Analyzing Ottawa's PTO History

What does Ottawa's history of PTOs mean for Josh Bailey?

Analyzing Ottawa's PTO History
Photo by Maxim Hopman / Unsplash

This week, the Ottawa Senators signed veteran forward Josh Bailey to a professional tryout (PTO) agreement. At first glance, the 33 year-old pride of Bowmanville has, on paper, what any team would be looking for in a PTO candidate. Last season, he joined the likes of Claude Giroux and Derrick Brassard in the thousand-game club. In that span, he's produced 580 points and his production last season (25 pts in 64 games) was still pretty respectable for a bottom six forward.

Naturally, there were concerns voiced surrounding Bailey's underlying numbers, how well he's played as of late, and whether or not he'd actually be an improvement on the bottom six. There's also the other question of whether or not Ottawa could even fit him if they wanted to, with Shane Pinto and Egor Sokolov still needing contracts.

It also made me wonder, what is Ottawa's history with PTOs? How often do they bring players in on this agreement and, more importantly, is the scenario where a player on a PTO in Ottawa actually earns a full-time gig all that common?

Let's dive in.

Bringing in PTOs

So far this season, Bailey is the only player Ottawa has brought in on a PTO. Looking at their roster, that fact is likely to remain. Last season the Sens added Brassard and Michael Dal Colle to camp, where Brassard won himself a contract and Dal Colle ended up overseas in Germany's DEL.

Here's a full list of Sens professional tryout candidates since 2015 - the oldest data in CapFriendly's database:

2015: None

2016: Matt Bartkowski, Chris Carlisle, Kyle Flanagan, Scott Greenham, Guillaume Lépine, Bryan Pitton

2017: Charles-David Beaudoin, Chris VandeVelde, Brendan Woods

2018: Jack Skille

2019: Scott Sabourin

2020: Francois Brassard

2021: Tyler Ennis

2022: Derrick Brassard, Michael Dal Colle

2023: Josh Bailey

When looking at this list of players, it's a pretty typical mix of fringe players and veterans nearing the twilight of their careers. In the early stages, you'll see there are virtually no players invited to PTOs from 2016 to 208 that many of us will remember as NHL players. A few names like Kyle Flanagan and Chris Carlisle may be familiar as both ended up spending time in Ottawa's system in the AHL.

Then, in 2019, the success rate of PTOs skyrocketed. After ten unsuccessful signings from 2016 to 2018, the Sens ended up adding three of the next five players to the organization after their tryouts concluded, two of those three on one-way contracts.

Successful PTOs

Since 2019, 60% of Ottawa's PTOs have been successful, compared to 0% previously. Now, this does make a bit of sense. In the seasons leading up to 2017, this team was playing meaningful hockey, including a deep playoff run to the Eastern Conference Finals on a one-legged effort from Erik Karlsson. The fact they brought players in on PTOs but didn't sign any made a lot of sense. Once the teardown began, the Sens went into rebuild mode where they were selling off stars and turning an eye towards the future. In this process, they ended up bringing in a ton of mediocre NHL talent who also took up space for a season or two, keeping the roster pretty busy.

In 2019, the first success PTO was Scott Sabourin. This couldn't have made more sense. The Sens were in a place where they were starting to attempt to roster something respectable, they had Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk at the top of the lineup, with Ryan Dzingel putting up 22 goals, Colin White breaking onto the scene with 41 points in 71 games. But they didn't really have "a Sabourin" and you know DJ Smith loves a Sabourin.

In 2020, there was little hope for Francois Brassard as the kids were on the scene. The season known as The Covid Year™ saw the Sens add Connor Brown, with full seasons from all of Drake Batherson, Josh Norris and Tim Stützle. There was simply no space, particularly considering this Brassard was never all that great.

For the next two seasons, the Sens added Ennis and Brassard in back-to-back years, with Michael Dal Colle not impressing enough to grab a roster spot last year. So, you can see that now that the young core was coming in and the team was beginning its journey towards competitiveness, not only did the PTOs become more successful but the players they brought in were, on paper and on the ice, better than they were before. Up until 2020, Ottawa probably wasn't a place where people wanted to sign a PTO.

What Happens with Bailey?

Knowing all of this, what does this mean for Bailey's time in the Nation's Capital?

On one hand, Bailey is far closer to a Tyler Ennis or Derrick Brassard than he is to a Matt Bartkowski or Chris VandeVelde. He's a bonafide NHL player with a bevy of experience. Not only has he skated in 1,057 games in the league, but he served as an alternate captain in five seasons with the Islanders, while logging 71 playoff games in the process. In those playoff games, he compiled 0.70 pts/gp, exceeding his regular season career clip of 0.55. Maybe Big Game Brass turns into Big Game Bailey?

When you look at the last few successful PTOs in Ennis and Brassard, both came in with a long resume and ended up playing important roles in the bottom six. Ennis put up 24 in 57 games and seemingly spent time on every line from first to fourth. Brassard's second stint with the Sens was very similar, where he had 23 points in 64 games. He was brought in as someone with leadership experience, meant to mentor the younger players and work alongside veterans like Claude Giroux and Travis Hamonic in solidifying the culture captain Tkachuk was working on building.

It certainly feels like Bailey could serve a similar purpose.

On the other hand, where's the space? Right now, the Sens essentially have no cap space. They still have Pinto and Sokolov to sign, with less than $900K to do it. This isn't a piece analyzing what the Sens could do to make space for these RFAs. That piece has been written about a thousand times across the blogosphere. But, say you can find a new home for Mathieu Joseph and his $2.95M. All of the sudden you have roughly $3.85M to spend on Pinto and Sokolov, which could leave a league minimum amount of space left for Bailey depending on what the two RFAs end up signing for.

While there are concerns about how much Bailey has left in the tank and how effective he may actually be, the other important factor is his history with the team. I know, he's never played for the Sens so what history do I mean? Well, he may not be a former Senator but he is a former Spitfire and you'll never guess who was behind the bench while Bailey was posting 96 points in 67 games in Windsor.

With his leadership experience, large resume of games player, and history with DJ Smith, it certainly feels like the only way Bailey doesn't end up a Senator is if GM Pierre Dorion is unsuccessful in creating the amount of space required for the veteran winger.

If Dorion can make room in the next week or two, I'd pencil Bailey into the opening night lineup.

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