When the calendar hits September and training camps inch closer to opening up, agents of players who are struggling to find work all of a sudden become open to accepting camp invites.
The 2010 free agency period has been a unique year and plenty of established veterans are prime candidates for camp invites.
Just to name a few, veteran forwards Brendan Morrison, Jeff Halpern and Mike Comrie are some of the top names who have no firm offers on the table and will begin considering camp invites if an opportunity doesn’t open up in the next 10-14 days.
As one agent who represents a 10 year veteran told me last week; “League seems to be caught between capped out and using the one-way money already spent and ELS players who were top draft picks, the agent said.
“Looks like the scramble will occur in September with late camps and when the youngsters fail, ” the agent added.
The Penguins who have invited a player to camp in two of the past three seasons, are highly expected to invite a forward to camp. The Penguins report on Friday, September 17. The team has already begun the process of discussing potential targets internally.
Older veterans are not the only ones who are looking at scenarios where they might be faced with a decision to wait it out on the sidelines or accept a camp invite.
25 year old forward Patrick O’Sullivan is drawing interest from a few select team’s but how things stand right now, a league source tells me O’Sullivan’s agent Pat Morris is only getting calls from teams who are interested in bringing O’Sullivan in on a tryout basis.
Word around the league is that O’Sullivan is considered a risk for various reasons. Meanwhile, those close to O’Sullivan tell me the focus right now is just on finding the right fit.
A once promising young forward, O’Sullivan’s stock league wide has plummeted. He was drafted in the second round 56th overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the Minnesota Wild. During the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, he was traded by the Minnesota Wild to the Los Angeles Kings.
After scoring 22 goals with the Kings in 2007-2008, O’Sullivan has never been the same player since. On March 4, 2009, O’Sullivan was traded by the Kings to the Carolina Hurricanes for Justin Williams, then was traded by the Hurricanes along with a second-round pick to the Edmonton Oilers for Erik Cole and a fifth-round pick.
O’Sullivan’s time in Edmonton was highly disappointing. On June 29, 2010, O’Sullivan was placed on waivers by the Oilers. After clearing waivers, he was dealt to the Phoenix Coyotes, in exchange for Jim Vandermeer. His contract was then immediately bought out by the Coyotes, releasing him to free agency.
O’Sullivan had 11 goals and 23 assists last season along with a plus/minus rating of minus-35.
He’s a talented offensive player with upside but scouts contend his fundamentals are majorly flawed and there are serious concerns about whether he has the desire to play in the NHL.
Early indications are the Penguins don’t have strong interest but with there being some chatter out of O’Sullivan’s camp that they’ve spoken with members from the Penguins organization, I touched based this evening with David Staples, longtime Edmonton Oilers beat writer for the Edmonton Journal.
Staples assessment of O’Sullivan was spot on of what scouts are contending; Serious concerns about being a complete player and questions surrounding whether O’Sullivan has the drive and commitment to do what it takes to be a quality NHL player.
O’Sullivan was a minus-35 last season and has a career plus/minus rating of minus-54. Staples tells me O’Sullivan has major flaws in his game defensively.
“O’Sullivan was the worst defensive winger on the worst defensive team in hockey, Staples told Inside Pittsburgh Sports. “He had all kinds of trouble, but one every of concern was his own zone coverage. He leaked goals against, mainly because he was often wandering, not covering his man, including in the slot area.”
O’Sullivan entered the league as a center and played center extensively with the Kings but his defensive flaws has pushed him to the wing. Staples believes there’s no chance he can play center in this league anymore and he has to change the way he plays if he wants to stay in the NHL.
“If he is going to be an NHLer, he has to go harder to the net, attacking the goalie on offence, both by rushing the puck and by screening the goalie, Staples said.
“He made not one hard play at the net that helped the Oilers score all season. He too often settled for a weak shot from the outside, which explains his low career shooting percentage. He was a decent powerplay guy, as he’s got some skill, and on the powerplay he had time and space to make plays. But his even strength offensive play was also lacking.”
“There’s no way he can play centre at this point, mainly because it’s a more difficult defensive position then the wing, and he was inadequate on the wing.”
Lastly, Staples believes O’Sullivan has to make up his mind if he wants to play hockey as some are questioning his love and dedication to the game.
“Does O’Sullivan even want to play in the NHL? Does he love hockey? He didn’t look like he wanted to be a player last season. He’s got to make up his own mind or his NHL career is done.”
Checking up on former Pens: Former Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney found his comfort zone in Edmonton after being dealt to the Oilers last March.
Those in Whitney’s camp say the veteran defenseman is healthy after being bothered by a nagging foot injury for almost two years. Many believe Whitney is primed for a big season in 2010-2011.
Whitney was never a fit in Anaheim under head coach Randy Carlye. Down the stretch last season, he finally resembled the player he was in Pittsburgh, when at times the former first round pick was being regarded as a potential Norris Trophy Winner
In Edmonton’s final ten games, Whitney finished the season with 8 points and a plus-7. Staples tells me that he believes Whitney has turned the corner.
“As for Ray Whitney, he was outstanding in Edmonton, “Staples said when asked about Whitney’s performance last season in Edmonton.
“He moved the puck well, made smart decisions with it, and played a solid enough defensive game. He will be counted on to be the Oil’s top defenceman and he shows every indication that he will be able to handle the row, so long as he remains healthy. Most fans are ecstatic with the trade that moved Visnovksy for this player.”