1998 Actual Expansion Draft Assessment

This will take a look at the actual expansion draft that the Nashville Predators put together.  Since the exact order of players selected is unknown (and irrelevant), this is simply going in order by positions.

Goalies

Frederic Chabot from Los Angeles – Chabot wasn’t on my draft board, and I doubt he was on Nashville’s either.  In exchange for taking Chabot, and thus protecting them from losing a goalie in the 1999 expansion, Los Angeles sent prospects Kimmo Timonen and Jan Vopat to Nashville.  Vopat unfortunately came down with a mysterious skin ailment that prematurely ended his career, but Timonen was an absolute gem.  He would play over 1,100 games across 16 NHL seasons before retiring as a Stanley Cup champion.

Mike Dunham from New Jersey – Dunham was as highly regarded at the time as Cory Schneider was when he was in Vancouver, but it didn’t quite end up the same way.  Dunham was a very good goalie on the early Predators teams, but not the upper-echelon starter he’d been projected as.  Still, the Predators got a lot out of him, and then traded him to the Rangers and got back three players (including Marek Zidlicky).

Mike Richter from New York Rangers – Selected to become a compensatory pick, Richter would go right back to New York and return a 2nd-rounder to Nashville.  The Predators would draft Adam Hall with that pick; he would play several years with the team.

Mikhail Shtalenkov from Anaheim – Shtalenkov would be traded to Edmonton shortly before the 1998-99 season in a deal that brought back Greg de Vries, Eric Fichaud, and Drake Berehowsky.  Shtalenkov would be out of the NHL two years later.

Tomas Vokoun from Montreal – Nashville wanted Sebastien Bordeleau, Montreal wanted protection against losing a goalie in the 1999 expansion.  The deal was that Nashville would get Bordeleau if they took Vokoun.  I, and nearly everyone else at the time, were surprised to see Nashville get such a gem…which we all thought was Bordeleau.  He would only play a bit over two seasons with the Predators, while Vokoun would emerge as a long-term high-level starter.  This was an incredibly astute pickup.

I have seen it referenced as well that Montreal wanted to protect defenseman Peter Popovic from being selected; this is also possible.

Defensemen

Chris Armstrong from Florida – I believe this was simply a budget pick.  Florida had a lot of high-priced aging talent, and I believe went with a career minor-leaguer in Armstrong simply because they had to pick someone.

Joel Bouchard from Calgary – The Predators would get two seasons out of him before losing him on waivers to Dallas.  They would also receive Jim Dowd for passing on Tyler Moss; Dowd was sent to Edmonton as part of the Shtalenkov trade outlined above.

Bob Boughner from Buffalo – A good pickup, and a bad trade that sent him to Pittsburgh for Pavel Skrbek two years later.

J.J. Daigneault from the New York Islanders – Not much to choose from, and he’d end up in Phoenix later that very season.  Daigneault would end up being available in five different expansion drafts, which I believe is a record for an actual NHL player.

Al Iafrate from San Jose – Oof.  Iafrate had only played 59 games in the previous four seasons combined due to injuries, and the chances of him playing like anywhere close to what he had before were extremely slim.  I don’t know if this was a gamble for a roster player that didn’t pan out, or if the plan was to try to get a compensatory pick for him.  No matter how you look at it, Nashville burned a free agent spot on a massive gamble and missed.  The Predators did receive Ville Peltonen in exchange for passing on Tony Granato, however.

Uwe Krupp from Colorado – As expected, Krupp would sign a huge deal as a UFA and return a 2nd-round compensatory pick to Nashville.  Although it meant passing on Tom Fitzgerald in the expansion draft, they’d come back around and sign him as a free agent.  Win-win!

John Slaney from Phoenix – There wasn’t much to choose from, and Slaney was able to give the Predators a year before moving on.

Rob Zettler from Toronto – Zettler would spend most of the 1998-99 season in the IHL before moving on to Washington.

Forwards

Blair Atcheynum from St. Louis – This was part of a deal that saw a guaranteed 2nd-round pick go to Nashville in exchange for the Predators not taking Brett Hull, Steve Duchesne, or Jamie McLennan.  Atcheynum would end up traded back to St. Louis at the deadline for a 6th-rounder.

Paul Brousseau from Tampa Bay – Like with Chris Armstrong from Florida, I believe this was the pick simply because the Predators had to choose someone and didn’t feel like adding a ton of salary.

Doug Brown from Detroit – Three weeks after the expansion draft, Brown was traded back to Detroit for a prospect, a 3rd-rounder, and future considerations.

Andrew Brunette from Washington – The handling of Brunette simply baffles me.  He started off extremely strong on Nashville’s top line, then had his ice time cut as the season wore on.  He finished with 9 points in the second half of the season, then would be traded to Atlanta for the 1999-00 season.  He would retire 12 years later after another 1,000 games and 700 points…

Patrick Cote from Dallas – This was a weird pickup; Cote was primarily a fighter who hadn’t shown much offense at any point in his career.  He’d play two years with Nashville before going to Edmonton.

Jeff Daniels from Carolina – He was pretty much a career minor leaguer at this point.  It’s possible the Predators saw something in him that didn’t come through, or it could have been another budget move.  He’d play just one year in the Nashville system before going back to Carolina, where he finally became a full-time NHLer at age 31.

Craig Darby from Philadelphia – A career minor leaguer at this point; he’d move on after a single year and then play three NHL seasons afterward.  Nashville also received Dominic Roussel and Jeff Staples in exchange for passing on Paul Coffey.

Doug Friedman from Edmonton – Another career minor leaguer who I believe was a budget pickup.

Tony Hrkac from Pittsburgh – Hrkac was traded to Dallas for future considerations two weeks after being picked up.  I do not know the nature of these considerations.

Greg Johnson from Chicago – Johnson would play 8 seasons with the Predators, including a stint as team captain, before retiring.  The Predators also received Sergei Krivokrasov as part of a side trade, and he would score 25 goals that first season.  A home run of a pick.

Denny Lambert from Ottawa – Mostly a fighter with some offensive skill, Lambert would play one year with Nashville before being traded for Randy Robitaille, who Nashville would get two more years out of.

Mike Sullivan from Boston – Immediately sent though to Phoenix for a 7th-rounder, which amounted to nothing.

Scott Walker from Vancouver – Walker was a fourth-line fighter at this point, and scored 15 goals and 40 points in his first year with Nashville.  He would hit 25 goals in a season twice in his five years with the Predators, the second time in a 67-point season.  Walker vastly exceeded what could have reasonably been expected of him, and this was a hell of a pick.

Overall Assessment

Nashville did extremely well in their expansion draft, possibly better than even a best-case scenario would have called for.  There were a couple of missteps, a couple of players that were chosen simply because, but this was more than offset by the almost stunning number of trade acquisitions that they picked up in addition to the unexpected development of Walker and Vokoun.

Yet for all of this, they still ended up the first season 19 games under .500 and wouldn’t make the playoffs until their 6th season in the league.

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