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.
Phoenix had 82 points and was the #6 seed in the West, where they gave Detroit six hard-fought games in the first round before being eliminated.
Goalies: Scott Langkow(Gr.II – RFA), Henrik Smangs(UE), Jimmy Waite(Gr.II – RFA), Darcy Wakaluk(Gr.III – UFA)
Defensemen: Murray Baron(Gr.III – UFA), Jim Johnson(Gr.III – UFA), Norm Maciver(Gr.III – UFA), Roger Ohman, Michel Petit(Gr.III – UFA), John Slaney, Ilya Stashenkov
Forwards: Mika Alatalo(UE), Alexei Budayev(Gr.II – RFA), Louie DeBrusk(Gr.II – RFA), Evgeny Garanin(UE), Mike Gartner(Gr.III – UFA), Rhett Gordon, Tavis Hansen, Mark Janssens(Gr.V – UFA), Darin Kimble(Gr.V – UFA), Jocelyn Lemieux, Scott Levins(Gr.II – RFA), Rob Murray, Vladimir Potapov(UE), Rauli Raitanen(UE), Darrin Shannon(Gr.II – RFA), Mike Stapleton
The Coyotes leave a staggering 27 players unprotected, and yet we’re only looking at three…defensemen Murray Baron and John Slaney, plus forward Mike Stapleton.
D Murray Baron – 31-year-old defenseman, originally an 8th-round pick of Philadelphia (1986)
The case for taking Baron – A big, physical shutdown type, Baron is a rarity in this draft class in that he fits this profile and also isn’t a question mark as to whether he’ll ever reach his potential. He’s got over 500 NHL games in, and is a veteran of the old Patrick and Norris Division wars.
Baron can log 20 minutes a night and kill penalties. He’s not particularly fast or mobile, but as the game continues to slow down, this is less of an issue.
The case against taking Baron – There’s two big reasons to not consider Baron at all, and that is the word “Group” followed by the Roman numeral “III”. As a pending UFA, Baron would likely have little interest in coming to an expansion team at all. He’s been on some contending teams without winning, and as the physical mileage on his body adds up, he’s likely to either pursue a huge contract (which we can’t offer) or a shot with a contender (which we are not). He would also count against the free agent limit, and the likelihood of getting a valuable-enough compensatory draft pick makes this a poor gamble.
D John Slaney -26-year-old defenseman, originally a 1st-round pick of Washington (1990)
The case for taking Slaney – We have no way of knowing if Slaney could stick in our NHL lineup, although he’ll be given every chance to do so. We do know that if he doesn’t, he’ll be on the top pairing of our IHL affiliate and probably put up 25 goals and 80 points.
Slaney is a mostly unspectacular defenseman who has uncommon offensive skill from the blue line, and he’s not too bad in his own zone. He’ll be able to get a decent amount of power play time, and if we pair him with a fast shutdown defenseman, we could get the best of both worlds in the same pairing.
The case against taking Slaney – If we need offense from the back end, we do have several options out there. The best pending UFAs and might not sign with us, but there are several others who can produce and who we would have. It’s also premature to talk about his offense like it’s a foregone conclusion that he can score; so far in almost 200 NHL games, he has 19 goals, with just 10 at even strength. He’s a power play specialist who has to be paired with a defensive guy just to cover the holes in his game in his own zone.
F Mike Stapleton – 32-year-old forward, originally a 7th-round pick of Chicago (1984)
The case for taking Stapleton – Stapleton is an ideal bottom-six forward: a fast, smart defensive forward who can help hold a one-goal lead late and kill penalties. As scoring continues to decline leaguewide, Stapleton’s inability to score becomes less important while his ability to prevent goals against becomes much more important.
It’s also worth pointing out that Stapleton is easily the best Coyote available who isn’t a pending free agent.
The case against taking Stapleton – In the last three seasons, Stapleton has missed 69 total games (average of 23 per season), and he’s not getting any younger.
Ultimately this won’t be about Stapleton versus his Coyote teammates Slaney and Baron. It’s about Stapleton versus any of a dozen other players who fit this exact same mold, some of whom produce offense as well: Mike Sullivan, Paul Kruse, Dixon Ward, and so on.