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Blackhawks sign Mark Stuart, Drew Miller, John Mitchell to professional tryout contracts

Although there’s a reason these guys had to settle for PTOs in mid-September.

Winnipeg Jets v New Jersey Devils Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks have signed defenseman Mark Stuart and forwards Drew Miller and John Mitchell to professional tryout contracts for this year’s training camp. The three players were surprise inclusions on the team’s official roster for the camp, which opens on Friday.

Stuart, Miller, and Mitchell give the Blackhawks some additional options to consider over the next few weeks. The team also brought in veteran defenseman Cody Franson on a PTO, although there are indications he’s close to a lock to get a one-year deal once Marian Hossa goes on long-term injured reserve following the opening of the season.

Stuart, 33, played the past six seasons for the Winnipeg Jets. He’s a stay-at-home defenseman with a track record of ugly possession statistics and minimal offensive production, which begs the question of why the Hawks are interested in him. Presumably the main idea is simply to give Michal Kempny, Gustav Forsling, Erik Gustafsson, and Jordan Oesterle some extra competition in camp, although it would reflect pretty poorly on those four if Stuart earned playing time over them.

Mitchell, 32, is a bottom-six center who spent the past five seasons with the Colorado Avalanche. From 2012-13 through 2015-16, he had four straight seasons with 10-plus goals and 20-plus points, but like the rest of the Avs, his production collapsed last season with three goals and seven points in 65 games (yikes). He’s good at faceoffs (50.7 percent career rate) and could factor in on the fourth line, but you’d think the Hawks have better options between Tanner Kero, John Hayden, and Laurent Dauphin.

Miller, 33, is another bottom-six forward who played the past seven-plus seasons for the Detroit Red Wings. He’s posted some spectacularly bad possession numbers over the years, including a minus-14.4 percent Corsi Relative in 82 games in 2014-15. That means the Red Wings’ Corsi was nearly 15 percent lower with Miller on the ice compared to when he was off.

That’s almost unfathomably bad, and frankly, I’m almost mad that he’s even gotten a PTO. I get this follows the pattern of bringing in vets like Tommy Wingels and Lance Bouma to make the bottom six “tougher to play against,” but Miller’s numbers are horrid, even when accounting for being used in a defensive-minded role. There should be real reason for concern if he’s earned a contract by the start of the season.

So none of these additions are particularly notable, and it probably won’t be a great sign for the upcoming season if any of them make the roster. It makes sense to bring in older players to help set the tone in training camp and push the younger players, though, so hopefully that’s all this is.