Maxim Afinogenov made last year’s Thrashers team after coming into camp on a tryout basis and in a climate where there are many more mid and lower tier free agents available than there are jobs, going the tryout route is something more teams are likely to do this season. It’s a risk-free way to assess a player while also evaluating the needs of your team during training camp. Dan Fritsche was another tryout candidate in last year’s camp as were Mark Popovic and Manny Legace. Popovic earned a contract as a depth defenseman and if Evander Kane hadn’t looked ready for NHL action Fritsche may have gotten a contract as well. It turned out that Fritsche and Legace’s services weren’t required, but it cost the team nothing to bring them in and take a look.
With that in mind the Thrashers will be inviting at least one player to camp this September on a tryout basis.
According to Rick Dudley, who I had an extensive chat with today (look for the Q&A on the site sometime soon) veteran defenseman Kyle McLaren will be coming to training camp on a tryout in an attempt to revive his career and earn a contract.
McLaren is a 33-year-old 6-4, 220 lb dman who was drafted ninth overall in 1995 by the Bruins out of Kelowna (WHL). He played for them for seven seasons before being traded to the San Jose Sharks in 2003 when Hal Gill emerged as a dominating force on the blueline, making McLaren a movable asset. After establishing himself in San Jose as a solid defensive defenseman who hit like a train McLaren re-signed with the Sharks for three years and $7.5 million n 2006. Two years later the Sharks waived him and sent him to Worcester in the AHL to make room for Dan Boyle and Rob Blake. He hasn’t played in the NHL since and wasn’t able to attend the Rangers camp last year on a tryout because of a bad knee injury
Dudley likes the potential of what McLaren could bring to the table.
“Kyle is a big, strong guy who, if he can stay away from injuries, is certainly capable of playing in this league.”
In his last three years in San Jose McLaren led the Sharks in hits and was in the top three in blocked shots. That typifies his style of play which has led to a lot of his injuries, including foot and facial injuries from blocked shots.
“He was a big, nasty guy at one time and his agent assures me that he’s as healthy as he’s been in a long time,” said Dudley. “That’s encouraging, but we have a lot of options on the blueline.”