The Calgary Flames will be opening their training camp this week for players who are not rookies. Beyond all the fresh, young prospects who are looking to make the team, they also have five veteran players who are best classified under the “hopeful” section of the camp.
#Flames have announced four more PTO invites for training camp, all forwards:
Devante Smith-Pelly, Tobias Rieder, Zac Rinaldo, and Alexandre Grenier.
— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) September 4, 2019
Since there are a few potential openings due to contract holdouts and injuries, there is a good chance that at least one of the five players on a professional tryout gets a serious look from Flames’ brass. If Tanner Glass can play his way onto an NHL roster from a good camp, then truly anything can happen.
However, it would be unfair and unwise to assume that all five players will instantly become must-haves for Calgary, or else they’d likely have already been offered a worthwhile contract.
Ideally, at least one of them brings enough to the proverbial table to make the Flames, at least until all the regulars get back in the action.
That means it’s time for Calgary Flames PTOs: What do they bring? Do they bring things? Let’s find out!
Perhaps the sexiest name on this list from both a skills perspective and a narrative perspective, Rieder comes off a season he’d like to forget with the Edmonton Oilers (and not just because he was playing for the Oilers).
The left-shooting right winger had zero goals in 67 contests with Edmonton after scoring at least 12 goals every season prior dating back to 2014-15 when he first broke into the league with Arizona. You may recall the Oilers really counting on those 12 goals and Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson singling him out at a fan event after the season, seemingly implying that those 12 goals were the reason the Oilers missed the playoffs and not the literally everything else.
It’s tempting to set the expectations at 12 goals this season. It’s even tempting to say “just score against Edmonton.” Maybe even twice in the same shift. He’s done it before.
However, the realistic expectation for Rieder during training camp should be a solid bottom-six player who can contribute on the penalty kill in Garnet Hathaway’s absence. He gives the Flames another option on the right side, albeit someone who will be playing on their off wing. He’s someone who should be able to match the pace of players like Dillon Dube who are looking to make an impression.
That being said, Rieder hasn’t been someone who has been driving the play much in the last few years. His RelCF% the last couple years hasn’t been pretty, and if you aren’t driving the play forward and not scoring goals, you don’t get a contract.
There is definitely something very attractive about Smith-Pelly, and it’s the fact that he brings a ring that says champion on it to Calgary. Smith-Pelly crashed and banged on the Washington Capitals fourth line during the 2018 playoffs, and was a notable presence on their run to the Stanley Cup.
(Fun fact: he is the second player in NHL history to have a hyphenated name on the Stanley Cup. The first? Patrice Bergeron-Cleary)
The reason he was on the Capitals roster to begin with though was because they needed some bargain bin contracts to fill out their roster, meaning the very cheap Smith-Pelly became an option for them.
Outside of a stint during 2015-16 where he scored eight goals in 18 games for the New Jersey Devils, Smith-Pelly has been more of a fringe player during his career, often yoyoing between the NHL and AHL. It is worth mentioning though that one of his coaches during that stretch in New Jersey was Geoff Ward, so there might be a special connection there. It’s unlikely that at age 27 he’ll finally put the pieces together and blossom into a surefire NHLer.
Still, there are things that are appealing. He’s a tough customer, coming in at 6’0″ and 223 pounds. He’s a right winger who actually shoots right, which is a rarity in Calgary these days. He’s good for a couple hits per game on average. He’s also just a good guy, one of the few NHLers who have spoken out about the social injustices going on in the world right now. You love to see that on your team.
If the Flames hadn’t gone out and traded for Milan Lucic this summer, they may have given Smith-Pelly a more serious offer than just a PTO, as he brings in the kind of grit the team feels they lacked even before losing Hathaway to the Capitals. Even still, he’s got that PTO, so perhaps the Flames are still looking for a little bit more tenacity this season from their bottom six.
Speaking of that tenacity…
Rinaldo has 15 career goals in the NHL. He’s also been suspended 25 games in his NHL career. He’s a bit of a cheap player, and one that struggles to stay in lineups in part due to that. The 5’11”, 186 pound left winger has bounced around the league, with stints in Philadelphia, Boston, Arizona, and most recently Nashville (as well as all of their AHL teams as well, save the Coyotes).
This will the 10th year in the NHL for Rinaldo, which is impressive in a way in that he’s found a way to stick around as a tinier enforcer who is often a liability to his team.
If anyone is looking to repeat the Tanner Glass story, it’s Rinaldo. He had one goal in 23 games last season for the Predators, and at this point in his career, he knows exactly what he’ll be getting paid for. It seems to contradict the Flames M.O. from last season, as well as their last few drafts, but he’ll take whatever shot he can (often with his elbows).
It’s more likely that the Flames are giving Rinaldo a look for Stockton, as the team could still use some fleshing out and having a veteran presence that will protect the kids is an appealing notion. It’s why they brought on Trevor Gillies years ago when the baby Flames were still in Adirondack.
That being said, Gillies also did get a 12 game suspension during that season, so hopefully Rinaldo can provide a bit more grit on the ice instead of snarling from the press box.
You may still be asking “who?” and that’s fair. Grenier is a 2011 draft pick who had a couple of cups of coffee in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks over the stretch of 2015-2017. Mostly, he’s been a solid, if not unspectacular AHLer who spent the last season with Laval Rocket.
He’s big (6’5″, 211 pounds) and he shoots right, but it’s incredibly unlikely that he ever suits up for the Calgary Flames in the regular season. He just turned 28, and would be lucky to sign a two-way deal instead of an AHL-only contract.
Our own Ryan Pike said it best when the PTOs were announced, saying “At this point of his career, he’s a moderately productive AHL body. Unless he really blows the doors off in camp, it’d be extremely surprising if he got on the radar for an NHL contract.”
Alongside the four forwards that were invited to camp, there is also the lone defender in MacDonald. When it was announced that MacDonald had been offered a PTO, there was not much to consider given the top spots for the Flames defense seemed set. Then, Juuso Valimaki tore his ACL, and things are a little different now.
MacDonald is now in a legitimate battle with Oliver Kylington and Brandon Davidson over the sixth (and seventh) spots for the Flames defence. If Flames brass still lacks the confidence in Kylington they had last season, a veteran MacDonald might be able to bring in some value on limited, sheltered minutes.
He never lived up to his six year, $30 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers, and that’s why he was bought out this summer. It makes sense. You don’t want to pay that much for a player who rarely scores and is more likely to try and block a shot rather than stop the shot from happening. That being said, some of his underlying stats seem to suggest that if he got cushy minutes, there would be much less weariness if he were making >$1.5 million.
He could also give the Flames an option as the seventh defender, allowing them to send Davidson down to Stockton. This seems unlikely as Davidson has already been given a low number (he wore #6 to the Pride Parade), but anything could happen.
If MacDonald is willing to come cheap, there may be a home for him in Calgary. He’s already getting paid from the Flyers, so perhaps he’s willing to take a steep discount if it means he can still play in the NHL in any fashion. There should be a good battle between him, Kylington, and Davidson. While it’s really on the other two to lose, MacDonald will be there hopefully gunning for the chance to make them lose.