On the heels of Cody Franson signing a professional tryout contract with the Chicago Blackhawks last week, three more veterans are joining the team’s ranks on similar deals
The Chicago Blackhawks announced their training camp roster earlier today. Their training camp roster includes three new players signed on professional tryout contracts. The ’Hawks have signed forward Drew Miller, forward John Mitchell and defenseman Mark Stuart to PTOs.
These three seasoned veterans will be competing for NHL contracts. They join the Blackhawks on PTOs after defenseman Cody Franson inked a similar deal with the Blackhawks late last week.
Blackhawk Up’s Tim Martens and Sean Fitzgerald were both interested in writing about the new blood, so you’re going to hear what each has to think about the signings after we provide some background info on all three.
Getting to know the trio
Stuart is a 12-year veteran in the league and has played defense for Boston and Atlanta/Winnipeg. While finding a way to play 673 games in the NHL in his career, he owns a disappointing career 48.7 Corsi-for percentage, having only been above 50 percent on the year twice in his career. He is a career plus-43 on the ice and has 93 career points.
Mitchell is a center who has spent the last five seasons with the Colorado Avalanche. His career possession numbers are quite low, but hard to judge completely being on some pretty bad teams with the Avalanche and Maple Leafs before his time in Colorado. His strongest year came in 2011-12, when he posted a 53.1 percent Corsi-for in 63 games with the New York Rangers.
While the overall possession numbers may be down, the reason he may be getting a look could be his career 50.7 faceoff percentage. Faceoffs are certainly an area in which the Blackhawks really have struggled with their current centers, and Mitchell was 55.4 percent at the dot last season with the Avalanche.
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I will give the quick low down on Miller, but only to keep ‘Hawks fans from having to look up the bad news for themselves. Miller is a 32-year-old winger who is a minus-34 on ice in his career and has seen Corsi-for percentages of 41.9, 38.1 and 41.7 the last three seasons. His inclusion and tryout signing are, at best, a warm body to put in a jersey and push out on the ice to “compete” with the youngsters trying to make the team.
What does this mean for the future?
While Miller really has very little chance to get a roster spot, the other two PTO signings are at least a little interesting. I am not bursting at the seams with excitement about either, but Mitchell is an interesting player to bring in due to his success on faceoffs last season.
Could the ‘Hawks be concerned enough to give Mitchell a starting spot as the fourth-line center over a player like Tanner Kero? It is certainly possible. I wouldn’t put money on Mitchell if you like to bet, but I would say the chances of him making the squad are easily the highest of these three PTO signings.
Stuart, on the other hand, is not a defenseman signing that you dream about by any means. Stuart could have received the PTO just to add veteran depth to the ‘Hawks’ training camp roster, but with the news that Michal Roszival could begin the season on the LTIR, there is always the chance coach Joel Quenneville asked for another veteran defenseman for depth.
Da Windy City
That would have Stuart filling in the slot of “defenseman I am terrified is wearing a Blackhawks sweater” that Rozsival has been in for what seems like 20 years. In reality, I would say the chances of Stuart making the team are very low at best, especially with Franson likely filling a roster spot as well now.
The optimistic way of looking at these signings is that the ‘Hawks have added some competition for the young players coming to camp and a way for them to learn a little bit from a few more veterans.
The pessimistic side, of course, is that the current roster is weak enough that these free agents that have been sitting around looking for work all summer are somehow the best option for the team. Let’s hope it is a lot more of the former than the latter.
The ’Hawks added these players for preseason purposes only. The NHL mandates that you play a certain number of players with NHL experience in every preseason game. The likelihood that Miller, Mitchell or Stuart make the roster is very slim.
Since these three have never been top performers, the odds of them catching fire are highly unlikely. I would be in favor of the ’Hawks giving a Kyle Baun a shot over Miller and Mitchell.
The Blackhawks do not have many open competitions coming into camp. This is a huge difference from a year ago. Barring an injuries, the roster has been pretty much decided for the season. The only wild card in camp is Alex DeBrincat.
DeBrincat played well during the recent rookie tourney and turned a lot of heads. He definitely improved from his poor showing at Blackhawks prospect camp. DeBrincat’s play as a prospect and promise as an NHLer makes available jobs even slimmer at camp.
With the oldest roster in the NHL, the ’Hawks cannot afford to adding any more 30-plus-year-old players to their active ranks. More than likely, Miller, Mitchell and Stuart will be released from their PTOs at the end of camp.
The only player on PTO who is likely going to make the Blackhawks’ opening night roster is Franson. He gives the blue line more depth and he can play despite most people’s preconceived notions. Everyone is speculating that Franson has a handshake agreement to sign an NHL deal with the ’Hawks once the regular season begins.