As training camp continues to get closer, you will hear of more and more players accepting PTOs (Professional Tryouts). This essentially allows a team to bring in a player for the training camp and preseason without a contract, creating the opportunity for the player to earn an actual contract with the club, or be cut and sent away. PTOs have zero risk for the team, but are beneficial in getting a close look at how a player may fit into the organization without having to commit to them until they have proven their worth.
Today, the Flames announced they have extended a PTO to a former Flame, Chris Higgins. If you do not recall Chris Higgins ever being a Flame, you are forgiven. He played a grand total of 12 games for the club in the 2009-2010 season, being acquired from the Rangers alongside Ales Kotalik, in exchange for Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust. Higgins racked up 2 goals and 1 assist in those 12 games, before becoming a free agent and signing with Florida. He has spent the past 6 seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, having some success as a middle-six winger, until this past season where he was an absolute disaster. He posted 3 goals and 1 assist in 33 games with the Canucks, but also was waived and spent time in Utica of the AHL, where he put up 13 points in 22 games. The Canucks bought out the final year of his contract during the buyout period this year.
It is a little tough to see where Higgins could slot in with the Flames. He is a left-winger and the left side is fairly clogged up, with Johnny Gaudreau, Micheal Ferland, Lance Bouma and Brandon Bollig as NHL forwards. Hunter Shinkaruk and Matthew Tkachuk also have a strong chance of cracking the NHL roster. While the Chris Higgins of a few years ago would be a worthwhile addition, the only player that he is clearly more talented than is Brandon Bollig, but the Flames seem pretty insistent on keeping Bollig around. However, Higgins is only 33, so he does have the potential for his game to rebound, but he is going to need quite the training camp if he wants to edge out some of his competitors for an NHL contract. A 2-way deal could make some sense for the Flames, but we will have to see if Higgins would prefer that to playing in Europe.
Ultimately, this is a no-risk move that looks like it will not have much benefit, but you never know. What is exciting is that training camp is getting a lot closer and intrigue is starting to build.