Phase II of the 1993 Expansion

After the abominable 1991 and 1992 expansion drafts that produced two historically bad teams and one that was simply bad, the new NHL regime made major changes for the 1993 expansion.  The first change involved the very structure of the draft so that incoming Anaheim and Florida would actually have the chance to be respectable.

The second change involved the unprecedented implementation of a secondary phase in order to improve the Sharks, Senators, and Lightning.  Phase I of the 1993 expansion draft would see the Panthers and Ducks select their teams from the unprotected list of the 21 pre-1991 franchises, with Ottawa, San Jose, and Tampa Bay being exempt from this process.  Phase II would see the Panthers and Ducks then protect most of their new roster (one goalie, five defensemen, ten forwards), leaving two goalies, three defensemen, and five forwards exposed for the Sharks, Senators, and Lightning to choose from in a two-round phase.  Each of the Panthers and Ducks could lose one goalie, one defenseman, and one forward, or the existing teams could simply pass.  If they selected a player, they were required to now expose one of their roster players of that same position.

I’m going to stop at this point, because it gets quite a bit more complex and because the fine folks at Historical Hockey Stats & Trivia have done an outstanding job compiling the information and offering a clear explanation of exactly what went into this expansion.  My focus here is on the actions of the Sharks, Senators, and Lightning as the 1993 expansion approached.

[Before going any further, I want to say that I have nothing but the highest level of respect for those who have made it to the NHL.  The amount of skill and dedication that it takes to get to the upper levels of hockey is incredible, and I think it’s easy as an observer to lose sight of that when it comes to judging the skill of a player relative to his peers; it’s also easy to lose sight of the fact that it’s an actual person that’s being written about and not simply a name that’s in a book somewhere.  It’s very easy as a historian and writer to make an offhanded comment that either comes across as mean-spirited or actually is mean-spirited, none of which is my intent.  I can’t stand reading through someone’s writing that simply blasts particular players, and I limit mine to the “case against” sections of an individual player’s expansion draft profile in which it’s being written in the exaggerated style of someone who is strongly opposed to taking a particular player.

When writing about the 1991-92 and 1992-93 San Jose Sharks, the 1992-93 through 1995-96 Ottawa Senators, and various Tampa Bay Lightning teams, the fact is that the teams strongly resembled a Biblical covenant curse in the form of a hockey franchise.  There are a ton of reasons why this took place.  It doesn’t mean that everyone was a lousy hockey player who could be replaced by your local oldtimers squad, or that there weren’t some very good players and coaches on there.  The Sharks would end up improving very rapidly using a lot of players off those bad teams, while Ottawa wouldn’t improve until almost everyone was gone from those teams.  That’s not a slam, that’s reality.]

For the 1993 expansion draft, each of these three teams was also required to submit a protected list to the league.  They could not lose anyone in Phase I that stocked the Ducks and Panthers, but Phase II would see them have to drop a protected player onto the unprotected list if they took someone from Anaheim’s or Florida’s unprotected list.

In the run up to the 1993 expansion draft, several teams made trades in order to acquire an asset for a player that they were likely to lose for nothing.  The acquiring team could then use the new player either to shield someone on their own team that they didn’t want to lose, or to protect the new player in order to hopefully offload an inferior player that they hoped to be rid of.

These trades are, in chronological order:

  • Hartford trades a 1993 6th-round pick (#153) to Detroit for defenseman Brad McCrimmon – Hartford would then protect McCrimmon
  • Tampa Bay trades forward Steve Maltais to Detroit for defenseman Dennis Vial – both Vial and Maltais would be left unprotected
  • Winnipeg trades a 1993 3rd-round pick (#62) and a 1994 5th-round pick to Philadelphia for goalie Stephane Beauregard – Winnipeg would leave Beauregard unprotected
  • Winnipeg trades defenseman Aaron Ward and a 1993 4th-round pick (#97) to Detroit for forwards Paul Ysebaert and Alan Kerr – Winnipeg would protect Ysebaert and leave Kerr unproteced, while Ward was exempt from the expansion draft
  • Quebec trades forward Kevin Kaminski to Washington for defenseman Mark Matier – Kaminski would be left unprotected, while Matier was exempt
  • Tampa Bay trades a 1994 3rd-round pick to Edmonton for forward Petr Klima – Klima would be protected by Tampa Bay, although he was exempt from Phase I
  • San Jose trades future considerations to Chicago for goalie Jimmy Waite – Waite would be protected by San Jose for Phase I, and the future considerations of Neil Wilkinson would be sent to Chicago after the expansion drafts
  • San Jose trades defenseman Peter Ahola to Tampa Bay for forward Dave Capuano – both were exempt from Phase I, but San Jose would protect Capuano while Tampa Bay would leave Ahola unprotected
  • Boston trades defenseman Gord Murphy and future considerations to Dallas for future considerations – Murphy would be unprotected by Dallas; the future considerations in both directions ended up being goalies Andy Moog (to DAL and Jon Casey (to BOS), both of whom were protected
  • Vancouver trades future considerations to the New York Rangers for goalie John Vanbiesbrouck – Vanbiesbrouck would be left unprotected by Vancouver, while the future considerations (defenseman Doug Lidster, who had been unprotected) would be sent after the expansion draft
  • Quebec trades forward Mike Hough to Washington for forwards Paul MacDermid and Reggie Savage – each of Hough, MacDermid, and Savage would be left unprotected
  • Washington trades defenseman Paul Cavallini to Dallas for future considerations – Cavallini would be protected by Dallas, and the future considerations (defenseman Enrico Ciccone, who had been protected as well) were sent after the draft
  • Ottawa trades goalie Peter Sidorkiewicz, future considerations, and a 1994 5th-round pick to New Jersey for goalie Craig Billington, forward Troy Mallette, and a 1993 4th-round pick – Billington and Mallette would be protected by Ottawa, Sidorkiewicz unprotected by New Jersey; the future considerations in the form of forward Mike Peluso went to New Jersey after the draft (Peluso having been protected as well)
  • Hartford trades a 4th-round pick (#93) to Calgary for forward Sergei Makarov – Makarov would be protected by Hartford
  • Philadelphia trades forward Greg Johnson and a 1994 5th-round pick to Detroit for forward Jim Cummins and a 1993 4th-round pick – Cummins would be protected, Johnson was exempt
  • San Jose trades a 1994 3rd-round pick to the New York Islanders for defenseman Jeff Norton – Norton would be protected in Phase I
  • Quebec trades goalie Ron Hextall and a 1993 1st-round pick (#23) to the New York Islanders for goalie Mark Fitzpatrick and a 1993 1st-round pick (#14) – the Islanders would protect Hextall, and Quebec would leave Fitzpatrick unprotected
  • Quebec trades forward Scott Pearson to Edmonton for forward Martin Gelinas and a 1993 6th-round pick (#137) – both Pearson and Gelinas would be protected by their new teams
  • San Jose trades a 1993 6th-round pick (#132) to Dallas for forward Gaeten Duchesne – Duchesne would be protected in Phase I

Notice that there isn’t a pattern here to what any team did.  But the three teams that stand out are the bottom-feeders San Jose, Tampa Bay, and Hartford.  These three teams were all in the bottom four in the NHL in the 1992-93 season, and each made moves before the expansion draft to change their team.

Tampa Bay’s big move was the acquisition of Petr Klima for a 3rd-round pick in 1994.  Klima had scored 32 goals in 1992-93 and 40 goals in 1990-91, and represented a massive upgrade in the offensive skill of the Lightning.  In addition, they had another couple of deals worked out with Florida and Anaheim.  More on that in a minute.

Hartford gave up a 6th-rounder and a 4th-rounder to acquire defenseman Brad McCrimmon and forward Sergei Makarov.  McCrimmon, a terrific player in his own end, would play a big part in the Whalers allowing 81 fewer goals in 1993-94 than in 1992-93.  Makarov would be used as a trade chip shortly.

San Jose gave up a 3rd-rounder and a 6th-rounder to acquire defenseman Jeff Norton and forward Gaeten Duchesne.  Norton, a 28-year-old defenseman, was coming off a 50-point season with the Islanders, and Duchesne had just scored 16 goals while playing relentless high-level defense as a forward.

The final part of these moves came at the entry draft.  Hartford traded the #6 overall pick, the #45, and the #68 plus Makarov (himself acquired for #93) to San Jose for the #2 overall pick.  Hartford would take defenseman Chris Pronger with #2, while San Jose would draft Viktor Kozlov, Vlastimil Kroupa, and Ville Peltonen with those selections.  All would pay future dividends over the decade to come.

Hartford would go from 58 points in 1992-93 to 63 in 1993-94, Tampa Bay from 53 to 71, and San Jose from 24 to 82 and the playoffs.

Where was Ottawa in all of this?  Outside of the Sidorkiewicz/Peluso for Billington/Mallette trade, they sat this whole trade wheel out.  And in so doing, they passed on a terrific chance to substantially upgrade their team in a very short period of time.

Look at the names that were being sent out across the league.  Ottawa had Norm Maciver and Brad Shaw on their defense, but outside of that several players who were traded would have represented a clear upgrade over the others that they had protected.  The forwards that they had were primarily depth players, although there are some good ones in there; several forwards were traded who could have gone onto their top two lines.  The three teams in front of Ottawa all made aggressive moves of some type, Ottawa made a single lateral move.

To this point, I’ve only touched on Phase I.  Phase II, which would give Ottawa, Tampa, and San Jose the chance to upgrade a couple of roster spots, was still looming.

For this, Anaheim and Florida would each expose two of the three goalies they’d just acquired, three of the eight defensemen, and five of the thirteen forwards.  Each could lose no more than one goalie, one defenseman, and one forward.  Tampa Bay would go first; if they picked a player, they would have to then move a player off their own roster from the protected to unprotected list for the rest of Phase II.  Ottawa would go second, and San Jose third.  Each team could either select a player or pass, and Phase II would go for just two rounds.

Tampa Bay went first and took goalie Daren Puppa from Florida, moving J.C. Bergeron to the unprotected list.  Ottawa took Dennis Vial from Anaheim, making Ottawa his fourth franchise in seventeen days.  San Jose passed.  Tampa Bay then took goalie Glenn Healy from Anaheim, Ottawa passed, San Jose passed, and Phase II (and the 1993 expansion draft) was thus concluded.

Tampa Bay had sent a 3rd-round pick (#78) to Florida before the expansion draft to take Puppa and then leave him unprotected for Phase II, and then after the draft they traded Healy to the Rangers for a 3rd-round pick (#55).  In one fell swoop, Tampa Bay went from J.C. Bergeron to an all-star workhorse of a goalie in Puppa (gaining 23 draft positions in the process), in addition to the upgrade up front in the form of Petr Klima.

San Jose sat this one out; their young players were really developing nicely, and the additions of Norton, Duchesne, and Makarov plus the incoming youngsters Sandis Ozolinsh, Ray Whitney, Mike Rathje, Michal Sykora, and Vlastimil Kroupa.

Ottawa…Ottawa had the worst roster of the bottom four teams, and did the least to address it.  They mostly whiffed on the pre-expansion trades, and then only added Dennis Vial in Phase II.

Here is the problem.  Although we don’t know who Anaheim left unprotected in Phase II, we do know that goalies Healy and Ron Tugnutt were on that list.  I can guess on the others, but it’s not likely to be accurate.  (If pressed to guess, I’d say defensemen David Williams, Vial, and Mark Ferner; plus forwards Jim Thomson, Trevor Halverson, Robin Bawa, Lonnie Loach, and possibly Joe Sacco.  The last one is the most questionable.)

Ottawa could not take one of Florida’s goalies since Tampa Bay had taken Puppa.  They could take a Florida defenseman (Steve Bancroft, Stephane Richer, and Gord Hynes), a Florida forward (Randy Gilhen, Doug Barrault, Marc Labelle and Pete Stauber), an Anaheim goalie (Ron Tugnutt or Glenn Healy), an Anaheim defenseman, or an Anaheim forward before San Jose or Tampa Bay could select from one of these.

They stuck with Billington, passing on both Tugnutt and Healy.  Tugnutt at the time was 25 years old and was best known as the goalie chosen to be shelled with shots night in and night out for the worst teams that Quebec Nordiques ever iced.  He had received Vezina votes in 1990-91 despite leading the NHL in losses on a team that finished with 46 points, and certainly was no stranger to playing behind a bad defense.  Billington was 26 and had split time in New Jersey with Chris Terreri the year before, but had never really established himself in the NHL before that.  Healy was 30 and had plenty of starting experience in the NHL, in addition to coming off a stunning playoff run with the Islanders just a month prior.

That all three were an upgrade over Sidorkiewicz is something only the scouts know, but is likely.  That Ottawa seemed to be content to largely sit out the chance to substantially improve their roster in a short period of time while their fellow cellar dwellers aggressively made moves is indisputable.

Why did they do this?  Frankly, I don’t know.  The trade they made with New Jersey shows that they were at least aware that the opportunity existed to do so, yet they stopped there.   San Jose was replacing their 6th defenseman with Jeff Norton and their 10th and 11th  forwards with Sergei Makarov and Gaeten Duchesne, Tampa Bay was replacing their 10th forward with Petr Klima and their goalie with Daren Puppa, and Hartford replacing their 6th defenseman with Brad McCrimmon.  Ottawa replaced Mike Peluso with Troy Mallette, Peter Sidorkiewicz with Craig Billington, and that was it.

This partially explains part of why Ottawa floundered as badly as they did early on.  They did the right thing in 1992-93 by not sending out picks and prospects to boost a bad first-year roster, but then largely continued this idea that the best course of action was to do nothing when they had a glorious opportunity to make a ton of moves and change their immediate future.  They had the #1 pick in 1993 (Alexandre Daigle) already secured; there was nothing to be gained by continuing to sit on their hands.  Yet that’s what they did.  And that’s part of why their best season of their first four saw them post just 41 points (.250 percentage).

The goalie they had when they finally broke through and made the playoffs the first time all those years later?  Ron Tugnutt.