a position to score, playing hard, being genuinely fun to watch. So the Flames signed him.

But then the regular season started and for all of Glass’ effort, he just could not keep up. He played 16 games for the Flames and 21 for the Heat after other roster moves (primarily Mark Jankowski earning a full-time NHL spot, a couple of weeks late in part due to Glass spending the first bit of October in the big league) pushed him out. It was, ultimately, rather uneventful.

Three PTOs turned into NHL deals

In Treliving’s first four years as the Flames’ general manager, he has ended up signing three of 19 players on professional tryouts to NHL deals with the Flames. Only one has really worked out: Diaz turned out to be a reliable depth defender for the team for the year.

Professional tryouts have been useful in that they’ve helped the Flames stock up on AHL talent, and they’ve helped fill bodies during training camp, but that’s about it. Fact of the matter is, an unrestricted free agent without a contract come training camp time is likely just not going to be particularly productive at the NHL level, and that’s what we’ve largely seen as these tryouts have been signed.

This season, the Flames appear committed to giving someone younger and already in their system a chance, and there should be a number of candidates knocking on the door. That some of the team is mere days away from departing for China signals just how close training camp really is: and that the Flames have been pretty quiet on the professional tryout front may also be a signal that unlike 2014, 2016, and 2017, they may very well just end up sticking with who they already have.

After all, the roster battles should already be exciting enough with the parties we already know of.



  • freethe flames

    With only 44 contracts the Flames have room to add 3 or 4 guys to their organization; the question is are there any UFA’s out there worth adding and if so which positions does the organization lack depth. I would suggest at RD for the Heat should be the looked at. In yesterdays thread it was posted that Jeff Glass(goalie) has agreed to a PTO with the Flames.

    So does anyone have any names they think the Flames should add as depth players that should be offered PTO’s are signed to give the Heat and therefore the organization more depth?

  • 左翼二

    Anyone know where I can find the Flames training camp schedule of open-to-the-public events? I’ve got more free time on my hands than usual this September, so I was hoping to catch some scrimages etc…
    I couldn’t find anything on the official website.
    Maybe a blog post about it, hmmm?

  • 左翼二

    Based on the players listed on CapFriendly, I expect to see at least a few PTO to fill out the D and Wing positions of the non-NHL non-China group. I don’t know who those player would be though.

  • deantheraven

    Steeger’s gone KHL, so I guess that won’t happen.
    I wonder how effective his chirping will be there, given the language barrier. I’m gonna miss him most.

  • Jobu

    Flames don’t Jen same thing with rookie camps/preseason. They typically give one contract out per year.

    Fact is this – The more contracts you hand out, the mare quality and competition you bring in for tryouts. Foo and Gawdin likely would not be in the fold if we didn’t take this approach.

  • Off the wall

    I made the mistake of buying ear protection with music capability…you know so I wasn’t so BORED while working.

    They really work fantastic. Too good actually. I can’t hear my equipment running. Or notice anyone around me.

    Here I was dancing, while I had an audience watching me! Yikes.

    I was in the middle of my “Moon Walk” to a Michael Jackson song.. Three granny’s were enjoying the show, while laughing at my antics.
    I felt as if I was being watched, so I removed my ear protector.
    Hello they replied, “Do you give lessons? “

    “ You’re better off with Arthur Murray “ was all I could muster, as I sheepishly moved to a different location.

    The PTO’s we’ve signed have been embarrassing, except Versteeg. That was fun stealing him from the Oilers.

    Sure, we need to fill our roster, however watch out for those that look like they can dance..
    Cuz somebody will be watching and laughing..

  • Squishin

    It’s feeling a bit nippy this morning – glad I harvested my basil plants yesterday. I’m guessing they wouldn’t have liked the low of 2 degrees last night.

    I’m in favour of depth PTO’s for AHL contracts, but I don’t think the Flames should burn an NHL roster spot on an aging veteran. Again.
    Jeff Glass is kind of interesting, a goalie PTO was something I didn’t expect to see. I thought he played well (in spurts) for Chicago last year, and he could be a good guy to push Rittich forward this year.

  • Beer League Coach

    On the Flames site under prospects they have D Riley Bruce listed with sweater #98. He was drafted by Flames in round 6 or 7 a few years ago and was never offered a contract. Hockey db does not show any stats for him since he graduated from North Bay in the OHL. Flames have revised their prospect list about 3 times since I first spotted his name about 5 or 6 weeks ago. Could he be coming to camp on a PTO to try out for a depth position with the Heat or Mavericks? He is a RH shot 6′ 6″ tall and over 200 lbs. No longer a legit prospect but maybe a minor league depth guy? Any body heard anything more about him?

  • Kevin R

    Yikes Wheeler signed a 5 year $8.25 mill per for Jets. Didnt realize Wheeler was 32, wow, what a year he had. He’ll be 38 when that deal is done so it made me feel a little better about the Neal deal. Also, if the player is elite they can play very effectively well into their mid 30’s. So when trolls bug us about Gio’s deal we have Wheelers deal to back us up. Thats an awful big cap hit for a team like the Jets that have so many young up & coming future studs coming on. Lianne, Connor, Morrissey.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      You should have no qualms, fears, reservations, doubts or uncertainties about the Jimmy Neal deal. Neal is a stud. Studs cost bucks. FA studs cost big bucks. The big bucks Tre is going to spend on Jimmy is money very well spent. Jimmy is as reliable goal scorer as there is in today’s NHL. He is exactly the kind of player the Flames need. He will prove to be the best FA signing in Flames’ history.

    • Brian Burkee

      “Made me feel better about the Neal and Gio deals”

      Wheelers point totals last 3 seasons- 78 pts, 75 pts, 91 pts

      Neal’s point totals last 3 seasons- 58 pts, 41 pts, 43 pts

      Pretty easy to see why Wheeler got paid more yeah??? That’s cause he produces a lot more than Neal and Gio.

  • JMK

    Thanks for the article Ari. This does leave me wondering how many PTO’s may be required?

    Assuming the squad takes the 23 that we expect to start season in Calgary (includes Mangiapane and Prout for reference) plus Foo, Andersson and Gillies to make 26. Who’s left? I’m not taking into account requirements for playing in pre-season games just a number of who’s left to play in Calgary while the rest of team is in China. And also I’m not sure if NHL veterans will be left at home or not, purely hypothetical exercise.

    Goalies – 4 (Parsons, McDonald, Schneider, Glass)
    Defence – 4 (Valimaki, Kylington, Healey, Hogstrom) – Is there a requirement here for D PTO’s? Can AHL only deals play?
    Forwards – 12 (Dube, Gawdin, Phillips, Ehliz, Rychel, Pollock, Lomberg, Robinson, Quine, Klimchuk, Graovac, Peluso)

    The forward ranks will also be bolstered by prospects with no contracts yet, so really unless AHL only contracted players can fill out the D, it looks like we might see some D on PTO’s. Any thoughts?

    • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

      I suspect Flames and Bruins will be cut some slack by the league for veteran requirements. As well I wouldn’t expect the entire starting 23 to go to China… a very big chunk but I could see Hathaway, Lazar, Stone and Kulak staying home.

      • JMK

        That’s fair. It was just easier for me to tally up how many players per position would be left at home by excluding the NHL squad. The post was less about who goes and who stays and more to estimate how many PTO’s we might see. I agree we will probably see some of NHL squad stay in Calgary. From your list Kulak is the only guy I think might be going to China. I remember himself and Andersson being involved in some Chinese history or language classes over the summer.