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.
Montreal missed the playoffs with 75 points, just their third time out of the postseason since 1948.
Goalies: Exempt (lost Tomas Vokoun in 1998 expansion draft)
Defensemen: Steve Cheredaryk(Gr.II – RFA), Brett Clark, Miroslav Guren(Gr.VI – UFA), Marc Hussey(Gr.VI – UFA), Scott Lachance(Gr.II – RFA), Alain Nasreddine, Stephane Quintal(Gr.V – UFA)
Forwards: Niklas Anger(UE), Sylvain Blouin(Gr.VI – UFA), Jason Dawe, Martin Gendron(Gr.VI – UFA), Jonas Hoglund(Gr.II – RFA), Eric Houde(Gr.II – RFA), J-F Jomphe(Gr.II – RFA), Arto Kuki(UE), Trent McCleary, Boyd Olson(Gr.II – RFA), Oleg Petrov, Patrick Poulin, Peter Strom(UE), Sergei Zholtok
Of the twenty-one unprotected players, we’re taking a closer look at defensemen Brett Clark and Scott Lachance, plus forward Sergei Zholtok.
D Brett Clark – 22-year-old defenseman, originally a 6th-round pick of Montreal (1996)
The case for taking Clark – One of the youngest defensemen available to us, Clark played a season at the University of Maine and then one with the Canadian National Team before forcing his way into the Montreal lineup in 1997-98. “Force” is the only way to describe it; he came into camp as an afterthought, looked terrific, and made the roster. He played 41 games that year, and 61 this past one. He did produce quite a bit of offense at Maine and with the national team, and although it hasn’t come around yet, it will. Even if it doesn’t, he’s a smart defenseman who can provide headache-free defense for years.
The case against taking Clark – Ultimately, Clark is on here because he wasn’t expected to make the Montreal roster two years ago and he did. He played 41 games, scored 0 goals and 1 assist before ending up in the AHL. In his 20 games there, he had 0 goals and 6 assists, then 0 goals and 1 assist in 4 playoff games. In Montreal this past year, he had two goals and two assists in 61 games. He had huge numbers at Maine and with the national team, so where did it go?
It went to Houston, that’s where, and specifically to the Aeros. When Clark was with Maine, he played the point on the top power play unit next to All-American defenseman Jeff Tory, who’d put up 13 goals and 55 points the previous year at Maine. Tory had 4 goals and 41 points during the one year Clark was there; Clark had 7 goals and 38 points. Both of them joined the national team the same year, and Tory had 8 goals and 45 points compared to 6 goals and 27 points from Clark. Considering Clark’s youth, this isn’t bad at all.
But look at the two years since. Whereas Clark has 4 goals and 12 points in 125 pro games after being separated from Tory, Tory has put up 30 goals and 93 points in 153 IHL games since being separated from Clark. Clark’s offense went with Tory, because Tory was the one who produced it while Clark was more along for the ride. There is a very strong possibility that Clark’s offense never comes around at the pro level, and then what do we have left? Having a young third-pairing defensive defenseman is nice, but how many with that skill set are otherwise available in this expansion draft?
D Scott Lachance – 26-year-old defenseman, originally a 1st-round pick of the Islanders (1991)
The case for taking Lachance – A smooth-skating defensive defenseman, Lachance isn’t going to produce much offense but is more than adequate in his own zone. He can get some time on the second power play unit, but get big minutes on the penalty kill. For the last several years, he was about the only defensive bright spot on some putrid Islanders teams. He can play a physical game without taking a bunch of penalties, and although it’s not his specialty, he’s willing to fight if the situation arises.
The case against taking Lachance – If Lachance hadn’t been a 1st-rounder all those years ago, would he have been given opportunity after opportunity with the Islanders? And if the team hadn’t been so horrid on the back end, would he have been in the lineup as much as he was?
The facts are very simple. Lachance made $1 million this past year and is a pending Group II free agent, and the Islanders traded him rather than make a qualifying offer. And the only thing that they got for him was a 3rd-round pick, which is likely going to fall sometime around #75 overall. That’s for a 26-year-old defenseman on a reasonable salary, and when he was traded his GM (Mike Milbury) said that he was waiting to hear from ownership whether to actually dump salary or not, but in the meantime he sent Lachance out. If this was done without a directive to dump salary, then we can only conclude that his play has either stagnated or gotten worse, and it was also said when he was traded that “At least seven times this season, an opponent’s goal has ricocheted off Lachance in front”. He had one goal and eight assists with the Islanders when he was traded, and his career high of seven goals was seven seasons ago
Milbury also said, “I’ve said before that the day we did this with Scott was the day that we as an organization could admit some failure. We couldn’t get more out of Scott. . . . I wanted a level of consistency every night. We didn’t get it every night.” This wasn’t from when he was traded two or three years ago, it was three months ago. We’d be on the hook for a qualifying offer if we take Lachance, and the only thing I see is a bunch of red flags.
F Sergei Zholtok – 26-year-old forward, originally a 3rd-round pick of Boston (1992)
The case for taking Zholtok – One of the ultimate “little things” players available, Zholtok has stuck in the NHL the last three seasons after four excellent seasons in the minors. That was capped with him winning the IHL’s Ironman Award in 1995-96, which is awarded to the best overall player who appears in all games. All he had was 51 goals and 101 points that season, followed by another 7 goals and 20 points in the playoffs. In the NHL full-time with Ottawa the next year, he had 12 goals and 28 points in 57 games, but fell back the next year and ended up in Montreal. This past season, he was shuffled up and down the lineup and started out poorly, but finished with 7 goals and 19 points in his last 45 games. In the midst of that was an extended slump where he went eleven games without a point.
He’s not a physical player, but he’ll provide a good forecheck, a good presence on the boards, and do a lot of the little things that teams need. He wasn’t immune to the malaise that plagued Montreal this past season, but this shouldn’t affect him any more than it affected Recchi or Koivu or Damphousse, none of whom had so much as 50 points in a miserable year.
The case against taking Zholtok – As mentioned above, he’s extremely streaky and doesn’t do enough outside of scoring to strongly consider. He had some nice numbers in 1996-97 with Ottawa, had a couple of hot streaks the next year but a lot of cold ones, and had the same this past year. In 1997-98, he had streaks of 10 scoreless games out of 11, 12 scoreless out of 13, and 14 scoreless out of 15. Those all involve separate games completely, so there’s no overlap of any of them. This past year, he started off with 0 goals and 3 assists in the first 25 games of the season; he also had an 11-game scoreless streak in the middle of what was otherwise a good finish.
It’s understood that goal scorers are streaky by nature, but Zholtok isn’t a goal scorer. He’s a defensive forward who doesn’t play a physical game or kill penalties, an offensive forward who doesn’t put the puck in the net, and an all-around forward who’s invisible far too often.