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.
Just two years removed from an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, the Panthers bottomed out by posting just 63 points. Oh, they also traded their 1st-round pick to San Jose in November while sitting multiple games under .500, and that pick ended up winning the draft lottery. Florida could have picked phenom Vincent Lecavalier, but I’m sure they were just as satisfied with acquiring Viktor Kozlov in that trade.
Goalies: Todd MacDonald, Kirk McLean, John Vanbiesbrouck(Gr.III – UFA)
Defensemen: Chris Armstrong, Terry Carkner, Trevor Doyle(Gr.II – RFA), Dallas Eakins(Gr.II – RFA), Jeff Norton, Wes Swinson(Gr.II – RFA)
Forwards: Ashley Buckberger(Gr.II – RFA), Chad Cabana(Gr.II – RFA), Dave Gagner, Johan Garpenlov, Kirk Muller
We’re looking closely at five Panthers: goalie John Vanbiesbrouck, defensemen Jeff Norton and Terry Carkner, and forwards Johan Garpenlov and Kirk Muller.
G John Vanbiesbrouck – 35-year-old goalie, originally a 4th-round pick of the Rangers (1981)
The case for taking Vanbiesbrouck – One of Vanbiesbrouck, Mike Richter, or Curtis Joseph is going to be selected by us for the purpose of collecting a high compensatory draft pick for letting him walk.
Vanbiesbrouck has been among the five best goalies in the NHL over the last five seasons and will naturally garner a ton of interest.
The case against taking Vanbiesbrouck – Of the three goalies, Vanbiesbrouck is both the oldest and had the worst season last year. There’s a very good chance that he’ll get the smallest contract of the three, leaving us with the lowest compensatory pick. And since the other players we have on the board from the Panthers are clearly better than the options from Edmonton and New York, we need to take an actual player from here and get the higher pick elsewhere.
D Terry Carkner – 32-year-old defenseman, originally a 1st-round pick of the Rangers (1984)
The case for taking Carkner – A rugged veteran defenseman, Carkner is closing in on 800 career NHL games. He’s an excellent penalty killer and sound in his own zone. In Florida’s miserable 1997-98 season, he was one of a small number of bright spots: the only full-time defenseman to be in the positive side of +/- despite only 8 points all year, and one of the few players whose effort was never questioned.
The case against taking Carkner – It really wasn’t a great season for Carkner, who’s visibly slowing down. He’s also signed for two more years, and if everything goes to hell then we’re on the hook for another year. We also know that the Panthers were shopping him for a good chunk of this past season, with no takers.
D Jeff Norton – 32-year-old defenseman, originally a 3rd-round pick of the Islanders (1984)
The case for taking Norton – One of the NHL’s better offensive defensemen during his career, Norton can bring speed and a solid game in transition to the table. He can also slot into the power play right from the beginning.
The case against taking Norton – Norton was acquired for the purpose of bolstering the Panthers’ dreadful power play, then failed to score a goal in 19 games with the team. This simply continues what the last two years have looked like; his offensive game appears to have abandoned him in 1996, and we’re not in a position to take a high-priced gamble that it suddenly comes back.
F Johan Garpenlov – 31-year-old forward, originally a 5th-round pick of Detroit (1986)
The case for taking Garpenlov – One of the most versatile and underrated forwards in the league during his career, Garpenlov can do a bit of everything. He can score, he can pass, he can anchor the power play, he can kill penalties, he can check. He had 36 points in 53 games two years ago, so last year’s down season shouldn’t be a sign of things to come.
The case against taking Garpenlov – “Down season” doesn’t begin to describe Garpenlov last year; he had 2 goals and 5 points in 39 games. He was a shoo-in for Sweden’s Olympic team, but wouldn’t have been considered no matter how healthy he was. Sure, the Panthers were bad and not going anywhere positive, but Garpenlov looked completely out of sorts.
The other concern is that he’s missed 72 games in the last two seasons. What exactly he’ll rebound back to is unknown, but if it’s anything like this past season, we’ll pass.
F Kirk Muller – 32-year-old forward, originally a 1st-round pick of New Jersey (1984)
The case for taking Muller – Long one of the NHL’s highly-skilled heart-and-soul players, Muller is a veteran of over 1,000 NHL games and was a major part of Montreal’s 1993 Stanley Cup. He’s bounced around since then, going to the Islanders, the Maple Leafs, and now Panthers. He’s a former captain, and can bring a lot of different things to the locker room and on the ice.
The case against taking Muller – His salary alone would eat up around 10% (or more) of our total team payroll, and that’s for someone who scored 8 goals last year and was on the trading block most of the season with no takers. In his prime Muller brought a lot of skill and physical play to his team, but those days appear to be long in the rearview mirror. He’s had a fine career to this point, but we can’t eat up that much payroll on a player who may not rebound to anything except the waiver wire.