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 Blues finished third in the Central with a better record than Pacific champion Colorado and Northeast champion Pittsburgh. In fact, they were third in their own division but fourth overall in the NHL. And then they lost in the second round.
Goalies: Jamie McLennan
Defensemen: Steve Duchesne(Gr.III – UFA), Rory Fitzpatrick(Gr.II – RFA), Edvin Frylen(UE), Todd Gill, Alexander Godynyuk(Gr.II – RFA), Yuri Gunko(UE), Terry Hollinger, Libor Prochazka(UE), Terry Virtue
Forwards: Blair Atcheynum, Geoff Courtnall(Gr.III – UFA), Mike Eastwood, Brett Hull(Gr.III – UFA), Chris Kenady, Robert Petrovicky(Gr.II – RFA), Michel Picard, Shayne Toporowski(Gr.II – RFA), Darren Turcotte
Of nineteen Blues to choose from, we’re looking closely at goalie Jamie McLennan, defensemen Steve Duchesne and Todd Gill, and forwards Blair Atcheynum, Mike Eastwood, and Brett Hull.
G Jamie McLennan – 27-year-old goalie, originally a 3rd-round pick of the Islanders (1991)
The case for taking McLennan – After several up and down years bouncing between the NHL and minors, McLennan looks to have broken through. He played 30 games this past year and arguably outplayed incumbent starter (and future Hall of Famer) Grant Fuhr. Fuhr is also getting on in years, so St. Louis may be willing to pony up to convince us to pass on McLennan.
The case against taking McLennan – In the last three seasons, McLennan has played 30 NHL games. All of them were just this past season, and although he looked good, he didn’t look great. We have our first-day starter in Mike Dunham, and we have a lot of options for backup goalies. What we don’t have a lot of are chances to get 2nd-round draft picks, which is what we’ll get if we instead take Steve Duchesne or Brett Hull.
D Steve Duchesne – 33-year-old defenseman, originally undrafted
The case for taking Duchesne – He’s a pending Group III free agent, and we’ll never be able to sign him. More of a goal scorer than other available offensive defensemen Fredrik Olausson and Dmitri Mironov, Duchesne has scored at least 10 goals in every one of his twelve NHL seasons. He’s going to get a large contract as a free agent that will return at least a 3rd-rounder, and quite possibly a 2nd-rounder, as a compensatory pick.
The case against taking Duchesne – Further down the draft board is Brett Hull, who all but guarantees us getting a compensatory 2nd-round pick. If we think Duchesne will go for more, then we should take him; this isn’t likely, so Hull really should be the pick.
D Todd Gill – 32-year-old defenseman, originally a 2nd-round pick of Toronto (1984)
The case for taking Gill – A quiet all-around defenseman, Gill should be considered if we’re able to swing a trade that would net us a guaranteed 2nd-rounder only. He’s a veteran of over 800 NHL games, can play on the second power play and penalty killing units, and log a lot of ice time while producing.
The case against taking Gill – If we consider Gill, we have to consider that he was on the ice for more goals against than any other player just two seasons ago (123). He’s on the far side of 30, and it’s possible that his play simply starts declining rapidly.
There’s no reason to get cute here. Just take one of Hull or Duchesne and call it a day.
F Blair Atcheynum – 29-year-old forward, originally a 3rd-round pick of Hartford (1989)
The case for taking Atcheynum – A longtime minor league scoring ace, Atcheynum finally got a shot in the NHL this past season and played the wing on possibly the best third line in hockey (the CPA Line with Craig Conroy and Scott Pellerin). He had 11 goals and 26 points while bringing energy and suffocating defense to a contending team.
If we’re able to make a trade to get a 2nd-rounder from the Blues, Atcheynum should be our pick.
The case against taking Atcheynum – There’s the real question of who was carrying the CPA Line, and who the most irreplaceable member is. And if nothing else, we’re raving about a third-liner here.
We have the chance to get a 2nd-rounder by taking Hull or Duchesne. Just do that.
F Mike Eastwood – 31-year-old forward, originally a 5th-round pick of Toronto (1987)
The case for taking Eastwood – A scoring forward in college, Eastwood has made the successful transition to an all-around guy in his long NHL career. He won’t produce much offensively, but is a stabilizing influence whenever he’s on the ice. We won’t score, but they won’t score, and he can play with nearly any linemates.
The case against taking Eastwood – Again, there’s no point in trying to get fancy when we can simply take one of Duchesne or Hull and get a 2nd-rounder next year. There are several players like Eastwood who are out there, and his actual value in the trades he’s been part of in the last two years is hardly worth considering.
F Brett Hull – 34-year-old forward, originally a 6th-round pick of Calgary (1984)
The case for taking Hull – This is strictly for the compensatory pick. Hull is a pending Group III free agent, and is all but guaranteed to return us a 2nd-round pick and most likely the highest compensatory pick in the league. Nothing else on this board should sway us.
The case against taking Hull – It’s going to come down to whether we think that Hull or Steve Duchesne is going to go for more. Hull dropped from 42 to 27 goals last year, and it’s possible that the deep-pocketed teams may be a bit more cautious with him as a result.