1998 Draft Board – Ottawa

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.

OTTAWA

It took six years, but the Senators finally finished with a record over .500!  It was only by one game, but they carried that into the playoffs and beat #1 seed New Jersey in the first round before being eliminated by Washington in the second.

Available players

Goalies: Frederic Cassivi(Gr.II – RFA), Jaroslav Miklenda(UE), Ron Tugnutt

Defensemen: Per Gustafsson(Gr.II – RFA), Justin Hocking(Gr.II – RFA), Patrick Traverse

Forwards: Derek Armstrong(Gr.II – RFA), Clayton Beddoes, Randy Cunneyworth(Gr.III – UFA), Pat Falloon(Gr.II – RFA), Marc Labelle, Denny Lambert, Mike Prokopec(Gr.II – RFA), Andy Schneider, Dennis Vial(Gr.II – RFA), Jason Zent, Sergei Zholtok(Gr.II – RFA)

Assessment

The Senators leave 17 players unprotected, and we’re considering the sampler pack of goalie Ron Tugnutt, defenseman Per Gustafsson, and forwards Denny Lambert and Sergei Zholtok.

Player reports

G Ron Tugnutt – 30-year-old goalie, originally a 4th-round pick of Quebec (1986)

The case for taking Tugnutt – One of the NHL’s most snakebitten goalies, Tugnutt has had the bad fortune of being on multiple teams as they’re declining from their days as contenders: Quebec as they bottomed out from 1988-91, Edmonton as the last traces of the dynasty collapsed, and Montreal as the remains of their last Cup team were taken apart.  He caught on with a historically bad Ottawa team, and has been a large part of their turnaround.  With Tugnutt in net, the Senators went from a four-year point percentage of .205 to the playoffs for the first two times in franchise history.

Tugnutt’s mental resolve and ability is unquestioned.  He’ll have the chance to work with a young Mike Dunham, who will be the primary starter for the first time since college and is in need of guidance.

The case against taking Tugnutt – That Ottawa had such a stunning turnaround made Tugnutt look like a Vezina-caliber goalie, when in reality he’d be closer to league average at best.  He played very well in the 1996-97 playoffs, but bombed out completely this past season.

He’s been on bad teams most of his career; why would he be enthusiastic about leaving a rising playoff team in Ottawa for a first-year expansion team?

D Per Gustafsson – 28-year-old defenseman, originally an 11th-round pick of Florida (1994)

The case for taking Gustafsson – He started playing in the Swedish Elite League as an 18-year-old, and after eight season there and the 1996 World Cup, he came to Florida and put up 29 points in 58 games as a rookie.

Gustafsson can produce offense from the back end, and if there’s one thing that there’s a shortage of in this expansion draft it’s offensive defensemen.

The case against taking Gustafsson – He had that nice season with Florida, then was traded for a 19-year-old defenseman who had been a 3rd-round pick the previous year.  Then Toronto traded him at the deadline to Ottawa for an 8th-round pick less than a season after acquiring him.

Gustafsson’s career to this point has been a nice playoffs in Sweden in 1995, six games in the 1996 World Cup, and some superficially impressive numbers with Florida.  He’s been traded twice in the last year for decreasing returns, which is a really bad sign for a 28-year-old defenseman.  We don’t know what the issue is, but we’re not eager to find out.

He’s also a pending Group II free agent and would count against our limit.

F Denny Lambert – 28-year-old forward, originally undrafted

The case for taking Lambert – An energetic physical forward, Lambert can do a bit of everything: hit, fight, play defense, produce a bit of offense.  In a tight-checking and more physical NHL, someone who can play in tight spaces and create his own room is very valuable indeed.

The case against taking Lambert – He doesn’t play the power play or penalty kill, so we’re looking exclusively at an even-strength energy guy.  Given the choice between taking a good goalie in Tugnutt, a power play defenseman in Gustafsson, or a versatile forward in Zholtok, there’s not much to go on with Lambert.

F Sergei Zholtok -25-year-old forward, originally a 3rd-round pick of Boston (1992)

The case for taking Zholtok – One of the ultimate “little things” players available, Zholtok has stuck in the NHL the last two seasons after four excellent seasons in the minors. That was capped with him winning the IHL’s Ironman Award in 1995-96, which is awarded to the best overall player who appears in all games. All he had was 51 goals and 101 points that season, followed by another 7 goals and 20 points in the playoffs. In the NHL full-time with Ottawa two seasons ago, he had 12 goals and 28 points in 57 games, but fell back this past year.

He’s not a physical player, but he’ll provide a good forecheck, a good presence on the boards, and do a lot of the little things that teams need.

The case against taking Zholtok – He had some nice numbers in 1996-97 with Ottawa, had a couple of hot streaks this past year but a lot of cold ones.  This include streaks of 10 scoreless games out of 11, 12 scoreless out of 13, and 14 scoreless out of 15. Those all involve separate games completely, so there’s no overlap of any of them.

Goal scorers are notoriously streaky, but he’s not a goal scorer.  He’s primarily a defensive guy who doesn’t play a physical game or kill penalties, an offensive forward who doesn’t put the puck in the net, and an all-around forward who’s invisible far too often.

He’s also a pending Group II free agent and would count against our limit.