Give the Toronto Maple Leafs credit — they’re all in on the professional tryouts.
Having already extended PTOs to forwards Curtis Glencross, Brad Boyes and Devin Setoguchi, the Leafs have now inked a defenseman — former Toronto blueliner Mark Fraser.
Fraser, 28, appeared in 64 games for Toronto from 2013-14, and four playoff contests. The majority of his NHL career has been spent in New Jersey (over 130 games in five years, split into two stints), with a brief spell in Edmonton.
Last year, in his second go-round with the Devils, Fraser played in 35 games, fighting five times while racking up 55 PIM.
At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, Fraser has the size and tenacity to be a physical presence on the back end, but his skating ability and lack of offensive ability have kept him from being a regular contributor at the NHL level.
It’s safe to assume that, if he does catch on with the Toronto organization, it’ll be probably be with the AHL Marlies.
Interesting tidbit here from CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty:
Perhaps a PTO with the Bruins is still in the cards after Stempniak spent so much time skating with the B’s players over the last few weeks. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a respected, steady pro that proved last season he’s still capable of potting 15 goals, or that he was summer workout partners at Boyle’s Gym with Bruins Director of Player Development Jay Pandolfo while both were still NHL players.
Another positive sign: Stempniak’s Rangers hockey bag was tossed in the back of the Bruins equipment van with other Bruins players destined for the start of training camp at TD Garden after captain’s practice on Tuesday.
These aren’t Stempniak’s lone ties to Boston. John Ferguson, the Bruins’ director of player personnel, was the assistant GM in St. Louis when the Blues took Stempniak at the 2003 draft.
“I think it would be a good fit. It’s a great organization,” Stempniak said earlier this week, per WEEI. “I’ve heard great things. I’ve gotten to know some of the guys. I like them and have a lot of respect for some of their players, just the way they train, the way they play and as people. It’s definitely appealing,
It would make sense for Boston to kick the tires on the 32-year-old. The team could use some offensive punch after finishing 22nd in the NHL in goals per game last year, and Stempniak could possibly be had on the cheap, coming off a one-year, $900,000 deal.
There will be a third NHL veteran looking to score a contract in St. Louis this preseason — defenseman Stu Bickel, who on Wednesday signed a professional tryout with the Blues.
Bickel, 28, is a veteran of 76 regular season and 18 playoff games, most coming with the Rangers. He did appear in nine contests for Minnesota last season, but spent most of the campaign with the club’s AHL affiliate in Iowa.
As mentioned above, Bickel isn’t the only PTO at St. Louis camp. Former Devils center Scott Gomez will also be looking to secure a new deal, as will ex-Panthers winger Scottie Upshall.
As for Bickel’s chances of making the team… well, they seem slim. The Blues have a ton of talent on defense, and already made a couple of veteran UFA depth pickups earlier this summer in Andre Benoit and Peter Harrold.
Columbus will have a veteran presence in goal when it breaks training camp this week.
Brad Thiessen, a longtime Pittsburgh farmhand that appeared in five games for the Pens in ’11-12, has reportedly joined the team on a PTO basis, per the Columbus Dispatch.
Thiessen, 29, spent last year with Calgary’s AHL affiliate in Adirondack and, the year prior, split between Anaheim’s AHL club in Norfolk and HIFK Helsinki of the Finnish league.
Though the Blue Jackets have good prospect depth in goal, it’s not surprising they’re bringing in Thiessen. Anton Forsberg, 22, and Joonas Korpisalo, 21, are promising talents but relatively untested; Thiessen, meanwhile, is a former Baz Bastien Award winner as the AHL’s top goalie, with over 150 career games of American League experience.
On Wednesday, Habs blueliner P.K. Subban made a massive philanthropic gesture, donating $10 million dollars to Montreal Children’s Hospital.
“Montreal has become my second home,” Subban said, per CBC. “My love for Montreal is why I wanted to make a significant contribution to this city and this province.”
The donation is, per a release from the hospital, “the biggest philanthropic commitment by a sports figure in Canadian history.” Part of the money will go towards P.K.’s Helping Hands — a program that helps families struggling financially with their children’s illnesses — and the hospital has since named its atrium after Subban.
“As I was walking out of the backroom, I noticed the P.K. Subban lettering up there and I got goosebumps,” he said. “It’s not too many times I get goosebumps in what I do playing hockey for a very long time in front a lot of people. That’s probably the only time I got goosebumps in a long time.”
Though this latest gesture is by far the largest — at least financially speaking — Subban has a long history of community work, especially with children. Last year, a video of him giving local youths a tour of the Bell Center and an array of gifts — all while dressed undercover as a security guard — went viral; this summer, he joined some kids in an impromptu road hockey game in Westmount, a suburb of Montreal.