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.
Things that Tampa did right in 1997-98: obtained the right to flip 1st-rounders with San Jose in case either the Sharks or Panthers (as a result of a previous trade) won the draft lottery, which is what happened.
Things that Tampa did wrong in 1997-98: I can write 16 pages on a single re-draft from the 1999 expansion draft, I can write half of a book before shelving it permanently, but I don’t have the ability to write a complete list of what went wrong with Tampa in 1997-98. All you have to know is that they finished 38 games under .500 (44 points total), which was dead last by 19 points over the next-worst team.
Goalies: Mark Fitzpatrick(Gr.II – RFA), Daren Puppa, Corey Schwab(Gr.II – RFA), Derek Wilkinson
Defensemen: Ryan Brown(Gr.II – RFA), Viktor Igantiev, Mathieu Raby(Gr.II – RFA), Yves Racine(Gr.II – RFA)
Forwards: Jason Bonsignore, Brian Bradley, Paul Brosseau, Jody Hull(Gr.V – UFA), Dmitri Klevakin(UE), Troy Mallette(Gr.II – RFA), Vladimir Vujtek(Gr.III – UFA), Paul Ysebaert
Sixteen unprotected Bolts are out there, of which we’ll look at goalie Corey Schwab and forward Vladimir Vujtek.
G Corey Schwab – 27-year-old goalie, 10th-round pick of New Jersey (1990)
The case for taking Schwab – Schwab had a terrific 1994-95 season in the AHL with Albany, splitting goaltending duties with Mike Dunham. The duo backstopped the River Rats to the Calder Cup, and shared the playoff MVP award. Schwab was traded to Tampa Bay in 1996 and has been there the past two seasons. Unfortunately, the Lightning haven’t exactly been contenders: 74 points in 1996-97, and 44 this past season. It’s impossible to dismiss Schwab when his teams are terrible.
The case against taking Schwab – When Daren Puppa was injured and the starting job was wide open, Schwab was outplayed by Rick Tabaracci. This year, Mark Fitzpatrick took over instead of Schwab. Neither is exactly a Vezina-caliber goalie, and although the Lightning haven’t done him any favors, the fact that he’s been solidly outplayed by guys who aren’t the future of the Lightning is troubling.
He’s also a pending Group II free agent, and burning our one possible goalie free agent spot on Schwab instead of Richter/Joseph/Vanbiesbrouck is a terrible idea.
F Vladimir Vujtek – 26-year-old forward, originally a 4th-round pick of Montreal (1991)
The case for taking Vujtek – He had a stellar 1996-97 in the Finnish League, then was stricken by a virus this past year that wiped out most of his season and sapped his effectiveness when he was in the lineup. He’s shown that he can play previously, and if he fully recovers, then there may be something there.
The case against taking Vujtek – So to sum up, we have no case for why to take someone, simply a case of evasion for why to pass on the other guy. And more specifically, someone who’s coming off a season-killing viral condition.
The problem is that it’s not just a virus last year. It’s that he’s missed a ton of action almost since the day he was drafted, and went back to Europe mid-career before returning last year. We’d almost be better served to take a minor leaguer from Tampa; at least we know they’ll stay in North America.