The Dallas Stars have plenty of new faces at training camp this year, but three stand out in particular: Scottie Upshall, Stefan Noesen, and Corey Elkins. All three players have joined Dallas on a Professional Tryout (PTO), hoping to play well enough to earn an NHL contract from either the Stars or another team.
Obviously all three won’t be signed by Dallas. Even if the Stars wanted to, they have already used 48 of their 50 contracts for the 2018-19 season according to CapFriendly. Furthermore, they’ll likely want an open contract spot available to open up potential trade options, so realistically there’s only space for one of the PTO players on the roster.
So which player might that be? Let’s break down the case for each skater:
We’ll start with the least likely candidate, Corey Elkins, a 34-year-old forward whose only NHL experience is three games with the Los Angeles Kings in 2009. Since then, he’s been bouncing around various leagues in North America and Europe, with his most recent stint being with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins in 2017-18. He played in all 76 games for the Griffins, and scored 20 points, as well as dressing for five playoff games.
Realistically, Elkins’ best hope out of training camp is an AHL contract with the Texas Stars. He was likely brought in to be an extra body at camp, and it wouldn’t be too surprising if he was cut before appearing in a preseason game. Still, crazier things have happened in hockey.
Scottie Upshall is an NHL journeyman who has played for six teams over a 15-year career, most recently the St. Louis Blues for the 2017-18 season. Upshall was on a PTO for the Edmonton Oilers last year, but a knee injury caused him to miss the entire season.
Finding his way to Dallas essentially by chance, the 35-year-old winger hopes to use this PTO as an opportunity to relaunch his NHL career and show the hockey world he can still play at a high level. Based on his age and recent career outputs, Upshall would likely serve as the Stars’ 13th or 14th forward if he earned a contract, good for maybe a 15-point pace across 82 games.
Personally, this feels a lot like the R.J. Umberger situation from a couple seasons back. Umberger was also looking to resurrect his career in Dallas through a PTO, but ultimately fell short and was cut from camp. The Stars have several young forwards pushing for a roster spot, and given the age of the Stars’ free agency acquisitions, the team would likely push to get younger, not older.
So unless Upshall blows away head coach Jim Montgomery and the rest of the coaching staff, I wouldn’t bet on him earning a contract from Dallas. A solid performance or two in the preseason, however, could lead to a contract opportunity from a different team.
A native of Plano, Texas, Stefan Noesen is a popular pick as someone who could earn a contract with Dallas. Like Upshall, he was plagued with injury issues last year, playing in only 41 games with the New Jersey Devils. He had a rather poor showing though, posting only eight points and abysmal possession stats, which ultimately led the Devils to not issue him a qualifying offer.
On the flip side, Noesen is only 26 years old and just a single season removed from a 27-point performance across 72 games. There’s reason to believe that Noesen can bounce back and be a valuable bottom-six forward for Dallas, or at the very least a decent 13th or 14th forward. As long as he doesn’t get outplayed by several prospects, there should be room for Noesen on the roster.
One thing of note — I wouldn’t expect Noesen’s Texas nativity to play a factor in earning a contract. Noesen earning a spot with his hometown team would obviously be a great “feel good” story, and it’s also good from a marketing perspective — the Stars have been trying to grow the game in Texas for ages. But Noesen has to earn that contract, and even if he does there’s no guarantee that he makes the NHL roster.
Still, Noesen seems like a player who will earn a contract provided a good preseason showing. And if he does, it’s very likely to be with Dallas.