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.
It was a magical year for the Stars. Just three years after finishing 16 games under .500 and missing the playoffs by a mile, they finished first in their division, conference, and league with 114 points, then won the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
Goalies: Mike Bales, Manny Fernandez(Gr.II – RFA)
Defensemen: Petr Buzek, Shawn Chambers, Alan Letang, Doug Lidster(Gr.III – UFA), Craig Ludwig(Gr.III – UFA), Matt Martin, Evgeni Petrochinin(UE)
Forwards: Guy Carbonneau(Gr.III – UFA), Kelly Fairchild, Marty Flichel(Gr.II – RFA), Aaron Gavey(Gr.II – RFA), Benoit Hogue(Gr.III – UFA), Tony Hrkac(Gr.III – UFA), Lee Jinman(Gr.II – RFA), Sergei Luchinkin(UE), Jeff Mitchell(Gr.II – RFA), Dave Reid(Gr.III – UFA), David Roberts(Gr.II – RFA), Brent Severyn(Gr.III – UFA), Brian Skrudland, Pat Verbeek(Gr.III – UFA)
Although they left 23 players unprotected for the expansion draft, only three will get a further look: goalie Manny Fernandez, defenseman Petr Buzek, and forward Aaron Gavey.
Their draft list is loaded with familiar names, most of whom are either pending UFAs or are about to retire but haven’t officially done so. Of the fourteen unprotected forwards, twelve are free agents of some type, with only Fairchild and Skrudland (who may retire) signed through next year.
G Manny Fernandez – 25-year-old goalie. Originally a 3rd-round pick of Quebec (1992).
The case for taking Fernandez – For one thing, he’s a good goalie in an expansion draft short on good goalies. Even if we draft the maximum of five, it won’t be enough because teams need goalies and are willing to pay for them.
Fernandez has done everything that’s been asked of him. In juniors, he backstopped Laval to the QMJHL championship. He was a vital part of Canada’s 1994 WJC gold medal team. He took a Kalamazoo Wings team to the conference finals the next year at age 20. And just this past season, he led the Houston Aeros to the Turner Cup, including two Game 7 wins along the way.
The only thing he hasn’t done is have success in the NHL, mostly because 1990 draft pick Roman Turek came to North America and took what should have been Fernandez’ spot on the NHL roster with Dallas. Fernandez has been dominant at every level that he’s played, but simply hasn’t gotten a chance in the NHL.
The case against taking Fernandez – He’s 25, has nine NHL games to his name, and has five years of “not getting a chance”. He couldn’t beat out Mike Torchia and Darcy Wakaluk, he couldn’t beat out Allan Bester and Jordan Willis, and now he can’t beat out Roman Turek. And this isn’t for the starting position, mind you, it’s for the backup.
Fernandez wasn’t the primary goalie on the WJC team; Jamie Storr was. And in the Turner Cup playoffs last year, Houston was the overall #1 seed by a mile and yet went the distance in every series. In the quarterfinals they went five games (best-of-five series) with Long Beach, who finished 19 points back; in the semifinals they went seven with Chicago, who finished 11 points back; in the finals they went seven with Orlando, who finished 27 points back. And that Houston team was loaded with former NHLers. Of course, Houston isn’t even Dallas’ affiliate; that’s still in Kalamazoo. Fernandez needed to be set aside for yet another backup that he won’t be able to beat out next year, a college kid drafted in the 5th round named Marty Turco who was about to go into his first pro year.
To this point, Fernandez has shown that he’s a pretty good minor league goalie. This has nothing to do with whether he’ll ever amount to anything in the NHL.
D Petr Buzek – 22-year-old defenseman. Originally a 3rd-round pick of Dallas (1995).
The case for taking Buzek – Earlier I said that Dwayne Roloson may be the most tenacious player in the expansion draft. He may be equaled or surpassed by Buzek. Two weeks before the 1995 draft, he was involved in a serious car accident and suffered a list of injuries too numerous to mention, and upon waking up in the hospital days later was told that he could be in a wheelchair for life. He slipped from a consensus top-10 pick down to the end of the 3rd round. Despite speaking no English, he rehabbed in North America and would eventually make his NHL debut in March 1998. He requires special clearance at airports because the various rods, screws, and pins holding him together set off security x-ray machines.
On the ice, he’s a smart defenseman who won’t make many mental mistakes. His mobility and speed, both of which were major assets previously, were reduced as a result of the accident, but the mind is still sharp. If he’s able to continue rebuilding his strength and regain some of his speed, he could be a major player going forward.
The case against taking Buzek – This is nothing against a young player who’s overcome so much to get to this point. However, it’s very likely that the immense amount of damage that he took is going to be too much to overcome permanently, and it probably has taken years off of his career. That’s not even including the fact that he’s not the same player that he once was, and is probably not going to get much better than he is right now. And although one can absolutely sympathize with someone who was dealt such a rotten hand just as his pro career was about to begin, we need to think about the best way to build our team. If Buzek was on a different team with less to choose from, like Colorado or Pittsburgh, he’d absolutely be worth considering. But Dallas has a couple of other players that we need to seriously consider.
F Aaron Gavey – 25-year-old forward. Originally a 4th-round pick by Tampa Bay (1992)
The case for taking Gavey – He’s a big center who broke through in a big way shortly after being drafted, going from 7 goals and 18 points to 45 goals and 84 points on a Soo Greyhounds team that won the Memorial Cup. The next year he had 42 goals and 102 points, and also was a big part of Canada’s 1994 WJC gold medal team. He hasn’t gotten a ton of ice time to this point in the NHL, mostly from playing on bad teams that couldn’t figure out what exactly to do with him. Then he gets to Dallas and can’t crack the lineup full time. He’s worth taking a chance on.
The case against taking Gavey – He’s 25 and has gone from getting decent ice time on a playoff team to spending his season in the minors in less than four years. And even there he didn’t exactly look like future NHL material. So far he has 51 points in almost 200 NHL games, and doesn’t play good enough defense to be able to make it in that role. Manny Fernandez has been buried because he hasn’t gotten a great chance; Gavey has gotten that chance time and again and has yet to do anything with it. It’s unlikely that he’s about to start doing something now.