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 Hurricanes finished 1998-99 with 86 points and won the Southeast Division, but were bounced in the first round by Boston.
Goalies: Mike Fountain(Gr.VI – UFA), Pat Jablonski(Gr.III – UFA), Trevor Kidd
Defensemen: Paul Coffey, Joacim Esbjors(UE), Al Iafrate(Gr.III – UFA), Dave Karpa(Gr.II – RFA), Curtis Leschyshyn, Mike Rucinski
Forwards: Tom Buckley(Gr.II – RFA), Kevin Dineen(Gr.III – UFA), Dmitri Gorenko(UE), Robert Kron, Scott Levins(Gr.II – RFA), Paul Ranheim, Ray Sheppard(Gr.III – UFA), Kevin Smyth
Of Carolina’s seventeen unprotected players, goalie Trevor Kidd and defensemen Dave Karpa and Curtis Leschyshyn will be looked at further on the draft board. Ray Sheppard is a pending UFA and won’t get a further look.
G Trevor Kidd – 27-year-old goalie, a 1st-round pick of Calgary (1990)
The case for taking Kidd – He’s 27, was highly touted coming in, and has logged a ton of NHL time the last six years. He played well enough as a rookie to convince Calgary that they could move on from longtime starter Mike Vernon, and he was the primary starter the next three seasons in Calgary before being traded to Carolina in a blockbuster. In 1997-98, he had a terrific season for the Hurricanes, putting up Vezina-caliber numbers on a non-playoff team. This past season, he had a poor first game and beginning of the second game and ended up as the backup the rest of the way. Still, he has 250 games in the NHL of high-level play despite playing on some bad teams.
Another big factor is that there are several teams that need goaltenders, and taking Kidd will allow us an awful lot of options. We can trade him somewhere for a very nice return, we can keep him and trade someone else that we pick up in this expansion draft, or we can keep him and boost other positions on our team with our goaltending situation figured out.
The case against taking Kidd – It’s not just that Kidd went from Vezina-caliber to backup, it’s that the guy who replaced him was Arturs Irbe, who was signed on the eve of training camp and hadn’t had a good season in five years. Irbe’s numbers looked an awful lot like Kidd’s from the year before, and Carolina made the playoffs with Irbe. So there are a couple of possibilities. One is that Irbe has fully recovered from his hand and wrist injuries and had his best season at age 31. The other is that Carolina’s system will allow any middling goalie to look good. Carolina this past year had a power play that was almost comically bad, failing to hit 11% conversion. Yet they improved by 12 points over the prior year with Kidd.
In addition, there were plenty of whispers from his time in Calgary of major attitude problems that damaged the locker room chemistry. There’s little doubt that the Flames were perennial disappointments starting shortly after their 1989 Stanley Cup win; one has to wonder what part Kidd played in the last couple of years when the team was once again failing to live up to expectations. Maybe he’s matured; people in Carolina have said that he has, but it’s tough to say what will happen going from a playoff team to an expansion one.
D Dave Karpa – 28-year-old defenseman, originally a 4th-round pick of Quebec (1991)
The case for taking Karpa – “Rugged” doesn’t begin to describe Karpa’s play on the ice. He’s a mean SOB who’s unafraid of anyone or anything, which can overshadow the fact that he’s a terrific penalty killer and solid defender who can contribute a little bit of offense. If we take both Karpa and Dave Manson and pair them together, we might as well draw a 20’ radius around our net because no forward will dare enter that area.
The case against taking Karpa – The biggest issue is that Karpa was never too quick to begin with, and he missed a ton of time this past season with an ACL and MCL tear in one knee. And when he was in the lineup, he didn’t look like he had in years past. The other major factor is that he’s a pending Group II free agent and would count against our free agent limit.
D Curtis Leschyshyn – 30-year-old defenseman, originally a 1st-round pick of Quebec (1989)
The case for taking Leschyshyn – He led Quebec in plus-minus twice and Colorado once despite minimal offensive output. He’s the prototype stabilizing defenseman who can play anywhere. He’s mobile enough to cover his own zone while allowing a more offensively-gifted defensive partner to generate offense, he can play a pure shutdown role, he can kill penalties. He’s one of the smartest defensemen in the league, and although he doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, he’ll provide years of worry-free defense. He’s in the group of the five best defensemen in this expansion draft, and if he were on any of 20 other teams that didn’t have a goalie like Trevor Kidd unprotected, we’d take him without blinking an eye.
The case against taking Leschyshyn – Everything in “the case for” is true. Strictly on hockey reasons, there’s no reason to pass on Leschyshyn. He’s in that top five group of defensemen, which includes Dave Manson, Mark Tinordi, Garry Galley, and Steve Duchesne. Leschyshyn would be the top defenseman available on 20 other teams, and without question the top available player overall on 18 of them (Anaheim, Boston, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Florida, Montreal, New Jersey, both New York teams, Ottawa, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Vancouver). When we start getting into the more detailed asset management, you can add Philadelphia, Washington, Detroit, and Dallas onto that list as well. There are only four teams where there’d be a real debate over Leschyshyn versus someone else.
But ultimately this isn’t a referendum on Leschyshyn as a player, it’s on Leschsyshyn as an asset versus Trevor Kidd as an asset. Kidd is one of the top five goalies available to us, so now things get a bit iffy in every direction. Ideally we could find a way to convince Carolina to hand over assets of value to convince us to take one versus the other, but there’s a pretty good chance they’ll sit there and be content with whatever we do.
Besides Kidd, we have nine goalies on our draft board that are worth considering. If one of Ron Tugnutt or Damian Rhodes is removed by being able to trade for one, then we’re down to eight. We’re capped at five, we can only take one pending free agent of any type, and we’re pretty well guaranteed to lose someone in the waiver draft if we’re carrying three established NHL goalies into late September.
From Boston, our options are to take Rob Tallas (goalie) or Peter Ferraro, for whom there’s an offer to flip him back for Randy Robitaille if we pass on Tallas.
From Buffalo, our options are Dwayne Roloson (goalie), Geoff Sanderson, Domenic Pittis, and Darryl Shannon.
From Calgary, our options are Tyler Moss (goalie), Marty Murray, Jan Hlavac, and Andrew Cassels.
From Dallas, our options are Manny Fernandez (goalie), Petr Buzek, and Aaron Gavey.
From Detroit, our options are Norm Maracle (goalie), Wendel Clark, Igor Larionov, and Doug Brown.
From the Islanders, our options are Wade Flaherty (goalie), David Harlock, and Steve Webb.
From Phoenix, our options are Mikhail Shtalenkov (goalie) and Mike Stapleton.
From San Jose, our options are Mike Vernon (goalie), Bill Houlder, and Jan Caloun.
From Tampa Bay, our options are Corey Schwab (goalie), David Wilkie, Jassen Cullimore, Stephane Richer, and Alexandre Daigle.
Tallas, Fernandez, Schwab, and Flaherty are all pending free agents.
Now, what we’re created here with these nine teams is 34,560 possible combinations of players that we can acquire. That’s without considering Kidd and Carolina, which when added in (combined with Karpa and Leschyshyn) pushes it to 103,680. We can take as many as five goalies, or as few as none.
And this brings us back around to Kidd versus Leschyshyn. Defensemen like Leschyshyn aren’t necessarily uncommon, but they tend to not become available unless it’s for an overpayment. His skill set is generally underestimated because there isn’t a superlative attribute that someone can point to as being something that he’s among the best at among his peers, and hockey IQ is awfully difficult to quantify or to show off. The trade market for players like him is all over the place, so in the event that he doesn’t want to come to an expansion team or his game doesn’t work with anyone we pair him with, there’s the possibility that we’ll get absolutely nothing out of him in the market. That’s not a concern with Kidd.
Kidd, as a backup alone, could be used on three-quarters of the teams in the NHL. As a starter, he’d be an improvement over the incumbent for a good one-third of teams, and when you start considering other factors like an aging starter with no long-term prospect in the pipeline, he’d be useful to probably half of the teams. That’s without considering our other expansion draft options; we could keep Kidd, acquire Rhodes or Tugnutt from Ottawa, and flip one of them elsewhere. Or we could acquire those two, draft Manny Fernandez, and send him to one of those teams lacking a long-term prospect. Or we can acquire all three, then add Norm Maracle to our stable and move him. Or we can take Fernandez, add Matt Johnson from Los Angeles as an expansion pick, and send both to Philadelphia for a package of picks and prospects thanks to their bizarre infatuation with massive forwards and their need for a long-term goalie. Or we can take Rob Tallas out of Boston to twist the knife on the fact that it would leave them without a backup at all. Or we can take Corey Schwab from Tampa specifically to leave them with no real goaltending options at all (starter or otherwise) for the purpose of driving up the price for them to acquire one of our now-surplus goalies. Or we can just stick to the on-ice part, take Leschyshyn, pair him with another similar defenseman like Petr Buzek from Dallas, take Houlder out of San Jose, draft Maracle as our backup, acquire one of Rhodes and Tugnutt, and get Tyler Moss out of Calgary as the third goalie. Suddenly that looks like an awfully nice beginning to a blueline group, and a respectable if unspectacular goaltending group to begin with.
It’s easy to see how even an experienced GM can get completely turned around with the various scenarios. And when you consider that he’s still trying to get college free agents signed, prepare for the entry draft, and go into regular free agency without having a clue of what needs to be improved since he doesn’t have a roster, the task at hand becomes monumental.