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.
The Islanders’ fall from the glory days appears to be complete, as they put up 71 points and missed the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year (after missing it a total of five times before this streak began).
Goalies: Wade Flaherty, Mark McArthur
Defensemen: JJ Daigneault, Daniel Johansson(UE), Chris Luongo, Dick Tarnstrom(UE), Dennis Vaske(Gr.II – RFA)
Forwards: Tom Chorske, Vladimir Grachev(UE), Pavel Gross(UE), Peter Hogardh(UE), Mike Hough, Dane Jackson, Tomas Klimt(UE), Claude Lapointe, Mark Lawrence, Kip Miller(Gr.II – RFA), Dan Plante(Gr.II – RFA)
Of the 18 unprotected Islanders, only defenseman JJ Daigneault and forwards Tom Chorske and Claude Lapointe will warrant further consideration.
D J.J. Daigneault – 32-year-old defenseman, originally a 1st-round pick of Vancouver (1984)
The case for taking Daigneault – He entered the league as a highly-touted offensive defenseman, and over time has remade his game into that of a solid positional defender who still has offensive skill. He’s played close to 800 NHL games to this point and has been an important part of some very good teams on the back end; this includes Montrea’s 1993 Stanley Cup squad.
An important consideration is that we currently sit at the #3 overall spot in the entry draft, with a huge group of defensemen to pick from but no forwards. I can’t think of a better locker room guy to have around our probable first-round pick than Daigneault, who can not only teach the finer points but impart the way that he’s changed his entire game in his lengthy career.
The case against taking Daigneault – It’s tough to say that his offensive skill is still there, since he’s only hit 20 points in a season twice since 1987 and last exceeded five goals in 1993. At this point, he’s a bottom pairing guy who’s unlikely to have a late-career resurgence.
And although we’re sitting at #3 in the entry draft, we’re trying to move up to #2 to get David Legwand. A defenseman tutoring the young dynamic center doesn’t make a lot of sense.
F Tom Chorske – 32-year-old forward, originally a 1st-round pick of Montreal (1985)
The case for taking Chorske – A stable middle-six forward with good speed, Chorske can fill a variety of roles. He can play the power play, he’s a solid penalty killer, and he’ll add a little bit of offense at even strength. But his primary role in defense in all facets. He was 3rd on a brutal Islanders team in +/- this past year, and was 6th in scoring despite getting almost no power play time at all.
The case against taking Chorske – Most of his offense came as a result of spending a disproportionate amount of time on the top two lines. The fact that he scored some (12 goals and 35 points) while working with Ziggy Palffy and Robert Reichel is hardly notable. There isn’t enough to separate Chorske from several other similar players who we can choose from, most of whom are younger as well.
F Claude Lapointe – 29-year-old forward, originally a 12th-round pick of Quebec (1988)
The case for taking Lapointe – One of the best bottom-six centers in the NHL, Lapointe can go onto our third or fourth line and provide shutdown defense in all situations. We’re not likely to get much offense out of him, but considering the way that the game is trending toward favoring defensive forwards, we can get out ahead by taking one of the best in the game. That goes double because most defensive forwards are wingers, and Lapointe is one of a handful of defensively-sound centers out there.
The case against taking Lapointe – J.J. Daigneault had 23 points this past season in 71 games and his offense is criticized; Lapointe had 20 points in 78 games and was on the ice for just 31 goals for all season. Defensive skill or not, that’s a huge tradeoff that doesn’t favor us. Chorske was +7, Lapointe -9. Mike Hough, who’s available but not being considered, was -4.
We can find better options elsewhere; there’s no point in burning a pick here.