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.
Montreal was 4th in the Northeast Division with 87 points, but took out division champion Pittsburgh in the first round before being swept in the second by Buffalo.
Goalies: Andy Moog, Tomas Vokoun
Defensemen: Brad Brown(Gr.II – RFA), Steve Cheredaryk, Brett Clark, Dion Darling(Gr.II – RFA), Peter Popovic(Gr.II – RFA), Zarley Zalapski(Gr.II – RFA)
Forwards: Sebastien Bordeleau(Gr.II – RFA), Marc Bureau(Gr.III – UFA), Martin Gendron(Gr.II – RFA), Jonas Hoglund, Arto Kuki(UE), Oleg Petrov, Patrick Poulin, Peter Strom(UE), Mick Vukota
Neither goalie will be considered, but defensemen Brett Clark and Peter Popovic, plus forwards Sebastien Bordeleau, Patrick Poulin, Jonas Hoglund, and Martin Gendron will be
D Brett Clark – 21-year-old defenseman, originally a 6th-round pick of Montreal (1996)
The case for taking Clark – One of the youngest players available to us, Clark played a season at the University of Maine and then one with the Canadian National Team before forcing his way into the Montreal lineup this year. “Force” is the only way to describe it; he came into camp as an afterthought, looked terrific, and made the roster. He played 41 games and didn’t look overwhelmed on what proved to be a playoff team. He did produce quite a bit of offense at Maine and with the national team, and although it hasn’t come around yet, it will. Even if it doesn’t, he’s a smart defenseman who can provide headache-free defense for years.
The case against taking Clark – He’s poised and decent in his own zone, but what happened to his offense? He had 38 points in 39 games as a college freshman, and 27 points in 57 games with the Canadian National Team, and then had just 1 goal and 0 assists in 41 games in the NHL this year. And in the AHL, he had no goals and 6 assists in 20 games.
It’s possible that Clark’s offense departed at the same time that he was separated from his old partner Jeff Tory, who continued to produce in the IHL this past year while Clark did not. If that’s the case, what are we getting out of Clark in the future?
D Peter Popovic – 31-year-old defenseman, originally a 5th-round pick of Montreal (1988)
The case for taking Popovic – A massive (6’5″, 230-pound) defenseman, Popovic has really come into his own as a suffocating defensive presence who can negate offense with his size and reach. We won’t get much offense from him, but he’s a superb penalty killer and very good at even strength.
The case against taking Popovic – He was a +21 three seasons ago, +9 two seasons ago, and a team-worst -6 this season. That he’s come into his own is debatable; it’s possible that after his huge 1995-96 season, we’re simply applauding him not getting significantly worse since then.
He’s also a pending Group II free agent and would count against our limit.
F Sebastien Bordeleau – 23-year-old forward, originally a 3rd-round pick of Montreal (1993)
The case for taking Bordeleau – A big-time scorer in junior hockey and in the AHL, Bordeleau has gotten an extended look in Montreal the last two years and hasn’t looked out of place. He’s not bad defensively, but hasn’t had the chance to show it as a young player on a playoff team.
The case against taking Bordeleau -In 81 NHL games so far, Bordeleau has 8 goals and 25 points. There’s the possibility that we’ll take him and he becomes yet another AHL or IHL scorer who never amounts to much in the NHL.
He’s also a pending Group II free agent and would count against our limit.
F Martin Gendron – 24-year-old forward, originally a 3rd-round pick of Washington (1992)
The case for taking Gendron – In his last 169 games in the QMJHL, Gendron scored 183 goals and 346 points, then capped that with 21 goals and 38 points in 20 playoff games. And that was regardless of his linemates: he was with Sebastien Bordeleau one year, with Patrick Poulin one year, and with non-NHL prospects along the way as well. He’s put up jaw-dropping numbers as soon as he turned pro as well: 36 goals in 72 AHL games at age 20, 38 goals and 67 points in 48 AHL games the next year (followed with 15 goals and 33 points in 22 playoff games), 51 goals and 90 points in the IHL the year after, and 33 goals and 68 points in 67 games split among three different teams this past season.
So far he’s gotten six callups to the NHL, but hasn’t exactly been given the chance to succeed. He’s too small and not physical enough to be counted on for defense, which left him out of place in the bottom six. We can put him on the top six and see if his phenomenal offensive skills carry over.
The case against taking Gendron – He’s 5’9″ and maybe 165 pounds, which doesn’t bode well for his ability to handle the tight-checking NHL game that’s being taken over by large defensemen. And in those six callups, he played 30 games and put up 4 goals and 6 points. He couldn’t stick on a bad Blackhawks team last year that had more problems than one page can possibly hold; how could he stick on a team full of hungry players who are willing to scrap and claw to play?
He’s also a pending Group II free agent, and would count against our limit.
F Jonas Hoglund – 26-year-old forward, originally a 10th-round pick of Calgary (1992)
The case for taking Hoglund – Hoglund started playing full-time in the Swedish League as an 18-year-old, and made the jump to the NHL after six seasons there. As a largely unknown rookie, he scored 19 goals and 35 points in 68 games. This past year, he was buried in the bottom six under a new coach and then traded to Montreal as part of the Valeri Bure move.
Hoglund isn’t physical and plays only decent defense, but he can do a lot of little things to create offense.
The case against taking Hoglund – He played and produced under Pierre Page, then couldn’t hack it under Darryl Sutter. All Sutter wants is an honest day’s work in exchange for ice time, and Hoglund had 6 goals and 14 points in 50 games under Sutter. If he’s not scoring, he’s not doing enough other things to stay in the lineup at all.
F Patrick Poulin – 25-year-old forward, originally a 1st-round pick of Hartford (1991)
The case for taking Poulin – An all-around player in juniors, Poulin played his first NHL game as an 18-year-old shortly after being drafted. He had 20 goals and 51 points as a rookie in 1992-93, and was highly-regarded enough to be traded for Steve Larmer early in the 1993-94 season. He’s remade himself into a defensive forward over the years, being leaned on heavily on the penalty kill the last two years in Tampa Bay and in Montreal.
His offense hasn’t really carried over, but he could be given a shot to do so with us.
The case against taking Poulin – In 1993-94, Upper Deck had an insert set called Next In Line, which featured a current legend and his possible successor from among the young stars in the league. It was only six cards, but three of them were nearly prophetic: Ray Bourque and Brian Leetch, Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic, Doug Gilmour and Keith Tkachuk. The one of Patrick Roy and Felix Potvin is a bit of a relic of the times.
Poulin was part of this set, right next to Brett Hull. It’s not as absurd as the last card (Wayne Gretzky and Mikael Nylander), but…Poulin’s 20 goals and 51 points as a 19-year-old rookie remain his career high in both categories. Outside of that season, his career highs are 15 goals and 30 points. He’s gone from high-level winger to “the guy who was traded with Igor Ulanov twice”, or “the guy who was next to Brett Hull on that one card”.
That Poulin has remade himself into a different player is absolutely to his credit; very few players are able to do that successfully, but he has. But there’s not enough to separate him from the other excellent defensive forwards that we can choose from, nor from several of his own teammates who are also unprotected.