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 Devils finished atop the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference with possibly the best team they’ve ever had, but were bounced in the first round by Pittsbugh in seven games.
Goalies: Exempt (lost Mike Dunham in 1998 expansion draft)
Defensemen: Brad Bombardir(Gr.II – RFA), Kevin Dean, Geordie Kinnear(Gr.VI – UFA), Vlastimil Kroupa, Ken Sutton, Sergei Vyshedkevich
Forwards: Dave Andreychuk(Gr.III – UFA), Eric Bertrand, Steve Brule, Sergei Brylin, Bob Carpenter, Scott Daniels(Gr.II – RFA), Bobby House(Gr.VI – UFA), Sasha Lakovic, Sergei Nemchinov, Vadim Sharifijanov, Jeff Williams(Gr.II – RFA), Dody Wood, Nikolai Zavarukhin(UE)
Two of their six unprotected defensemen, Kevin Dean and Sergei Vyshedkevich, will be looked at. And three of their thirteen forwards, two also named Sergei (Brylin and Nemchinov) will get the same assessment, plus Vadim Sharifijanov.
As a pending UFA, Dave Andreychuk will not make the cut.
D Kevin Dean – 30-year-old defenseman, originally a 5th-round pick of New Jersey (1987)
The case for taking Dean – The Devils’ ultimate utility defenseman the last several years, Dean doesn’t do anything at a high level but does a lot of things well. He was a first-team All-Star in the AHL in 1994-95 while captaining Albany to a Calder Cup. He also played in three conference finals games while Bruce Driver was out.
Dean won’t score many points, but he can fill in anywhere without causing a drop. He can kill penalties, he can play a bit on the power play, and he’s solid at even strength. He’ll most likely be able to fill in on our second pairing and use his smarts to provide immediate chemistry with whoever we put out there with him.
The case against taking Dean – Besides the fact that he’s 30 and has only just recently stuck in the NHL, we’re not sure there’s a lot of upside here. He had a terrific 1994-95 season, including filling in for a very good defenseman in the middle of the playoffs, but since then he’s leveled off a bit. There’s something to be said for a defenseman who can be barely noticeable out there, but there’s also something to be said for one who can generate offense from the back end like Vyshedkevich, or a center who can shut down opponents like Nemchinov, or a versatile forward up front who can do everything like Brylin or Sharifijanov.
D Sergei Vyshedkevich – 24-year-old defenseman, originally a 3rd-round pick of New Jersey (1995)
The case for taking Vyshedkevich – He’s a bit of an oddity in the sense that he was generally lightly-regarded in Russia, then came over to North America and played at a high level almost immediately. In three seasons with Albany of the AHL, he’s scored 31 goals and 112 points, then added another 19 points (all assists) in 24 playoff games.
He’s described as having an excellent offensive package, excellent skating ability, and a lot of poise. Although he doesn’t use it as often as he should, he also possesses a heavy shot, and could probably get an extended look on the power play if we take him.
The case against taking Vyshedkevich – He spent three years in Albany, scored all those points, and did not get one single NHL game. The Devils played fifteen different defensemen in those three seasons, in addition to losing a lot of offense when Dave Ellett and Shawn Chambers moved on, and Vyshedkevich couldn’t get one game in the NHL or so much as a callup to sit in the press box. He was said to look like Albany’s best defenseman for stretches of time, yet was also a healthy scratch at times as well.
Vyshedkevich may be a boom or bust type of defenseman. The question is whether we can afford to take on many guys of that profile, because too many busts and not enough boom will make for some very long seasons.
F Sergei Brylin – 25-year-old forward, originally a 2nd-round pick of New Jersey (1992)
The case for taking Brylin – One of a handful of utility forwards available to us, Brylin is able to play all forward positions, from first-line winger to fourth-line center. It’s impossible to get a real read on what we’d be able to get out of him under ideal circumstances simply because he hasn’t had them; although he was a part of New Jersey’s Stanley Cup team, he’s bounced between the AHL and NHL and all over the lineup since then. It says more about his skill and smarts that the team always finds a spot for him than about a lack of skill or smarts that keeps him from sticking somewhere.
He finally had a chance to show a bit in the playoff series against Pittsburgh this past year, scoring 3 goals and 4 points in a five-game loss.
The case against taking Brylin – He announced his arrival as a budding young player in Game 4 of the 1995 Stanley Cup Final, where he scored an insurance goal to give the Devils a 4-2 lead, then made a spectacular pass to a pinching Shawn Chambers, who made it 5-2 to clinch the Cup. In the four seasons since then, he’s played a total of 144 NHL games, scoring 13 goals and 33 points while somehow being -3. He’s produced plenty in the AHL, but one has to wonder if that’s what he’s going to top out as. He got some power play time past season but didn’t do much with it, although to his credit it was pretty rare for an opposing team to score while he was on the ice.
Still, there are probably 10-20 good forwards in this draft who are versatile enough to play multiple positions across multiple lines; there’s not enough to separate Brylin.
F Sergei Nemchinov – 35-year-old forward, originally a 12th-round pick of the NY Rangers (1990)
The case for taking Nemchinov – One of the prototype “old Soviet” players, which stresses movement and individual creativity within a structure, Nemchinov could bring a lot to the table. It looked like his offensive game had left him, but a late-season trade to New Jersey saw him pick up four goals in ten games despite playing multiple roles. He filled in with Randy McKay and Bobby Holik, he was with fellow utilityman Sergei Brylin, and he got some power play time in addition to his regular penalty killing.
Even if his offense is flickering out at age 35, he can still bring veteran leadership, speed, and high-end defensive hockey to our team.
The case against taking Nemchinov – If in fact his offense is fading fast, then we’re banking on using him as a good third-line center, which is fine. The real problem is that he’s due a shade under $1.5 million next year, which would likely make him our highest-paid forward overall and impair our ability to add at least one more NHL-caliber roster player. Simple economics wins out on this one; if we have the chance to pick up one of the other Devils and then go after someone like Nelson Emerson in free agency, that’s a better overall option.
F Vadim Sharifijanov – 23-year-old forward, originally a 1st-round pick of New Jersey (1994)
The case for taking Sharifijanov – Everything Brylin can do, Sharifijanov can do better in addition to being younger and cheaper. Brylin can do things, Sharifijanov does do things. He’s a superb defensive forward who got decent penalty killing time despite his age and lack of NHL experience, and he had 11 goals and 27 points in 53 games despite not having a set place in the lineup. And this was while getting less ice time than any Devils forward not named Brylin or who’s known primarily for their punching ability.
The case against taking Sharifijanov – Outside of this past season, when he was able to ride shotgun with plenty of highly-skilled players, Sharifijanov hasn’t shown a ton of offensive production at any level. Let’s not forget that, although their reputation is that of a suffocating defensive team, the Devils finished 2nd leaguewide in scoring this past year. You couldn’t throw a dart blindfolded without hitting someone who can produce offense, and Sharifijanov’s relative lack of production in the AHL raises the question of whether he was along for the ride on whatever line he was on this past season.
The case for taking him is also built primarily around comparing him to Sergei Brylin, who may still never amount to much.