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.
Detroit finished second in the Central, second in the West, and third in the NHL during the regular season. In the playoffs, they knocked out Phoenix, St. Louis, and Dallas each in six-game series, then swept Washington to win their second consecutive Stanley Cup.
Goalies: Kevin Hodson, Norm Maracle
Defensemen: Slava Fetisov(Gr.III – UFA), Jamie Macoun, Dmitri Mironov(Gr.III – UFA), Bob Rouse(Gr.III – UFA)
Forwards: Pavel Agarkov(UE), Doug Brown, Sylvain Cloutier(Gr.II – RFA), Brent Gilchrist, Mike Knuble, Joe Kocur, Toivo Suursoo(UE)
Neither goalie will be considered, and only Dmitri Mironov is from the defensive corps. Of the seven forwards, Doug Brown and Mike Knuble will be looked at.
D Dmitri Mironov – 32-year-old defenseman, originally an 8th-round pick of Toronto (1991)
The case for taking Mironov – One of the NHL’s most underrated defensemen, Mironov can be used in all facets of the game. He can put up offense at even strength, he can set up and finish on the power play, and he can kill penalties. He’s had 95 points in the last two seasons split among three teams, and has been able to find almost instant chemistry with whoever he goes out there with.
The case against taking Mironov – All of this is true. However, Mironov is a pending Group III free agent, and is likely to be both out of our price range and below the point where we could get a valuable enough compensatory draft pick to justify passing on Doug Brown. If he were signed, absolutely we’d take him. But that’s not the case, so this is a very difficult pass.
F Doug Brown – 34-year-old forward, originally undrafted
The case for taking Brown – One of the league’s ultimate smart players, Brown can contribute a tough and disciplined game in any manner. Fully healthy last year, he put up 19 goals and 42 points in the regular season and then had a huge playoffs when he was in the lineup. If this were 1997 instead of 1998, we’d have to pass on him, but he really came back in a big way.
The case against taking Brown – He’s 34, and although he had a nice rebound year, he missed 53 games the previous two seasons and 13 playoff games just this past year. It’s very likely that he’s going to start slowing down in the near future, in which case we’ll have passed on a valuable asset to take a declining one.
F Mike Knuble – 26-year-old forward, originally a 4th-round pick of Detroit (1991)
The case for taking Knuble – A big advantage that he has over Mironov and Brown is that we would control his future for the next five years. But he’s also a decent prospect for the future; he scored 96 goals and 150 points his last three years in college, then 50 goals and 108 points in his first two pro seasons with Adirondack in the AHL. He was in the NHL full-time this past year, but got minimal playing time and produced not much.
Knuble’s best work is within 15 feet of the net. But he’s not able to get much ice time on the lethal Detroit power play or with scoring forwards at even strength. Given a chance, we can get a lot of offense out of him.
The case against taking Knuble – He’s 26, hasn’t produced in the NHL, and has produced at lower levels. This is nothing against Knuble personally, but there are a few dozen such players in this expansion draft that we could consider first. Yes, he was a part of a juggernaut of a team, but he was a spare part at best. We could certainly give him a chance if we took him, but we’ll have passed on two superior players (and a superior asset) to find out if this gamble pays off.