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.
Florida missed the playoffs for the second straight year, but made a huge splash with the late acquisition of Pavel Bure from Vancouver.
Goalies: Aaron MacDonald, Todd MacDonald(Gr.II – RFA), Kirk McLean(Gr.III – UFA)
Defensemen: Terry Carkner, Gord Murphy, Daniel Tjarnqvist(UE), Jeff Ware(Gr.II – RFA)
Forwards: Chad Cabana(Gr.II – RFA), Dino Ciccarelli, Brian Farrell(Gr.II – RFA), Craig Ferguson, Johan Garpenlov, Alex Hicks, Kirk Muller, Konstantin Shafranov(Gr.VI – UFA), Herberts Vasiljevs(Gr.II – RFA)
Of the sixteen unprotected Panthers, only forwards Johan Garpenlov and Alex Hicks are under further consideration, plus unsigned European defenseman Daniel Tjarnqvist. Gord Murphy will also get attention from us.
Notable names Dino Ciccarelli and Terry Carkner are both likely to retire, and several other names are being excluded either due to age, ineffectiveness, or salary concerns.
D Gord Murphy – 32-year-old defenseman, originally a 9th-round pick of Philadelphia (1985)
The case for taking Murphy – He’s a steady, unspectacular defenseman who can do a lot of things well. He has a solid presence on the penalty kill and in shutdown situation, but can produce offense as well if he’s given the chance. Can play a disciplined physical game; he’s never hit 100 penalty minutes in a season, and last hit 50 in 1993-94 (71). He was the only Florida defenseman to have a full-time role last season have a positive in the plus-minus column. He doesn’t produce much offense at even strength, but can really add something to the power play. Since we’re unlikely to have many offensive options from the back end, he can play that role with us and give us a lot more than Florida was able to get last year from him.
Murphy was a healthy scratch in the early and middle of the season, for which Rhett Warrener blasted the Panthers after his trade to Buffalo. And after missing extended time with a neck sprain that was regularly reported as day-to-day, Murphy said after the season that he’d been told repeatedly that the timeframe was different and that the Panthers were the ones who reported otherwise publicly.
The case against taking Murphy – Salary is a big concern, as he’s one of the highest-paid defensemen who’s available to choose from. Suffering a lingering neck injury that failed to clear up at any point is another concern. And no matter how one can try to dismiss it, the simple fact is that Murphy was a veteran leader on a defense that generally played poorly during the season, on a team that mailed it in most nights, and was a healthy scratch plenty of times. By the end of the season, his spot had been all but taken over by a couple of rookies, Dan Boyle (undrafted) and Jaroslav Spacek (5th-rounder).
D Daniel Tjarnqvist (UE) – 22-year-old two-way defenseman playing in Sweden.
The case for taking Tjarnqvist – He’s played the past three seasons in the highest league in Sweden and Finland, plus two partial seasons before that. Played in two WJCs with Sweden, and was a vital part of two deep playoff runs (Jokerit in 1996-97 and Rogle in 1997-98). He’s a steady two-way defenseman who won’t put up huge numbers or highlights, but make the smart and safe play time and time again.
The case against taking Tjarnqvist – The obvious question is whether he’d even bother coming over to North America. There’s no point in taking a player if he’s not planning on coming over. He doesn’t produce much in the way of offense, doesn’t play physical defense, and could very well end up (at best) being completely indistinguishable from dozens of middling NHL defensemen. His career best in goals in a season is 5, and he’s never touched 15 points despite getting decent minutes.
F Johan Garpenlov – 31-year-old forward, originally a 5th-round pick of Detroit (1986)
The case for taking Garpenlov – Long one of the NHL’s most underrated players, Garpenlov possesses high levels of hockey IQ in all zones and can play multiple roles. He can run the power play from the wing, he can play a primarily defensive role, he can score, he can set up. He was a big part of the Sharks’ early years, from their disastrous first two seasons to their huge turnaround, then was a big part of helping the Panthers go from marginal playoff team into the Stanley Cup Final. He’s played well with all sorts of linemates in terms of style, from Sergei Makarov’s and Igor Larionov’s methodical high-speed attack to Scott Mellanby’s and Rob Niedermayer’s straight-ahead crashing style.
The case against taking Garpenlov – This was all true, with the key word being “was”. Garpenlov has missed 61 games the last two seasons and has failed to produce much of anything when healthy: just 10 goals and 22 points in 103 games. Most damning is that he wasn’t even considered for selection to Sweden’s Olympic team in 1998, despite the fact that he’s always been counted on to play internationally. Florida spent almost the entirety of 1997-98 and 1998-99 trying to trade Garpenlov, and found no takers. He was unprotected in the 1998 expansion draft and was passed over.
None of this takes away from the fact that during much of his career, Garpenlov has been an extremely productive multi-faceted player. But he’s gotten old fast the last two seasons. Ultimately our options are simple: we can take him, with his large salary, and most likely get someone who we’ll be trying to get rid of soon and find no takers for either because players who spend two years on the trade block generally don’t have much value. Or we can simply pass on him and go in another direction completely.
F Alex Hicks – 30-year-old forward, originally undrafted
The case for taking Hicks – He plays exactly like one would expect a longtime minor-leaguer signed out of a Division III American college to play, which is to say that he seems to expect every game to be sent to the minors or given his outright release. His high-energy style makes him an ideal fourth-liner, and he has enough skill to be able to play up a line if we get into a pinch.
When Florida acquired him this year, GM Bryan Murray said that Hicks went into the lineup only due to injury, and that his play would dictate whether he stayed in the lineup long-term. Hicks stayed in the lineup, with the exception of missing time mid-season with a knee injury after a cheap play by Buffalo’s Rob Ray. Despite scoring no goals and adding just six assists in 51 games, Hicks continued to log over ten minutes a night in ice time, so he’s clearly adding something. He also seemed to be immune to the general malaise that plagued so many of the Panthers this season on their way to missing the playoffs.
The case against taking Hicks – He may have been immune to the malaise in that his effort and competitiveness were never in question, but his actual tangible production wasn’t there. He couldn’t crack the lineup regularly on a San Jose team that finished with a record under .500, and when he was in the lineup he barely played. He was traded with a draft pick for Jeff Norton, who’d been publicly on the trading block for some time.
The other issue is injuries. He’s missed time with a broken foot on three separate occasions from blocking shots, plus the knee injury last year. Sure, one was on a cheap shot and the others were from the ultimate team-first play, but ultimately it’s still extended time out of the lineup. There are also rumors that the Panthers may end up not bringing Hicks back to the team next year at all, and considering their lack of defense and grit that they played with, there may be a more worrying trend if he’s regarded as disposable.