The Lost Lightning: A look back at expansion draft victims of the past

These are the players who have been exposed in previous Tampa Bay Lightning expansion drafts.

It’s been seventeen years since the NHL has had an expansion draft. Since then, the Tampa Bay Lightning have won a Stanley Cup and appeared in a Cup final. They’ve gone from laughingstock to model franchise.  General Manager Steve Yzerman has build an organization that runs deep with talent, so deep that narrowing down their protected list has proven difficult.  So difficult that it factored into the trading of a number-three overall pick.

On Sunday, we will find out the lucky players that Mr. Yzerman deemed are the core of the franchise. The Lightning will then lose a player who is good enough to be an important part of the team.  People will be upset at that person moving to Las Vegas (although you should never be upset with someone moving to Las Vegas, Las Vegas is a wonderful town).

It hasn’t always been that way.  In their history, the Lightning have gone through four other expansion drafts that have seen a total of six teams pluck players from them.  Over that time I would venture it was harder for the Lightning to find players worth protecting then it was for them to worry about who they would lose.

Let’s face it, from 1993 to 2000, the Lightning weren’t very good. When you aren’t very good, other teams really don’t want your players. So who were the six players that weren’t good enough to be protected by some of the worst teams that have ever skated on NHL ice?  Let us take a look.

1993 Draft - Florida Panthers and Anaheim Ducks

The Lightning had to protect: 1 Goalie, 5 Defenders, 9 Forwards

The Lightning protected^: J.C. Bergeron, Bob Beers, Marc Bergevin, Shawn Chambers, Joe Reekie, Donald Dufresne, Mikael Andersson, Brian Bradley, Marc Bureau, Danton Cole, Adam Creighton, Rob DiMaio, Petr Klima, John Tucker, Rob Zamuner

In a somewhat unusual twist, the Lightning and their expansion sibling Ottawa Senators were not exempt from the expansion draft.  General Manager Phil Esposito was not happy about it, telling the St. Petersburg Times^^:

"Us and Ottawa should be exempt," Esposito said. "For us to have to expose anybody is crazy. It's not right, but we have to live with it...I shouldn't have to worry about trading for somebody just to turn around and leave him unprotected. We shouldn't have to lose anybody in the first place."

In order to have have enough eligible defensemen to expose, just before the draft Esposito swung a deal with San Jose to acquire Peter Ahola for Dave Capuano (brother of former Islanders coach Jack Capuano). Ahola was then exposed on draft day but not selected. He also never played for the Lightning as Esposito traded him to Calgary that year for his favorite player - cash.

Who did the Ducks and the Panthers select from the year-old franchise?

Dennis Vial (Anaheim)

Randy Gilhen (Florida)

The NHL did throw a small bone to the Lightning, Senators, and San Jose Sharks. The day after the expansion draft there was a second phase to the draft.  Those three teams could choose up to three players from the rosters put together by Anaheim and Florida.  If you think Esposito wasn’t going to take advantage of a chance to pick up some players, you are sorely mistaken.

Espo picked up two goaltenders, Glenn Healey and Daren Puppa.  Healey, coming off of a strong playoff run with the Islanders, would be traded to Anaheim for a third round pick.  Puppa would go on to be a cornerstone of the early Lightning teams. It actually turned out pretty well for Tampa.

Things played out pretty well for the two players taken from the organization.  Vial played in 242 NHL games, mostly for the Ottawa Senators while Gilhen appeared in 446 games for five other franchises after he left the Bay area.

1998 Draft - Nashville Predators

The Lightning had to protect:

1 Goalie, 5 Defenders, 9 Forwards or 2 Goalies, 3 Defenders, 7 Forwards

The Lightning protected: Bill Ranford, Enrico Ciccone (HAHAHAHAHA), Cory Cross, Jassen Cullimore, Karly Dykhuis, David Wilkie, Mikael Andersson, Craig Janney, Sandy McCarthy, Andrei Nazarov, Brent Peterson, Mikael Renberg, Stephane Richer, Alex Selivanov, Darcy Tucker, Rob Zamuner

I’m sure Nashville didn’t spend much time looking over players that a team that won only 17 games the previous year found unworthy of protection.  Heck, they probably wouldn’t have found anyone that WAS protected all that enticing. Still, Cullimore became the first member of the 2003-04 Cup winning team to be protected. Who knows, if Nazarov was taken by Nashville then maybe the Lightning wouldn’t have pulled off the deal with San Jose that landed the Lightning the first-overall pick in the Vincent Lecavalier draft.

On the last day trading was allowed before the draft, the Lightning acquired Bill Ranford who had wanted out of Washington now that Olaf Kolzig had ascended to number one netminder in the nation’s capital.  That allowed them to expose Daren Puppa and his contract. Veteran goalie Mark Fitzpatrick was also available for Nashville. Instead they went with:

Paul Brousseau

The winger had originally been a second-round pick for the Quebec Nordiques. After appearing in 8 games for the franchise after it moved to Colorado, he signed with the Lightning as a free agent in 1996.  He spent most of his time with Adirondak Red Wings during his time with the organization. The Quebec native did make it into 17 games over two seasons with the Lightning and recorded 2 assists and absolutely no lasting memories.

He never played for Nashville, but did pop up in the NHL for the Panthers in the 2000-01 season where he played 1 minute and 39 seconds. He did not record a point.

1999 Draft - Atlanta Thrashers

The Team had to protect:

1 Goalie, 5 Defenders, 9 Forwards or 2 Goalies, 3 Defenders, 7 Forwards

The Lightning protected:  Kevin Hodson, Drew Bannister, Cory Cross, Sergey Gusev, Petr Svoboda, Colin Forbes, Chris Gratton, Steve Kelly, Michael Nylander, Robert Petrovicky, Mike Sillinger, Corey Spring, Darcy Tucker, Rob Zamuner

The Lightning had bottomed out the previous season and even if they hadn’t protected anyone on the roster, it’s unlikely that they would have been raided. Chris Gratton was back for another go around with the team, Darcy Tucker had put together a 20-goal, 40-point season on a horrendous team and Sergey Gusev had some promise. Other than that, it was a pretty brutal roster.  Building a team with actual talent around Vincent Lecavalier (who did not have to be protected) was important to the team, but they weren’t in danger of losing anyone super important to his development.

As for goaltending, well there wasn’t much to worry about protecting there either. Twenty-six year old Kevin Hodson had the most potential out of the stunning collection of mediocrity that had taken up space between the pipes during the season. Puppa and his even worse back and meddlesome contract were still there for the taking. Instead Atlanta selected:

Corey Schwab

Schwab never took the ice for the Thrashers. He was traded to Vancouver in October of 1999 for a conditional pick. He bounced around for a couple of more seasons before retiring after the 2003-04 season.

2000 Draft - Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild

The team had to protect:

1 Goalie, 5 Defenders, 9 Forwards or 2 Goalies, 3 Defenders, 7 Forwards

The Lightning protected: Dan Cloutier, Sergey Gusev, Pavel Kubina, Marek Posmyk, Petr Svoboda, Andrei Zyuzin, Stan Drulia, Dwayne Hay, Brian Holzinger, Mike Johnson, Ryan Johnson, Fredrik Modin, Wayne Primeau, Jaroslav Svejkovsky, Todd Warriner

The foundation of the Lightning’s future (Lecavalier and Brad Richards) did not have to be protected as they were still in their first two years of professional hockey. Kubina and Modin would no doubt have been snatched up if left unprotected, so for the first time there seemed to be actual talent being protected.

In the weeks before the expansion draft, the Lightning unloaded a couple of goaltenders. They had plenty to spare even if they weren’t very good.  Kevin Hodson was traded to Montreal for a 7th round pick and Rich Parent was moved to Ottawa for another 7th round pick. Neither pick changed the course of Lightning history.

On June 23, 2000 the expansion draft was held in Calgary and the Lightning lost two players.

Bruce Gardiner (Columbus)

Zac Bierk  (Minnesota)

Gardiner had been picked up from Ottawa in November of 1999. A speedy center, he scored 3 goals in a Lightning uniform before Columbus took him in the expansion draft. He recorded a pedestrian 22 points for the Blue Jackets in their first season before ending his career in New Jersey during the 2001-02 season.

Bierk was a 9th round pick for the Lightning in 1995 who had appeared in 14 games for the Lightning over the previous two seasons. There was a brief moment when it appeared he might be the goaltender of the future for the Bolts, but was left exposed when the organization decided that Cloutier had usurped that role from him. He would appear in one game for the Wild, a 6-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils.

In all, the Lightning were fairly lucky to be a horrible franchise during the bulk of the NHL’s expansion. Unlike this year, there wasn’t much talent to be lost from the teams that had to go through this process.

^Clark, Cammy. "Kontos Will Not be Protected in Draft." St.Petersburg Times: 1C. Jun 22 1993. ProQuest. Web. 12 June 2017 .

^^Clark, Cammy. "Lightning Looks for More Pieces Series: NHL DRAFT PREVIEW." St.Petersburg Times: 1C. Jun 20 1993. ProQuest. Web. 12 June 2017 .