The draft board pages include every player who was left unprotected in the 1998 Expansion Draft. The overwhelming majority of players who do not carry over are either old, unproductive, injured, primarily used for fighting, marginal players, minor league veterans, or unsigned European prospects. The majority of pending UFAs (Group III, Group V, and Group VI) will not carry over. Exceptions to these rules are provided if the incumbent team left almost nothing of value available to choose from, in which case everyone gets at least a closer look.
As we are capped by league restrictions to selecting no more than six pending free agents, we must be judicious with our choices.
Buffalo’s 89 points ranked them third in the Northeast Division, but in the playoffs they went on a tear. The Sabres knocked out Philadelphia and Montreal in the first two rounds, going 8-1 in those two series, before bowing out in six games in the conference finals against Washington.
Goalies: Kay Whitmore(Gr.III – UFA)
Defensemen: Bob Boughner, Mike Hurlbut, Sergei Klimentiev(Gr.II – RFA), Rumun Ndur(Gr.II – RFA), Shayne Wright
Forwards: Randy Burridge, Paul Kruse(Gr.II – RFA), Scott Nichol, Rob Ray(Gr.V – UFA), Dixon Ward
Fully half of the Sabres’ ten unprotected skaters will be considered: defensemen Bob Boughner and Rumun Ndur, and forwards Scott Nichol, Paul Kruse, and Dixon Ward.
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D Bob Boughner – 28-year-old defenseman, originally a 2nd-round pick of Detroit (1989)
The case for taking Boughner – A physical shutdown defenseman, Boughner is Buffalo’s most physical defenseman. He won’t provide any offense, but he’s got a definite mean streak that will make opponents think twice about going into the corner or driving to the front of the net with him around.
Boughner has been among Buffalo’s most reliable defensemen since he made the roster full-time two seasons ago. We could certainly use a guy on the back end who brings this type of a physical element.
The case against taking Boughner – He’s a shutdown type without actually doing the shutting down. Last year he was second-last among Sabres’ defensemen in +/-, ahead of only 20-year-old Jay McKee. And among their full-time defensemen, he’s been last in scoring the past two seasons, with 2 goals and 12 points in 146 games. He’s only exceeded three goals in a pro season one time, last year being his 7th pro season.
Sure, he’ll rough up opposing players. What else can he do?
D Rumun Ndur – 23-year-old defenseman, originally a 3rd-round pick of Buffalo (1994)
The case for taking Ndur – One of the more fascinating players in the draft, Ndur stands 6’2″ and checks in at 240 pounds. He’s extremely physical and not afraid to mix it up in his own zone, and his strength makes it very difficult for opposing forwards to secure a position around the net.
Yes, he’s raw. But he’s one of the few guys who can physically negate the rest of the league’s increasingly large forwards. If we can bring him along, we could have someone who’s either very valuable to us or in the trade market.
The case against taking Ndur – We’re not likely to get much offense out of him. And Buffalo, which specifically plays a suffocating defensive style, hasn’t seen the need to give him more than a total of three games in the NHL so far. To this point, he looks like a good AHL defenseman but not much more.
He’s also a pending Group II free agent and would count against our limit. He’s too much of a project, and the other free agents too good, to strongly consider taking him with this pick.
F Paul Kruse – 28-year-old forward, originally a 4th-round pick of Calgary (1990)
The case for taking Kruse – The two words that come to mind when describing Kruse are “rugged” and “fearless”. He’s the ultimate professional, a hard-working quiet player who will do whatever’s asked of him. His infectious energy will be valuable to our team, and he’ll be a good role model for whatever young players we can acquire.
The case against taking Kruse – Although he’ll do whatever is asked of him, he’s not likely to be able to play on the power play or penalty killing units at all. He’s a role player who, professionalism and work ethic aside, isn’t likely to benefit us to the same extent as one of the other available players.
He’s also a pending Group II free agent, and would count against the limit.
F Scott Nichol – 23-year-old forward, originally an 11th-round pick of Buffalo (1993)
The case for taking Nichol – A rambunctious forward, Nichol is a prototype third- or fourth-line buzzsaw. He’ll hit anything that moves and isn’t afraid to drop the gloves, which takes plenty of courage since he’s also listed at 5’8″. He had 71 goals and 157 points in his two seasons in the WHL, so he does have a scoring touch. He’s been cast into a bottom-six role in the Buffalo system, but it’s possible that we could get more out of him than Buffalo cares to even attempt.
The case against taking Nichol – So far he’s around 0.5 points per game in the AHL, so it’s very unlikely we’ll get any real offense out of him. And in the current game, where size is an important consideration when it comes to producing offense , Nichol may simply be overwhelmed by the massive defensemen that are starting to take over.
F Dixon Ward – 30-year-old forward, originally a 7th-round pick of Vancouver (1988)
The case for taking Ward – A 30-goal scorer three times in college and once in the AHL, Ward has made the transition to defensive stalwart with Buffalo. He’s fast and physical without being undisciplined, and he’s scored in the NHL too. He had 45 points two seasons ago, and this past year had 11 points in 15 playoff games after just 23 in the regular season. He looks to finally be hitting his stride, and is one of the most versatile players that we can choose from this year.
The case against taking Ward – He scored that much two years ago because he was playing on the top two lines, then fell back this past year when he was dropped down to the third line. His offense comes from whoever his linemates are, and although he’s excellent defensively, he’s helped by having a tremendous defensive corps behind him and Dominik Hasek. We’re not likely to have either.