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 Islanders continue to scrape the bottom of the barrel; they’ve now missed the playoffs five consecutive years and posted the fourth-worst record in team history.
Goalies: Wade Flaherty(Gr.III – UFA), Mark McArthur(Gr.II – RFA), Steve Valiquette
Defensemen: Ted Crowley(Gr.VI – UFA), David Harlock, Daniel Johansson(UE), Mike Mader, Dean Malkoc, John Namestnikov(Gr.VI – UFA), Dick Tarnstrom
Forwards: Nic Beaudoin(Gr.II – RFA), Vladimir Grachev(UE), Pavel Gross(UE), Peter Hogardh(UE), Mike Hough(Gr.III – UFA), Ryan Huska(Gr.II – RFA), Dane Jackson(Gr.VI – UFA), Craig Janney(Gr.III – UFA), Mike Kennedy(Gr.II – RFA), Tomas Klimt(UE), Gino Odjick, Joe Sacco(Gr.II – RFA), Jason Stewart, Steve Webb
Of the twenty-four unprotected players, only goalie Wade Flaherty, defenseman David Harlock, and forward Steve Webb have made the cut and will be looked at further.
G Wade Flaherty – 31-year-old goalie, originally a 9th-round pick of Buffalo (1988)
The case for taking Flaherty – To be generous, the Islanders left us almost nothing to choose from. Flaherty played terrific hockey two seasons ago, posting an impressive .926 save percentage and 1.99 GAA with three shutouts in just 16 appearances. Yet he only had a 4-4-3 record. This past year, his struggles mirrored the Islanders’ as a whole, alternating between getting shelled by high-quality shots and standing on his head and getting no goal support.
In 1998-99, he allowed just two goals in eight different games, and had a 2-5-1 record to show for it. He was 1-1-1 when allowing three goals. In six games he faced 30+ shots and was 1-5-0 in those. The Islanders weren’t stealing games when he played poorly, and they sure weren’t helping him out most other nights.
The case against taking Flaherty – First, let’s look more closely at his 1997-98 record. Against Tampa Bay, staggering through a miserable 44-point season, Flaherty was 4-0-0 with three shutouts and stopped 97 of 98 shots (.990 save percentage). Against quite literally everyone else, he was 0-4-3 with an .896 save percentage. Then this past year, he had six games with a sub-.850 save percentage, in which he was 0-6-0. 6 goals on 39 shots, 4 goals on 26 shots, 2 goals on 12 shots, 4 goals on 21 shots, 4 goals on 12 shots, 7 goals on 36 shots. 0-5-1 when facing 30 shots isn’t exactly a positive; we’re an expansion team that is likely going to be allowing around 30 shots a game no matter how much we may like to avoid it.
The bigger issue is that Flaherty is a pending Group III free agent, and we can take exactly one free agent goalie. Taking him means missing out on Tallas, on Moss, on Fernandez, on Langkow, on Schwab, and on Snow. That’s horrific asset management if we take him.
D David Harlock – 28-year-old defenseman, originally a 2nd-round pick of New Jersey (1990)
The case for taking Harlock – A longtime stalwart in his own zone, Harlock finally got a chance last year in the NHL with the Islanders. He played a total of 70 games after being signed in the offseason and also scored his first career NHL goal along the way. He was a team captain at Michigan for three of his four years of college hockey, and also appeared in both the 1991 WJC and 1994 Olympics. He’s been terrific in the minors, and injuries forced him into the Islanders lineup for almost the entire season, where he paired mostly with Rich Pilon and also got some good penalty killing time.
The case against taking Harlock – We’ll get no offense at all out of him; to find the last time he scored as many as four goals in a season, you’d have to go back to when he was playing Junior B ten years ago. That’s at any level, not just in the NHL, or AHL, or IHL, or college.
He did get some decent PK time, which is fitting considering how often he put the Islanders shorthanded. He injured two opponents (Alexei Gusarov and Todd Harvey) in less than two weeks with stickwork, and took what seemed to be an endless parade of cross-checking and slashing penalties, with plenty of hooking and holding ones mixed in as well. His arrival in New York wasn’t so much fortuitous as much as by default; a handful of defensemen were injured and forced marginal players into the lineup. Harlock was outplayed by both Barry Richter, who was in a similar situation, and Vladimir Chebaturkin, who only got an eight-game callup at the end. Richter is a pending free agent, yet was protected over Harlock.
F Steve Webb – 24-year-old forward, originally a 7th-round pick of Buffalo (1994)
The case for taking Webb – He’s faced plenty of adversity in his career, missing plenty of time in juniors with various injuries, not being offered a contract by the team that drafted him, and then beginning his pro career in the Colonial League. Although he fought plenty in the minors on his way up and in his first NHL stint, he’s backed off considerably since then. He had 20 fights in 41 NHL games in 1996-97, and only 7 in the 65 games since. He hasn’t truly mellowed; those seven fights were against Kelly Chase, Paul Laus, Krzysztof Oliwa, Rob Ray, Eric Lindros, Bob Boughner, and Bryan McCabe.
Webb is blessed with terrific balance and surprising agility, which has helped to make him one of the NHL’s most devastating hitters. He’s built like a fireplug, around 200 pounds on a 5’10” frame, and is absolutely fearless. He’s taken on the league’s best fighters, but even during regular play no one is safe from him. He’ll hit anyone at any time and anywhere on the ice, and he doesn’t so much “hit” or “check” so much as “annihilate”. In a physical sense, it’s like watching a young Wendel Clark running around out there.
The case against taking Webb – We’ll get no offense, we’ll get no real defense, and we’ll end up needing extra protection for when he inevitably hammers the wrong player. He scored 0 points in 45 games last year, 0 points in 20 games the year before, and 0 points in his last 16 games the year prior is a heavy price to pay. In his last 99 NHL games, he has 0 goals and 1 assist. The idea of having to re-balance a roster to account for someone who brings five minutes of energy and a scoring line that looks like binary code is not particularly appealing.