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 Sharks made the playoffs despite a sub-.500 record, but theirs was a short stay as Colorado eliminated them in six games.
Goalies: Jonas Forsberg(UE), Sean Gauthier, Bruce Racine(Gr.VI – UFA), Mike Vernon
Defensemen: Peter Allen(Gr.VI – UFA), Alexandre Boikov, Bill Houlder, Angel Nikolov(UE), Fredrik Oduya, Jon Rohloff(Gr.II – RFA), Bob Rouse
Forwards: Eric Bennett(Gr.VI – UFA), Shawn Burr, Jan Caloun, Mike Craig(Gr.II – RFA), Murray Craven, Jarrett Deuling, Anatoli Filatov(UE), Tony Granato, Timo Hakanen, Dave Lowry(Gr.III – UFA), Mikko Markkanen(UE), Joe Murphy(Gr.III – UFA), Greg Pankewicz(Gr.VI – UFA), Teemu Riihijarvi(UE), Jarrod Skalde(Gr.II – RFA), Ron Sutter, Markus Thuresson(UE), Alexei Yegorov
Twenty-nine players are unprotected, but due to various factors, we’re only considering three. They are goalie Mike Vernon, defenseman Bill Houlder, and forward Jan Caloun. Murray Craven would warrant major consideration if not for what looks like a career ending injury.
G Mike Vernon – 36-year-old goalie, originally a 3rd-round pick of Calgary (1981)
The case for taking Vernon – The undersized goalie has a sterling career to this point, and rebounded in a big way this past year after looking like he might be at the end of the line. If the Sharks aren’t ready to commit full-time to Steve Shields, we can certainly grab Vernon and then dangle him right back for other assets. And if not, having a veteran goalie on a team that’s sure to have several younger guys who are in need of guidance sure couldn’t hurt.
The case against taking Vernon – He’s 36 years old, and he has a player option in his contract that could allow him to void his deal and go elsewhere; if it’s at a low cost, we don’t get a compensatory pick of any real value out of it. His rebound season last year was the first good regular season he’s had since he was still playing in Calgary six years ago, and there’s no reason to believe that he’s about to suddenly have a career re-emergence at this point. He’s most likely not going to be our starter if we take him, we have younger guys who can be the backup and develop, and he’d be way too expensive to just keep on the bench.
D Bill Houlder – 32-year-old defenseman, originally a 4th-round pick of Washington (1985)
The case for taking Houlder – Primarily an offensive defenseman early in his career, Houlder has rounded out nicely into more of an all-around guy who can be relied on in all situations. He’s been able to not only survive, but thrive under Mike Keenan in St. Louis and Darryl Sutter in San Jose. He may have been San Jose’s best defenseman each of the last two seasons, and he’s one of the top five defensemen in this year’s expansion draft class.
The case against taking Houlder – Strictly speaking on-ice, there’s no reason to pass on Houlder. The big variable is that, like Vernon, he has a player option in his contract for next year, and we have no idea if he would exercise it to come to an expansion team. He’s played for six teams in the last ten years, some good and some bad. He may be at the point in his career where he’d prefer to stay in one place, and the chance does exist that he’ll decline the option and go right back to San Jose at a hometown discount, meaning we get nothing and may even miss out on a compensatory pick. That’s a major risk to take, particularly since San Jose has rebounded back toward the playoffs and we’re unlikely to make it.
F Jan Caloun – 26-year-old offensive forward playing in Finland after a three-year stint in North America earlier this decade.
The case for taking Caloun – Offense, offense, offense. There’s not much of it in this expansion draft, and if there’s one guy who can produce a ton of it, it’s Caloun. He put up jaw-dropping offensive numbers as a teenager in the Czech League, then led the league in goals (45 in 47 games) as a 20-year-old. Averaged a bit over a point per game in three years in the physical, tight-checking IHL. Had 8 goals and 11 points in 11 games in a short-term callup with San Jose in 1995-96. Won a gold medal with the Czech Republic at the 1998 Olympics, and this past year led the Finnish League in assists, points, and playoff goals, then capped it with gold in the World Championships.
The case against taking Caloun – His offensive skill comes at the expense of anything resembling effort or skill in his own zone. He couldn’t stick on a Sharks team that finished 20 games under .500 in 1996-97 and was dead last in scoring. He went back to Europe rather than pay his dues in the minors. Yes, his offensive skill is there; will it amount to anything in the tighter-checking game that’s played in the NHL right now? When he’s on the ice, his team might as well be shorthanded anywhere outside of the offensive zone.