The draft board pages include every player who was left unprotected in the 1999 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 Flames finished with just 72 points and were well out of the playoffs, and somehow managed to have a stunning 29 exposed players for the expansion draft. More stunning is that there is almost nothing of any value to consider.
Goalies: Tyler Moss(Gr.II – RFA), Andrei Trefilov(Gr.II – RFA), Ken Wregget(Gr.III – UFA)
Defensemen: Tommy Albelin, Steve Bancroft(Gr.VI – UFA), Eric Charron(Gr.II – RFA), David Cooper(Gr.VI – UFA), Trevor Doyle(Gr.VI – UFA), Johan Finnstrom(UE), Pavel Rajnoha(UE), Dmitri Riabykin(UE), Steve Smith(Gr.III – UFA), Lee Sorochan(Gr.II – RFA)
Forwards: Bob Bassen(Gr.III – UFA), Andrew Cassels(Gr.V – UFA), Tom Chorske(Gr.III – UFA), Jeff Cowan, Steve Dubinsky, Nils Ekman(UE), Jan Hlavac(UE), Mattias Johansson(UE), Andreas Karlsson(UE), Esa Keskinen(UE), Jan Labraaten(UE), Jesper Mattsson, Marty Murray, Dave Roche(Gr.II – RFA), Ed Ward, Sergei Zolotov(UE)
Among the three goalies, only Tyler Moss will get further consideration. Ken Wregget is a pending UFA and won’t be up for selection.
None of the ten unprotected defensemen will warrant a further look.
Of the sixteen unprotected forwards, it’s so thin that the only players who will be considered are Andrew Cassels (a pending Group V UFA), Jan Hlavac (an unsigned European prospect), and Marty Murray (who spent last year in Austria).
G Tyler Moss – 24-year-old goalie, 2nd-round pick of Tampa (1993)
The case for taking Moss – He’s played for seven pro teams in just four seasons, but has been impressive in multiple stints. In 1996-97 alone, he played for four different teams, including a two-game loan into the Colonial League. His wandering stopped in 1997-98, when he split time between Saint John of the AHL and Calgary in the NHL. He was terrific in Saint John, splitting time with J-S Giguere on a team that ended up going six games into the Calder Cup Finals. That team had goaltending as the backbone; just two players scored 20 goals, and only one player had 50 points (Ladislav Kohn with 56). And this past year, with Giguere taking over in Saint John, Moss was loaned to Orlando of the IHL for the stretch drive and playoffs. All he did was lead a team that knocked out two division champions before bowing out in seven games against Houston in the Turner Cup Finals. Along the way, the Solar Bears staved off elimination six times. That Houston team finished 27 points ahead of Orlando during the regular season.
This past season in Calgary, he earned an 11-game callup and posted a 3-7-0 record despite some very impressive performances; three of his losses came in games where he allowed either one or two goals, but the Flames were unable to score. In this day and age, a .922 save percentage over eleven games should produce more than three wins, but the Flames aren’t exactly what they were ten years ago. Moss can play for us, and if for some reason he can’t, he can definitely play on our IHL team. He’s been superb when he’s actually had a clearly-defined role and something resembling stability; he hasn’t been so good when he’s been shuffled from team to team and doesn’t have a real role.
The case against taking Moss – We’ve become reduced to raving about someone who was traded from Tampa Bay without so much as a single game played there in four seasons in that organization, and that trade was straight-up for Jamie Huscroft. The idea that goaltending was the backbone of that Saint John team in 1998 is a bit misleading; four players (Hnat Domenichelli, Marty Murray, Jim Dowd, and Martin St. Louis) produced around a point a game in shorter stints with that team, and all were there for the entire playoff run and produced. Domenichelli scored 33 goals in 48 games to lead the team, and Murray had 40 points in 41 games, which placed him third on the team in scoring and tied for second in assists (with Dowd, who played just 35 games).
Sure, Moss has played well when he’s handed a specific spot and told to go play and that he’s not going anywhere for some period of time. We’re an expansion team. Players are going to be constantly shuffled in and out of the lineup so we can see what we have, and there’s almost no chance that Moss is above third on our depth chart. This means he’d either be coming and going between the IHL and NHL on short notice, or he’d be the backup in the IHL, or we’d have to loan him elsewhere just for playing time. If it’s been established that this is less than optimal for his development and his play, why would we seriously consider taking him?
I’ll also point out that he’s a pending Group II free agent, and would thus occupy one of those valuable spots and be our only such goalie that we could take. Is he better than Corey Schwab or Manny Fernandez, both of whom are also Group II? This isn’t as simple as taking someone off of the Flames roster, it’s about being able to assemble these random links into a chain.
F Andrew Cassels – 30-year-old center, 1st round pick of Montreal (1987).
The case for taking Cassels – The center and playmaker of one of the NHL’s best lines during the 1990s. Cassels will be 30 when our first season begins, but he’s got over 600 games to his name as a high-level playmaker. Elevated a struggling Pat Verbeek up to his previous levels, taking him from 22 goals in 1991-92 to 39 goals in 1992-93 and 37 in 1993-94. After Verbeek moved on, Cassels kept producing: 37 points in 46 games in 1994-95, 63 points in 1995-96, 66 points in 1996-97. He was valuable enough to be a major part of the Giguere/Kidd/Roberts trade at that point, but has struggled a bit to work with unfamiliar linemates who play drastically different styles.
Cassels and Sanderson spent five years together in Hartford; if we get Sanderson, picking up his old center with whom he had uncommon chemistry is a sure way to get some offense.
The case against taking Cassels – Sure, he had some nice numbers a few years ago; that was then and this is now. And his numbers are inflated anyway from having the very rare luxury of two top-end finishers on his wings. In 1992-93, when Sanderson had 46 goals and Verbeek 39, Cassels had 21. That’s fewer than Murray Craven, who was traded with 17 games to go, and Terry Yake, who missed 18 games and was left unprotected in the expansion draft. He had 16 goals in 1993-94 while Sanderson and Verbeek combined for 78, and had just four more assists than Verbeek (who was most certainly not a playmaker). And once separated from Verbeek and Sanderson in Calgary, his production plummeted. In 151 regular season games the last two years, he has 21 goals and 81 points despite drawing more ice time than any other center on the team.
This is the story of Cassels’ career. Untether him from Verbeek and especially Sanderson, and he simply cannot produce at a high level. And his non-existent defense and physical play cannot begin to compensate for that. If we look at Cassels, we’re taking someone based on a past that’s been colored by nostalgia more than fact.
In addition, he’s a pending Group V free agent and may be less than thrilled to have been picked by an expansion team. He’s spent his entire career on poor teams; why go to an unknown that’s unlikely to contend any time soon? And if he signs elsewhere, the likelihood of getting a compensatory pick is extremely low; no one else is going to throw a bunch of money at him right now considering how his production has dried up.
F Jan Hlavac – 23-year-old forward, originally a 2nd-round pick of the NY Islanders (1995). Unsigned European prospect.
The case for taking Hlavac – If this were one year ago, Hlavac wouldn’t be seriously considered for selection. Milan Hejduk changed that; he was unprotected and passed on by Nashville, then turned in a tremendous rookie season for the Avalanche.
Hlavac, like Hejduk, has a sterling international resume. Besides leading the Czech League in goals this past year, he’s also represented his home country in two WJCs and two World Championships. The biggest moment came just last month, when he scored the overtime gold medal-winning goal against Finland. He finished 9th in the league in scoring two seasons ago as a 21-year-old, and 6th this past season. His skating is incredible, and his offensive game is well-rounded and easily among the best available to us in this expansion draft. And after seeing what Hejduk did with Colorado, this is someone we really need to consider.
The case against taking Hlavac – There are two big problems to contend with. The first is that the NHL is trending toward a tight-checking game where offense is being choked off, and there’s not a lot of room for a moderate-sized winger who doesn’t play a physical game to operate. The second is that he’d be on his third NHL team that holds his rights and isn’t able to bring him over. The Islanders couldn’t sign him, and traded him for someone who would. The Flames have tried to sign him, and on skill alone he’d go right into their first or second line; he had no interest in coming over. We’re an expansion team; what chance would we have of getting him signed? He can continue playing at a high level over there, play in international tournaments, and carve out a very nice career over there. He’s very unlikely to want to leave home to play for us, so there’s no point in wasting the pick and getting nothing.
F Marty Murray – 24-year-old forward, originally a 4th-round pick of Calgary (1993).
The case for taking Murray – He’s a creative center who can do a lot of little things, including producing offense. He was a part of two gold-winning Canadian WJC teams and led the 1995 tournament in scoring (15 points in 7 games) and has produced around a point a game in three AHL seasons. He hasn’t looked out of place in the slightest in Calgary, but hasn’t been given any type of an extended look to see what he can do. He played this past year in Austria and led that league in scoring, but has expressed a willingness to come back to North America if he’s given an actual chance to play. We can give him that chance, and we can afford to be patient while he develops.
If absolutely nothing else, he’s not classified as a pending free agent so he wouldn’t count against the limit, and if he stays in Europe for another year then we save both the roster spot and the salary while we figure out who in our lineup is going to be around for a while.
The case against taking Murray – He couldn’t stick in the lineup on a declining Flames team, he went to Europe rather than pay his dues in the minors, and the league that he led in scoring was in Austria. If this were the Finnish or Swedish top league, or even the German or Swiss one, it might mean something. But Austria? The same Austrian League where the next three scorers after Murray (Jean-Yves Roy, Gino Cavallini, and Dmitri Kvartalnov) are all NHL washouts who put up huge numbers? Frankly, big deal. If we want a European player, take Hlavac. If we want an actual NHL player, take Cassels. There’s no reason to burn a spot to take Murray.