With training camp now a week away, NHL free agents who have not signed contracts are finalizing landing spots and teams are trying to add depth through professional tryouts — including the Florida Panthers.
Florida, which will open camp next Thursday morning, are expected to invite 30-year-old forward Brett Ritchie to camp.
Although the Panthers do not have many roster spots open in a deep forward pool, Ritchie most definitely could compete for a spot within the bottom-6.
Ritchie had spent the past three seasons playing with Calgary before being traded to Arizona in March — a deal which included his brother Nick.
On Thursday, the St. Louis Blues announced that Nick Ritchie would be in their camp on a PTO.
Brett Ritchie, a second-round pick by Dallas in 2011, has played in 391 NHL games for the Stars, Bruins, Flames and Coyotes.
Last season, he scored eight goals with 13 points in 50 games. The eight goals scored were his most since bagging 16 with the Stars during the 2016-17 season.
At 6-4, Ritchie is a strong defensive player and one who has been around. If he puts on a good showing in camp, he will get consideration.
When it comes to making the roster, Ritchie will be battling for a spot with the likes of rookies Mackie Samoskevich and Justin Sourdif as well as Grigori Denisenko.
Speaking of PTOs, former Florida forward Colin White landed with the Penguins.
According to Pittsburgh Hockey Now, the competition is stiff as White is one of at least six players battling it out for what appear to be three forward spots.
White had hoped to make his mark with the Panthers after signing a one-year deal last summer once the remainder of his six-year deal with Ottawa was bought out at a reduced rate.
After being slowed by shoulder injuries in 2021-22, White got off to a nice start with the Panthers and appeared to be another quality signing by GM Bill Zito.
Only White’s production slowed after his first 10 games (three goals, 10 points) and he struggled to find a place as coach Paul Maurice moved him throughout the lineup.
At one point, White had gone 12 games without recording a point. White’s last assist of the regular season came on Dec. 11 against Seattle.
“I felt really good and that gave me some confidence and I thought I played really well after that,’’ he said in January after breaking his scoreless drought with a goal in a 7-6 overtime loss to the Penguins.
“It was hard. You really do lose confidence. You come to the rink every day wanting to work on something different and sometimes it feels like nothing is working. You almost have to take a step back to take a step forward. I just wanted to come to the rink every day with a good attitude.”
White ended up scoring eight goals with 15 points in 68 games in his one season with the Panthers — not counting two assists in 21 playoff games.
Olli Juolevi, another former Panther, is one of about a dozen who accepted a PTO with the Coyotes.
Juolevi played 10 games with the Panthers in the 2021-22 season after being acquired from Vancouver for Juho Lammikko.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
- Now: Free agency is open
- Friday-Monday: Rookie Showcase (vs. Carolina, Tampa Bay and Nashville), Estero
- Sept. 21: Training Camp, Sunrise/Coral Springs
- Sept. 25: Preseason starts; Doubleheader v. Nashville @ Sunrise
- Oct. 7: Preseason ends; v. Tampa Bay Lightning @ Sunrise
- Oct. 12: Start of 2023-24 Regular Season at Minnesota Wild (Bally Sports Florida)
- Oct. 19: 2023-24 Home Opener vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (BSF)