1999 Draft Board – St. Louis

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.

ST. LOUIS

The Blues finished as the #5 seed in the West and took out Phoenix in the first round before being eliminated by Dallas in the second.

Available players

Goalies: Jim Carey, Grant Fuhr, Jamie McLennan

Defensemen: Marc Bergevin, Rory Fitzpatrick(Gr.II – RFA), Edvin Frylen(UE), Yuri Gunko(UE), Bryan Helmer, Chris McAlpine(Gr.II – RFA), Rudy Poeschek, Jamie Rivers(Gr.II – RFA), Brad Shaw(Gr.III – UFA), Geoff Smith(Gr.II – RFA), Jason Widmer

Forwards: Blair Atcheynum(Gr.II – RFA), Kelly Chase, Geoff Courtnall, Tyson Nash, Michel Picard(Gr.II – RFA), Stephane Roy(Gr.II – RFA), Kevin Sawyer(Gr.VI – UFA), Shayne Toporowski, Tony Twist(Gr.III – UFA), Terry Yake

Assessment

Two defensemen, Marc Bergevin and Chris McAlpine, make the initial cut out of eleven. So do three of their ten forwards: Blair Atcheynum, Michel Picard, and Terry Yake. None of the three goalies will be considered.

Player reports

D Marc Bergevin – 34-year-old defenseman, originally a 3rd-round pick of Chicago (1983)

The case for taking Bergevin – A veteran defensive defenseman with almost 1,000 games to his name, Bergevin can stabilize the back end. He can log PK minutes and keep us competitive in a lot of games. He also has a long-running reputation as a popular and well-liked teammate.

The case against taking Bergevin – He’s played on good teams with a lot of chances and bad teams with a lot of ice time, and he’s cracked 15 points in a season one time. That was in Hartford, where he got a ton of power play time almost by default on a team that finished 15 games under .500.

The biggest negative impact is an injury, which is odd considering how durable Bergevin has been. He suffered a major abdominal injury this past season and missed 30 games, and tried to come back for the playoffs and aggravated it and needed season-ending surgery. There’s no guarantee that he’ll be back for the beginning of our first season, and there’s no guarantee that, since he’s 34 and declining, he’ll be able to come back anywhere close to what he was. It’s simply too risky to take him.

D Chris McAlpine – 27-year-old defenseman, originally a 7th-round pick of New Jersey (1990)

The case for taking McAlpine – Played four years at the U of Minnesota, and as a senior he captained the team to a conference championship while being named first-team All-Conference, second-team All-American, and conference tournament MVP. He stepped into a part-time role with the Devils the next year as they won their Stanley Cup. He spent the next three seasons up and down between the NHL and minors, even after being traded to St. Louis. He established himself a bit in St. Louis, forcing his way into the lineup two seasons ago and finishing very strong. This past season, he filled in when injuries hit the defensive corps and didn’t look out of place.

The case against taking McAlpine – He did in fact have a strong 1997-98 season, then fell apart this past season. He could get into the lineup, but not get any type of real ice time due to ineffectiveness. In addition, when the unprotected lists were released, GM Larry Pleau was asked about why McAlpine and Jamie Rivers were exposed while Libor Prochazka, who has yet to play a game in North America, was protected. Pleau said, “I know what kind of players McAlpine and Rivers are. I’d rather lose somebody where I know (what) I’m losing than someone I don’t know about.”

In addition, McAlpine is a pending Group II free agent and would count against our limit.

(Historical footnote: Prochazka would never play an NHL game)

F Blair Atcheynum – 30-year-old forward, originally a 3rd-round pick of Hartford (1989)

The case for taking Atcheynum – A longtime minor leaguer, Atcheynum stepped in on a contending St. Louis team two seasons ago and was a vital part of the Blues’ vaunted CPA (Conroy, Pellerin, Atcheynum) Line. Whatever was needed from that line could be counted on whether it was a late penalty kill, a chance to break open a tied game, or simply to inject some energy into the game. But their big job was playing a shutdown role against the other team’s top line, which they excelled at. It wasn’t unknowns either; players like Pavel Bure and Luc Robitaille couldn’t find room to operate against this line. Atcheynum was taken by Nashville last year in the expansion draft and played a similar role on the first-year Predators before being sent back to St. Louis at the trade deadline. We could certainly use a versatile forward who can play multiple roles.

The case against taking Atcheynum – We absolutely could use a versatile forward who can play multiple roles, but that’s not who we’re talking about. Atcheynum was replaced in St. Louis first by Michal Handzus and then by Scott Young, and Conroy and Pellerin not only didn’t miss a beat, they actually bolstered their scoring output significantly while taking a minimal hit defensively. Atcheynum couldn’t find chemistry with anyone in Nashville, and they were happy to get a 6th-rounder to send him packing back to St. Louis. Once there, the new lines still weren’t broken up, and Atcheynum played well enough that he’s currently available in the expansion draft again and won’t return to St. Louis regardless.

He’s also a pending Group II free agent and would count against our limit. There’s no reason to burn such a valuable spot on him.

F Michel Picard – 29-year-old forward, originally a 9th-round pick of Hartford (1989)

The case for taking Picard – Not every player is going to make the NHL roster, and if we’re looking for someone to carry a huge offensive load for our farm team, Picard is right near the top of that list. He had four straight 30-goal seasons from 1993-94 to 1996-97, and undoubtedly all would have been 40-goal seasons if he hadn’t missed time while playing in the NHL. His totals from 1993-94 to 1997-98 are 184 goals and 242 assists for 426 points in just 313 games. If we pick him up and he can’t make our roster, he’ll put up huge numbers in the minors.  Imagine him on a line with Rob Brown; they could both hit 60 goals and 150 points.

The case against taking Picard – There’s certainly nothing wrong with making a targeted move to bolster the minor league team, with any NHL production being a simple added bonus. But Picard isn’t “Michel Picard, IHL scorer”, he’s “Michel Picard, Grand Rapids Griffin”. He played there in 1996-97 on an IHL contract, he signed in St. Louis the next year and was sent to Grand Rapids, not to the Blues’ affiliate in Peoria. The same thing happened this past year; he doesn’t make the roster and gets loaned to Grand Rapids. If we pick him up and he doesn’t make our roster, it’s pretty much a guarantee that he’ll ask to be sent to Grand Rapids instead of our actual affiliate. It would create a situation that’s best avoided; we can either fight with a marginal player over where he gets sent in the minors, or we can simply take another player in his place in this expansion draft.

He’s also a pending Group II free agent and would count against the limit, which is nonsensical to use on a minor league player.

F Terry Yake – 30-year-old forward, originally a 4th-round pick of Hartford (1987)

The case for taking Yake – He’s produced everywhere he’s been, and has done it on teams that were either in their first year (Anaheim) or bad enough that they might as well have been (Hartford). He’s spent the last two years in St. Louis on competitive teams, and has successfully transitioned into a vital bottom-six role on a deep roster of forwards. Last year he got a good amount of power play time, where his offensive creativity were a key part of the league’s second-best power play.

The case against taking Yake – In the last five seasons, he’s played a total of 144 NHL games. He led the first-year Ducks in scoring, then was traded at the beginning of the next year for a depth prospect. Toronto got nothing out of him, so he went to the IHL. After scoring 32 goals and 88 points, he was signed over a month into free agency and spent another year in the IHL. Then, after a 34-goal 101-point season, he wasn’t qualified and went back into free agency. And this past year, he spent another 24 games in the minors.

Sure, Yake can score. Why hasn’t he been able to stick anywhere for a real period of time in the last five years?

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