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 Oilers finished with a sub-.500 record, but still made the playoffs. They would be swept in the first round by #1 overall seed Dallas, but it was a hard-fought series in which Dallas would have to mount a third period comeback three times.
Goalies: Bob Essensa(Gr.III – UFA), Mike Minard(Gr.II – RFA), Steve Passmore(Gr.VI – UFA)
Defensemen: Adam Bennett, Ladislav Benysek, Jason Bowen(Gr.II – RFA), Brett Hauer, Marty McSorley(Gr.III – UFA), Craig Millar, Frantisek Musil, Sami Nuutinen, Reijo Ruotsalainen, Alexander Zhurik, Lukas Zib(UE)
Forwards: Kelly Buchberger, Brad Church(Gr.II – RFA), Jozef Cierny, Jeff Daw(Gr.VI – UFA), Jim Dowd(Gr.II – RFA), Pat Falloon(Gr.II – RFA), Chris Ferraro(Gr.VI – UFA), Joe Hulbig(Gr.VI – UFA), Ralph Intranuovo, Daniel Lacroix(Gr.V – UFA), Rem Murray(Gr.II – RFA), Martin Reichel(UE), Keijo Sailynoja(UE), Alexander Selivanov, Jussi Tarvainen(UE), Vladimir Vorobiev(Gr.VI – UFA)
None of Edmonton’s three unprotected goalies are up for consideration, nor are any of their eleven defensemen. The only players who are being considered are forwards Kelly Buchberger, Jim Dowd, Pat Falloon, and Rem Murray; the other twelve forwards are being left alone. This includes Jozef Cierny, whose autographed card I once pulled out of a pack of Classic Draft Picks.
The most notable missing name is Alexander Selivanov, whose uninspired play in Tampa and quickly-worn-out welcome in Edmonton keep him off the list.
F Kelly Buchberger – 32-year-old forward, originally a 9th-round pick of Edmonton (1985)
The case for taking Buchberger – He’s the ultimate character forward, a guy who’s never been able to score at any level but whose leadership, defensive game, and tenacity have seen him play 795 games in the NHL. He’s been the Oilers team captain the last four years and is remarkably durable despite his game. He did miss 30 games this past year with a serious broken forearm, but outside of that has missed no more than 1 game every year since 1990-91.
Another big advantage is that, of the four Oilers that we have on our draft board, Buchberger is the only one who is not a pending free agent; taking him would not count against our limit.
The case against taking Buchberger – What offense he once had dried up completely this past year, even acknowledging the broken arm. Although he’s never been a great skater or an offensive threat, there was no sign last year that he ever possessed either. With the injury and resulting play, is he going to be able to recover and play like he once did? And more to the point, would he consider leaving the only NHL city that he’s ever known, where he’s been the captain and is the only remaining link to the Oilers’ glory days, to come to an expansion team?
F Jim Dowd – 30-year-old forward, originally an 8th-round pick of New Jersey (1987)
The case for taking Dowd – A legend at Lake Superior State, where he led the team to a national championship as a senior while being named first-team All-American and a Hobey Baker finalist, Dowd has had a slightly more circuitous pro career. He’s played for seven pro teams in the last four years, three in the minors and four in the NHL. He’s been able to put up good scoring numbers in the minors, but can also play a defensive and penalty killing role in the NHL. He’s an ideal bottom-six center; he can win faceoffs, play solid defense, and chip in a little bit of offense. And if for some reason he can’t make out roster, he’ll be on the top two lines on our top affiliate and play extremely well.
The case against taking Dowd – He’s 30 years old and has played 145 career NHL games. Sure, he had an uphill climb to break into the Devils’ lineup just as they were beginning to rise to the status of contenders. But he’s also played for Vancouver as they were beginning to fall apart, the Islanders and Flames as they were bottom out, and now he played one game in a full season with Edmonton. He did well in the AHL, which means exactly nothing when we have other options off this Oilers team.
He’s also a pending Group II free agent, and it makes no sense to use an expansion pick against our limit on someone that we could probably get cheap enough in free agency that we wouldn’t even owe compensation.
F Pat Falloon – 27-year-old forward, originally a 1st-round pick of San Jose (1991)
The case for taking Falloon – By now, Falloon’s downward transition from phenom to draft bust to journeyman is well known, so we won’t rehash it here. And although it’s easy to say that Falloon’s tremendous scoring numbers in the WHL were inflated by playing first with Travis Green and then Ray Whitney, it sells him a bit short. Falloon led the abominable first-year Sharks in both goals and points, missed a ton of time the next year, then came right back with another 20-goal, 50-point season. When he was traded in 1995 after a slow start to the 1995-96 season and a dismal 1994-95 campaign, he still had enough value to return a prospect and two draft picks (including a 1st-rounder). And he had 22 goals and 48 points in just 62 games with Philadelphia. And this past season, after ending up on waivers and floating in free agency, Edmonton picked him up and he turned in 17 goals and 40 points on a sub-.500 team. He can still play, he can still produce, and it seems like he does plays his best hockey after being cast aside.
The case against taking Falloon – He has in fact produced, but he’s done it only sporadically and never two seasons in a row. He’s worn out his very long welcome in San Jose, he wore out his welcome in just 144 games in Philadelphia despite plenty of leeway, he wore out his welcome in just 28 games with Ottawa. He either doesn’t produce at all, or he produces early and then tails off quickly. And since his defense is substandard at best, we can’t even get that out of him if his offense dries up. He’s someone who would have to play in our top six, and if he’s not there, he’s not doing anything. And in 56 playoff games, he has 10 goals and 17 points.
I’ll also point out that he’s a pending Group II free agent, and would count against our limit.
F Rem Murray – 27-year-old forward, originally a 6th-round pick of Los Angeles (1992)
The case for taking Murray – Unsigned out of college despite a terrific career at Michigan State that saw him finish 7th all-time in scoring at that school, Murray played 1995-96 in the AHL as an afterthought rookie and ended up leading the team in points by 17. He had 31 points in Edmonton the next year as an NHL rookie, had setbacks two years ago that saw him miss 21 games, and he finally broke through with 21 goals this past season. That’s simply on the offensive side; Murray plays a smart, refined defensive game as well. As an NHL rookie, he was a +9 on a team that was an overall -9.
He can play anywhere and in any situation, from a first-line scoring role to a fourth-line checker to a middle-six two-way threat. We can use that type of versatility badly, and his overall skills as well.
The case against taking Murray – He can do a lot of things well, but can’t really stand out against the other Oilers on the board. He’s not as defensively sound or as physical as Kelly Buchberger, he doesn’t have the higher-end scoring skill of Pat Falloon, he doesn’t play the middle of the ice as well as Jim Dowd. Murray seems more like the compromise player taken; we can’t figure out what the conditions of the game will be in the next three seasons, so rather than risk getting it wrong, we’ll just take the versatile guy who’s second- or third-best in every aspect, but at least he’s not fourth.
He’s also a pending Group II free agent and would count against our limit.