The Professional Experience, or PTO, is one of the most unique contractual agreements used by NHL teams leading up to a boot camp.
On the one hand, it can give the team a few ready-made bodies in the NHL to help propel players into training camp battles, while on the other hand it gives the player on the sidelines another opportunity to build the NHL roster.
A few years ago, we took a look at how successful a team or player could be in signing a PTO and the results were mixed. From the hilarious 2016-2017 season that saw more PTOs than NHL players in the league, to a very low success rate, we wanted to re-examine the topic using data from our friends at CapFri Friendly to see if the trend has changed at all or whether The PTO is almost dead.
PTO . success rates
During the original analysis, 342 PTOs were signed over three seasons, with 195 of them during the odd 2016-2017 season. Of course during that time the most successful shooting titles were during the 2015-16 season as 14 of these players managed to convert their playing into NHL contracts.
That has changed dramatically over the past four seasons, as even though we’d say the total number of signed PTOs hovered around the 30th mark, the most successful season came during the COVID-19 season where out of only 24 signed, 17 players got NHL contracts.
Of course with the NHL imposing cab teams that season, the numbers were skewed as a result. However, last season the league still saw 11 successful contracts handed out of just 31 PTO deals.
A completely abolished trend has been for players to sing PTOs with one team, then win contracts with another. This appears to be an anomaly for one season.
In terms of percentages, given over the seven-year period and on average, the success rate of project launches has increased.
Whether it’s due to more league uncertainty, the growing trend is showing that this is still a viable option for players and teams to fill their roster.
Teams That Prefer PTOs
One of the most fun parts of this exercise was the continuing trend of tracking which teams use the PTO track the most. It’s funny that the trend hasn’t changed much for some franchises.
The Calgary Flames continue to dwarf the rest of the league in terms of total PTOs distributed. I’m not sure if that’s the logo worthy, but it’s still interesting to see the contrast. However, Flames hasn’t distributed any PT release orders yet this season, so the gap may be closing a bit.
The only team to have jumped on the list as a result of the past four years has been the New York Islanders, who are now in a tie for third over the past seven seasons.
The most interesting remains the Vegas Golden Knights. After one full season, they are of course ranked last in our previous analysis, but even after five full seasons, they are still very light on PTOs. Evidence may suggest that this is due to poor cap management.
Player success with PTOs
Among the deals that have translated into successful contracts, success on the ice has been very diverse. First, it’s important to note that we’re not talking about multi-million dollar players here. The most successful PTO contract transfer came in 2020–21 when Mike Hoffman signed a deal with the St. Louis Blues for $4 million. Outside of that, most of the time we talk about bargain deals:
As we can see, the hugely successful 2020-21 season was the highest in terms of total dollars and average contract, but until then the total did not exceed $1 million per season. Most of the time we are dealing with minimal league players who need an NHL job.
From the point of view of ice production, there were no observed trends.
More successful PTO conversions do not always lead to more production on ice. When looking at the 2020–21 season – despite being the most successful with players getting contracts – the average number of points scored has been the sixth of the past seven seasons. Now we’re also dealing with the taxi squad situation again, with some guys never on the ice, but still clearly no single translation. There is a lot of luck to say the least.
However, there are still some great deals to find. Last season, Brain Boyle, Alex Chiasson, Tyler Ennis and Alex Galchenyuk all had 20+ points for players signed for the league minimum. Not very shabby.
Be a PTO or not be a PTO?
After adding four years of data to the analysis, and considering the COVID issues that have plagued some teams, the PTO still appears to be a huge win-or-error tool for teams. On the one hand, you can get gold and activate the player’s career, while on the other hand you can take a place in the list of younger potential players.
Either way, there is no doubt that having players in PTOs while camping is an effective model that will last. With the cap being as tight as it will be over the next few seasons, there’s a chance that more PTO diversions will occur.
At the time of writing, only 15 PTOs have been signed for the 2022–23 season, and that’s sure to come. Just how well will they work? Only time will prove it.
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