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Free agent invites to get long look at camp

A handful of players on PTO's at Flames camp have a good opportunity to earn a contract

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers /

CALGARY, AB -- They're not here to take up space or skate a courtesy lap.  

Or serve as a workaround on any perceived veteran minimum.

If you're present, you have a shot.

Contract or not.

And it will help fuel a competitive training camp for the Calgary Flames.

"There's spots," declared Flames general manager Brad Treliving.

"We've purposely kept a couple spots open because as an organization, how you get better is when you legitimately have a bottom push. When you have a push from within your organization of people, younger people or people in the minors system are pushing for jobs…now you're starting to get there.

"We think we've got some guys that are ready to push. Now you have to have spots for them. But you're not going to put them in because you have a spot.

"There's competition. There are people here on PTO's for a reason. They are hungry to continue to play.

"I think it'll be competitive."

Prospects will push from the bottom up.

But the intrigue, for coach Glen Gulutzan, will come from those pushing from the outside in.

"That's the beauty," started Gulutzan, in his first official training camp address. "When you can get some push from underneath from your young guys, which we're going to get now. We have some young guys in the minors that are going to push for spots on the team. When you add PTO's in the mix and you add spaces into that mix you're going to get more competition.

"It's not like we're coming in here and we have 23 guys under contract and we're just playing with this team. It's going to push the pace of practice. It's going to push the competition level. That's a good thing because that makes everyone better."

Higgins and Grossman are joined by forwards Lauri Korpikoski and Luke Adam, and defencemen Colby Robak and Mikhail Grigoriev as those invited to try to nab one of those available contracts.

Each will be given a go.

Video: Glen Gulutzan talks about the first day of camp

"We're going to give those guys an opportunity," Gulutzan said. "We did that for a reason. We have spots. We want to give those guys a chance to play. We'll switch it around a little bit.

"It's not like other years where you bring in PTO's just to see. There are legitimate contracts to be earned here."

The veterans will hope so.

Higgins had three goals and an assist in 33 games with the Vancouver Canucks last season, and 333 points over the course of a 12-year, 711-game NHL career. 

Grossman spent the 2015-16 season with the Arizona Coyotes, netting three goals and four assists in 58 games, and has 589 career NHL games under his belt. 

Korpikoski had 10 goals and 22 points in 71 games with the Edmonton Oilers. He has played 540 games in the NHL between the Oilers, Coyotes, and New York Rangers.

Each has ties, in one form or another, to either the coach or the GM.

And each will have the chance to add another layer.

"There's spots to be won," Treliving said. "This isn't one where the 12 or 13 or 14 forwards are all drawn up. This is going to be a performance-based camp, as they all are.

"Who knows where we get to. We're a long way from Oct. 12. Our process is trying to get better a little bit every day."

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