1999 Draft Board – Philadelphia

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.

PHILADELPHIA

The Flyers finished with 93 points, good for second in the Atlantic Division, and then were dumped in the first round by Toronto in six games.

Available players

Goalies: Ron Hextall, Neil Little(Gr.VI – UFA)

Defensemen: Artem Anisimov(UE), Steve Duchesne(Gr.III – UFA), Chris Joseph(Gr.II – RFA), Jeff Lank, Dave MacIsaac(Gr.VI – UFA), Luke Richardson

Forwards: Mikael Andersson, Craig Berube(Gr.III – UFA), Dennis Bonvie(Gr.VI – UFA), Marc Bureau, Mark Greig, Paul Healey, Jody Hull, Patrik Juhlin, Dan Kordic(Gr.II – RFA), Shawn McCosh, Steve McLaren, Jim Montgomery, Richard Park(Gr.II – RFA), Ruslan Shafikov(UE), Radovan Somik(UE), Martin Streit(UE), Roman Vopat, Peter White, Jason Zent

Assessment

Two of their eight defensemen, Steve Duchesne and Luke Richardson, are being looked at. Nineteen forwards are exposed as well, and we’re looking at Marc Bureau, Jody Hull, and Richard Park.

Player reports

D Steve Duchesne – 34-year-old defenseman, originally undrafted

The case for taking Duchesne – One of the NHL’s top offensive defensemen during his long career, Duchesne has scored over 200 goals and a shade under 700 points. He’s a superb power play quarterback, but isn’t terrible in his own zone; he’s actually killed penalties during most of his career, albeit primarily on the second unit. He had 14 goals and 56 points two seasons ago in St. Louis, and after Philadelphia acquired him a trade this past year, he had 7 points in 11 games down the stretch. He’s the best offensive defenseman available in this expansion draft class by a mile, and players of this caliber aren’t usually available.

The case against taking Duchesne – Players get traded all the time. Usually, players don’t get traded after being bought out of their four-year contract (with no-trade clause) seven months after signing it. But that’s what happened to Duchesne; he parlayed his big year in St. Louis into a sizable free agent contract with Los Angeles, and they couldn’t wait to get rid of him within months. Philadelphia picked him up for a 5th-round pick and an aging Dave Babych, which doesn’t really bode well for us in the open market. Consider that the very GM who ended up acquiring him, Bobby Clarke, said that he had no interest because “there’s a reason he’s on waivers”.

Additionally, Duchesne is a pending Group III free agent. Given that he’s played for contending teams recently and has not won a Stanley Cup, it’s entirely possible that he’ll want to avoid an expansion team entirely. And if he takes any type of a discounted rate to win before retiring, we’ll get either no compensatory pick for him or one so late that there’s no point in even considering the option.

D Luke Richardson – 30-year-old defenseman, originally a 1st-round pick of Toronto (1985)

The case for taking Richardson – A massive physical defenseman, Richardson is one of the guys who’s helped keep the reputation of the rough-and-tumble Flyers going for a few more years. He helps keep the crease clear at both even strength and on the penalty kill, and makes sure that if an opposing forward wanders into that area that he’ll think twice about doing it again. He’s among the ten best defensemen that are available for us to choose from.

The case against taking Richardson – If Marc Bureau’s stock surged during the stretch run and playoffs, Richardson’s did quite the opposite. He was a healthy scratch in four of the team’s final five games in the regular season, then didn’t dress for a single playoff game against Toronto. In the regular season games that he missed, the Flyers were 3-0-1; in the playoffs, the Flyers lost in six games but allowed just nine goals. We don’t know why Richardson ended up in the doghouse that late in the season, but it’s not a good sign. And it’s certainly not a good sign when the team played that well in his absence.

Additionally, Richardson is signed to an extremely large contract that has three years remaining on it; it would cost around 50% more to bring him in compared to any of the other defensemen we’re looking at. We can’t make that type of commitment this early in our franchise.

F Marc Bureau – 33-year-old forward, originally undrafted

The case for taking Bureau – Not exactly a fan favorite in Montreal, where his arrival happened to roughly coincide with the team falling from Stanley Cup contender toward the basement. Philadelphia signed him this past year a free agent to try to replace the retiring Joel Otto, and it turned out that Bureau could actually handle his own despite having some awfully large skates to fill.

Three months ago, Bureau honestly wouldn’t have been on our draft list at all. Then the playoffs came, and he was given the task of using his checking line to negate the top line of the league’s most potent offense. Sundin-Thomas-Berezin had combined for 96 goals and 215 points during the regular season. By game 4, completely unable to get any offense going, Sundin was being rotated in with different wingers just to try to get some offense out of him at all. Although the Flyers would lose in six games, the Leafs never could get that line going; Sundin had just one goal, Berezin had none at even strength, and Thomas had one at even strength. The Flyers lost because they scored three goals total in their four losses; the NHL’s top offense in Toronto scored just nine goals in the six-game series.

This expansion draft is loaded with checking line wingers, but not so much with excellent defensive centers. Bureau has shown year in and year out that he’s one of the best in the league, and definitely warrants a close look.

The case against taking Bureau – Among the three Flyers forwards that we’re looking at (Bureau, Jody Hull, Richard Park), Bureau offers the least offense and the least versatility. On an upper echelon team with clearly defined roles, this isn’t a problem; on an expansion team where there’s not going to be much depth and we’ll have a lot of specialists, it means that there’s no way that he can play up a line to fill in for someone. The offense just isn’t there. We know that Hull can play up on the second line, and there’s a chance that Park can produce offense in the NHL if we can give him a chance, but we know that Bureau isn’t going to be able to produce under almost any conditions.

Looking at him strictly as an asset, we likely don’t have a ton of options. How many teams out there are going to pay a hefty price to bring in a 33-year-old checking center, no matter how good he may be? Right or wrong, players like this have usually been regarded as valuable but not that valuable, and getting a late-round pick or a C-level prospect isn’t appealing.

F Jody Hull – 30-year-old forward, originally a 1st-round pick of Hartford (1987)

The case for taking Hull – He brings three important things to our team if we take him: speed, defense, and experience on expansion teams. He went to Ottawa’s first-year team in 1992-93 as part of a side trade around the expansion draft, then was taken by Florida the next year. He was traded in 1997-98 to Tampa Bay, then spent last year in Philadelphia. Most important is that his best offensive seasons came during his five total seasons in Florida and Ottawa, when he scored 57 total goals and 132 points over those years.

This past season, he spent much of the season on the Flyers’ checking line with Marc Bureau up the middle and normally Colin Forbes on the other side. It’s an interesting mix, where Forbes is young and has shown some offensive skill, Hull is a fast veteran who’s limited offensively, and Bureau would love to play his shifts in a swamp if it meant negating the other team. Hull was able to get around 13 minutes on the ice per night, a huge number for someone whose primary role is defensive. That bumped up to 15 minutes a night in the playoffs against Toronto.

An added bonus is that Hull is known to be a favorite of Flyers coach Roger Neilson, so we may be able to entice them to give up an asset in order to convince us to pass on Hull.

The case against taking Hull – The last part says it all: Hull got around 13 minutes of ice time a night because he was a favorite of Roger Neilson. His linemate Marc Bureau got more like 11 minutes, which became 13 in the playoffs while Hull went to 15. The ice time was something of an open joke: when Neilson complained about the NHL disciplinary process being a mystery, an anonymous official retorted that the only mystery was how Hull got as much ice time as he did.

The real issue is that, despite the fact that Hull is able to play multiple roles on multiple lines, he’s an offensive black hole on any of them. That’s fine when you have someone like Bureau up the middle and another fast checker on the other wing, but if he’s being asked to produce any type of offense on another line, it’s not happening. We’d be better off looking at someone like Richard Park, who brings a lot of the same things to the table but is seven years younger and has some offensive skill that might be able to come through given time.

F Richard Park – 23-year-old forward, originally a 2nd-round pick of Pittsburgh (1994)

The case for taking Park – In the last three years, Park has played in three different NHL organizations and a total of six pro teams (three NHL and their respective affiliates). Rather than sulk after each move, he simply buckled down and worked harder to improve his game and earn an NHL shot. More than anything, that’s what he earns praise for, besides his sublime skating ability. Coaches and teammates at all levels have praised Park throughout his career for his work ethic and dedication.

After being drafted in 1994, Park went back to the OHL and had a huge year and a terrific playoffs. The next year he started with Pittsburgh and was up for most of the year, but was sent back down late in the season. There was no dropoff; he put up over a goal per game and over two points per game the rest of the season and playoffs. Given a little bit of stability this year in Philadelphia with the AHL Phantoms, he had 41 goals and 83 points, and another 9 goals and 15 points in 16 playoff games. And he played and scored in every area of the game, including eight shorthanded goals. He plays advanced defense, has terrific speed, and just never gives up.

It’s impossible to say if Park will ever be able to make it on our roster if we take him, but I do know that he’s going to do everything in his power to force us to give him a long look.

The case against taking Park – The idea of taking a kid who’s just started to produce, albeit in the NHL, is a bit appealing. And the idea of taking one who’s a terrific defensive player with an infectious work ethic is even more appealing.

However, this one is going to come down to pure asset management. Park is a pending Group II free agent and would count against the limit, and there are other options from Philadelphia that are signed through next year.