1999 Draft Board – Ottawa

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.

OTTAWA

The Senators had 44 wins and 103 points in 1998-99, both marks that exceeded what the franchise managed in their first three and a half years combined. They were swept by Buffalo in the first round, however.

Available players

Goalies: Frederic Cassivi(Gr.II – RFA), Ron Tugnutt

Defensemen: John Gruden, Chris Luongo(Gr.II – RFA), Patrick Traverse

Forwards: Bill Berg(Gr.III – UFA), Phil Crowe, Nelson Emerson(Gr.III – UFA), David Hruska(UE), Andreas Johansson, David Oliver(Gr.II – RFA), Mike Prokopec(Gr.VI – UFA), Andre Roy, Yves Sarault(Gr.II – RFA), Andy Schneider, Shaun Van Allen

Assessment

Three of their sixteen unprotected players are being looked at more closely: forwards Phil Crowe, Nelson Emerson, and Andreas Johansson.

Player reports

(NOTE: There was a multi-part trade that was made around the expansion draft. Faced with the possibility of losing a goalie they didn’t want to between Ron Tugnutt and Damian Rhodes, a series of moves was made beginning with Ottawa. First, on June 18 they acquired goalie Patrick Lalime from Anaheim for Ted Donato and Antti-Jussi Niemi, then sent Rhodes to Atlanta for “future considerations”. On June 21, Nashville sent Andrew Brunette to Atlanta for a conditional draft pick. In the June 25 expansion draft, Atlanta took Phil Crowe. Crowe was then traded to Nashville on June 26, also for “future considerations”.

Although it has not been officially confirmed, it’s fairly likely that this was simply a three-way maneuver. Atlanta got their starting goalie and, in exchange, promised to take a player that was likely on an approved list from Ottawa as a condition of acquiring Rhodes. The list may have been passed along to Nashville, and the deal was actually Brunette for the draft pick and Crowe upon being picked. Assuming that this is actually the case, I’ve added a subsection to Crowe’s profile.)

F Phil Crowe – 29-year-old forward, originally undrafted

The case for taking Crowe – A big, physical winger, Crowe can slot in on our fourth line and play an aggressive checking role.

However, the real reason to take him is because Nashville wants him badly enough to send us Andrew Brunette. Brunette was the top overall prospect available in last year’s expansion draft after Mike Dunham, and he tied a career high in goals and set a new career high in points. He started the year out on the top line with Greg Johnson and Sergei Krivokrasov and produced plenty, struggled when both were injured, and then was relegated to a power play specialist for almost the entire second half of the season. Through 40 games (January 10), his ice time averaged around 16 minutes a night; after that point, he only had 16 minutes in a single game three times. Krivokrasov’s ice time actually increased at around the same time, but he went from 13 goals and 24 points in his first 30 games to 12 goals and 24 in his last 40; Johnson went from 8 goals and 28 points in his first 35 games to 8 goals and 22 points in his last 33 despite a similar bump.

We’re aware of the fact that referring to his speed as “glacial” might be insulting to glaciers. But he’s also one of the best overall threats in the league within 25 feet of the net. Not just among players in the expansion draft, but one of the best in the entire league. He’s got great hands, he’s good in traffic, he’s a very instinctive player. His lack of speed is of great benefit on the power play, where he can be more methodical in setting up the play. And considering the way that the game is being played today, with speed being negated and offense being entirely funneled to the middle of the circles and toward the boards, we can get a lot of production out of Brunette.

The case against taking Crowe – If we can get Brunette before committing to Crowe, that’d be terrific. Otherwise we’re running the risk of taking on an easily replaceable player at the expense of other ones and not being able to do anything with him. If we’re able to do that…

The simple, indisputable fact remains that we’re talking about acquiring a player who wasn’t good enough to get regular ice time on a first-year expansion team. We can try to dress that up any way that we’d like, but he had four goals and five assists in his last 39 games. Even by expansion standards, that’s horrendous. He was picked by a GM who had originally drafted and developed him in David Poile, and was playing for a coach in Barry Trotz who he’d been with for the previous four years. There’s no vendetta at play here; both decided halfway through the first season that Brunette wasn’t a solution and then wasn’t worth keeping around even into a second year. Even if we praise his production in the first half of the season, those are some pretty damning unspoken statements by the two people in hockey who know him better than anyone.

F Nelson Emerson – 32-year-old forward, originally a 3rd-round pick of St. Louis (1985)

The case for taking Emerson – One of the NHL’s most underrated players for his entire careeer, Emerson is a speedy winger who can score, get big power play minutes, and be a disruptive force on the penalty kill. He was one of a handful of players who didn’t endure a horrendous slump after Hartford moved to Carolina, although he wasn’t immune to the season-long malaise plaguing Chicago after he was traded there this past year. He was good enough in Carolina to return Paul Coffey straight up in trade, and after he was later sent to Ottawa he had a goal and three assists in four playoff games. He’s still a productive player that we need to consider.

The case against taking Emerson – Even conceding that Emerson is probably good for 15-20 goals and 45-50 points, he’s a pending Group III free agent. We have several other players to choose from on Ottawa who wouldn’t count against the free agent limit, and if he’s not willing to sign with us he’s also not going to be hotly-pursued enough to get us even a decent compensatory pick. We can definitely go after him ourselves in free agency; we can pick up a good player out of this expansion draft, then add Emerson instead of taking Emerson and possibly being left with nothing if he goes elsewhere.

F Andreas Johansson – 26-year-old forward, originally a 7th-round pick of the NY Islanders (1991)

The case for taking Johansson – An unsigned training camp invite of Ottawa in 1998, Johansson made the team with a strong preseason and scored 21 goals in 67 games. He’s an excellent two-way player as well, and was able to slot into a third-line role in Pittsburgh after an injury knocked him off the Jagr-Francis line. This past season was the first time that he got power play time, and he had seven goals and eight assists on the power play.

He has an excellent international resume, playing multiple roles on two WJC, one World Championships, one 1996 World Cup, and the 1998 Olympics teams. One doesn’t make those teams without being a terrific player, and added with his scoring punch last season, he’s someone who we need to strongly consider.

The case against taking Johansson – At best, he’s adequate defensively; he doesn’t kill penalties at all. And if it wasn’t for the power play time this season, he wouldn’t have had much of anything offensively despite good ice time. Seven goals and eight assists on the power play, and fourteen goals and eight assists at even strength in 69 games. And that was while getting extended time on the first line with Alexei Yashin, just as he didn’t produce when on a line with Jagr and Francis in Pittsburgh. He has the tools to be able to score, he just doesn’t do it.

So if we’re able to get him power play time, if it happens to be with the best offensive threats in the league, if we don’t ask anything of him defensively, we might be able to get something out of him.

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