Possible professional tryout candidates for the Leafs with just over 7 weeks until training camp
BY MIKE ARMENTI JULY 31, 2023 (1:56 PM)
While most of the focus for Brad Treliving is on getting Auston Matthews and William Nylander to sign on the dotted line, we do know that he would still like to make some blueline tweaks ahead of the season. He may also look at offering a few professional tryouts to veteran players who were unable to find a contract offer to their liking this summer in free agency.
The free agent market was largely viewed as pretty thin this summer compared to years prior. It's not as though there weren't any solid players available, there just happened to be some similar options lower down the list who came in a little bit cheaper and fit a similar need. While Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Matt Dumba remaining the last 3 bigger names on the list, there are plenty of free agents remaining who could be prime candidates to earn a roster spot on a PTO this year - much like what Zach Aston-Reese did with the Leafs last fall.
Tyler Motte: 29, LW/RW
Motte isn't the biggest guy in the room, at 5'10 and 192 lbs, but he has shown that he can be a useful contributor in a team's bottom six over the last couple of seasons. He can chip in a bit offensively, but his real bread and butter is his physical play. Motte threw 118 and 117 hits over his last two seasons, totaling 235 hits over a 120-game span. He also has a 200-hit season under his belt, back in 2018-19, while with the Vancouver Canucks. Motte managed just 34 points in his last 120 games, but should be able to earn himself at least a PTO this fall to show that he can still play well enough to win a roster spot in training camp - if he doesn't find a home somewhere this summer.
Kieffer Bellows: 25, LW/RW
Bellows, a former 1st round pick (19th overall) by the New York Islanders, was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Philadelphia Flyers before free agency opened up on July 1st, making him an unrestricted free agent. Unfortunately, with just 14 goals and 28 points to show for his efforts over the first 95 games of his career, he is in danger of officially becoming a 1st round bust. At 25 years old, he doesn't have a whole lot of room left to hit his peak, which appears relatively low at this point in time. However, a summer of hard training and a good showing during a PTO could change that. Bellows threw 103 hits in 45 games for the Isles back in 2021-22 before being claimed by Philly off of waivers early on last season. Bellows scored just 3 points, all goals, for Philly last season over a 27-game span, but threw 45 hits and racked up 32 shots on goal.
Cal Foote: 24, RHD
Foote is another former 1st round pick who hasn't panned out quite the way scouts had hoped. Drafted 14th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2017, Foote stands 6'5 and weighs in at 224 lbs. A defensive defenseman, Foote is not going to wow anyone with his offensive presence, but he is a +18 over his career and can be a nice 3rd pair option for a team looking to take a chance on a young defenseman with some upside remaining. He'll be a bit of a project, which is why a PTO might make the most sense, unless a team is willing to offer him a 1-year "show me" deal. Foote has amassed just 15 career points in 117 career NHL games.
There are plenty of options out there who could solid potential PTO candidates if they don't find new homes this summer. These are just 3 that stick out to me as potentially interesting choices if they're still unsigned as the calendar flips from August to September.
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