With expansion a foregone conclusion in the NHL, Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly made a presentation at the recent Board of Governors meeting on a lot of the what-ifs involving logistics if the league awards franchises to Las Vegas and/or Quebec City.
In order to fill rosters, rules will need to be written for an expansion draft: Which players can be protected and who can be exposed in a salary cap?
Back in 1993, when Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher was a 26-year-old assistant to Bobby Clarke with the Florida Panthers, Fletcher spent weeks getting ready for the expansion draft that brought in Florida and Anaheim. Before the draft in Quebec City, Fletcher spent a week holed up in a Montreal hotel room with Clarke, team President Bill Torrey, coach Roger Neilson and the pro scouts.
“It was awesome,” Fletcher said. “We were incredibly prepared, and it seemed like every player we drafted, we were hoping to draft. That draft set our franchise up in Florida for five or six years.”
Look back at that expansion draft, and one has to wonder if the Mighty Ducks employed scouts yet. In an expansion draft, the Panthers managed to build the core of a Stanley Cup Final team three years later — John Vanbiesbrouck, Brian Skrudland, Scott Mellanby, Gord Murphy, Tom Fitzgerald, Bill Lindsay, Dave Lowry and Mike Hough.
On Thursday, I called former Columbus GM Doug MacLean and former Wild assistant GM Tom Lynn about the 2000 expansion draft between the Blue Jackets and Wild. Minnesota won a coin flip that enabled it to pick third in the entry draft and second in the expansion draft.
“I got the short end of that big time,” said MacLean, now a radio and TV analyst in Canada. “Like, seriously, how does that ever happen?”
The Wild drafted Marian Gaborik third overall. The Blue Jackets took Rostislav Klesla fourth.
The expansion draft took place in Calgary one day before the entry draft. Maclean’s staff and then-Wild GM Doug Risebrough’s staff were in separate hotel suites on a conference call.
Lynn, now an agent, told two funny anecdotes:
• Risebrough hired former North Stars coach Pierre Page as an expansion draft adviser. Back in 2000, few folks used computers because hockey programs weren’t written yet. If you wanted to know about Jimmy Dowd, you’d ask a scout to flip through a binder.
Page, though, built spreadsheets in a laptop that he couldn’t get to work. “Imagine how frustrated Doug was when Pierre’s under the table trying to figure it out,” Lynn said, laughing. “He’s like, ‘Just a minute, just a minute.’ ”
• Instead of keeping handwritten depth charts, the Wild made 30 different, color-coded magnetic boards. They packed them all along with a projector and other materials in a truck to drive to Calgary. One problem: It got held up at the Canadian border because customs thought the stuff was for sale.
“They wanted $1,800 in tax money and said an appeal could take six weeks,” Lynn said. “It was an emergency. We had to pay the damn tax because we needed the boards later that day.”
Lynn and MacLean say expansion rules will be imperative.
“The existing teams have no strong interest in making the new expansion teams strong enough to be viable,” Lynn said.
Added MacLean: “It was embarrassing what was there, to be quite honest [in the 2000 expansion draft]. It was a ploy by teams to expose either high-contracted guys or expiring contracts.”
The major difference in an upcoming expansion will be that Las Vegas and/or Quebec City will have to get to a salary-cap floor probably north of $55 million (Columbus’ first-year payroll was $17 million).
“It’s going to be an opportunity for existing teams to dump bad contracts,” MacLean said. “If the expansion draft was today, who’d Florida expose? Dave Bolland [who’s in the minors] at $5.5 million for three more years. The league needs to protect the new teams from that sort of thing happening.”
NHL Short Takes
As long as John Tortorella keeps showing Ryan Johansen tough love in Columbus, trade rumors will swirl uncontrollably. One game after benching Johansen an entire third period, Tortorella scratched the young center at Arizona.
To his credit, Johansen handled it maturely, at least publicly.
“It’s been brewing for a while,” Johansen told the Columbus Dispatch. “Since the last game in Dallas, I made a few mistakes [that] we’ve been going over as a team, things we have to erase from our game. Full responsibility. My fault. When you’re not doing your job, you have to learn from it.
“I’m going to use it as a positive and take this day to watch the guys and realize that I don’t want this to happen again.”
Said Tortorella: “It’s just a reset for him, in understanding — trying to have him understand — what we’re looking for, not just in the points but in the play. … You can’t look at this as punishment; it’s part of the process for him.”
We’ll see. This relationship, not just between coach and player but player and organization, seems fractured, Count on the Jackets to continue to get phone calls about the potential No. 1 center. One team undoubtedly keeping an eye on this is the Wild.
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf has one goal — an empty-netter — in 26 games. He’s now on the fourth line.
“I’m just as mad at myself, if not worse than anybody else,” he told the Orange County Register. “If I can keep playing the way I’m capable of playing and the way my body feels right now, I feel like at the end of the year we’ll be laughing about it. That’s the mind-set I have to be in.”
WILD’S WEEK AHEAD
Monday: 7 p.m. vs. Dallas
Tuesday: 7 p.m. vs. Montreal
Saturday: 7 p.m. vs. Pittsburgh
Player to watch: Sidney Crosby, Penguins
Something’s up with the Penguins captain. He has looked out of sorts all season on the slumping Pens and has only six goals and 19 points in 30 games.
“It kind of got boring. That’s not our style of play.”
— Ryan Suter kidded after the Wild’s 6-2 thumping of Vancouver on Tuesday.