The expansion draft is right around the corner and we’ll finally have a roster for the Vegas Golden Knights to talk about. General manager George McPhee has said he has multiple deals in place while teams scramble to keep their rosters intact and dump salary.
The Buffalo Sabres are one of a few teams in a good position when it comes to the draft. They won’t lose an important piece of their roster. Yet we find a way to worry about bottom-six forward William Carrier and backup goaltender Linus Ullmark. If history is any indication, the player the Knights select from the Sabres won’t come back to bite the team. Let’s talk a walk back through the Sabres’ expansion draft history going back to 1991.
1991 Expansion Draft
In 1991 the San Jose Sharks entered the league, but it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill expansion draft. The owners of the then-Minnesota North Stars wanted to move the team to California. After the league denied the request, the owners were awarded an expansion club in San Jose.
The agreement was that the Sharks would put together a roster in a dispersal draft from the North Stars’ roster and an expansion draft. The North Stars were then able to replenish their roster as part of the expansion draft process. The 20 NHL teams were allowed to protect two goalies and 16 skaters.
Long story short here, the Sharks would end up selecting forward Greg Paslawski from the Sabres. He played 650 NHL games and recorded 372 points in his 14-year career. None of those games came with the Sharks, as he was traded to the Quebec Nordiques for Tony Hrkac after the draft.
1992 Expansion Draft
In 1992 the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning joined the NHL as the 21st and 22nd franchises. This time around, every club besides the Sharks, who were omitted from the expansion rules due to entering the league the year prior, could protect 14 players and two goaltenders.
The Senators selected defenseman Brad Miller from the Sabres. Miller played only 82 games in his NHL career of six seasons. He registered one goal and six points throughout his time in the league. Miller also went on to only play 11 games with the Senators before playing eight more games with the Calgary Flames the following season and exiting the league.
The Senators picked a second player off the Sabres in forward Darcy Loewen. The 1988 third-round pick of the Sabres played only 135 games including two seasons with the Sens. Over his five-year NHL career, he recorded four goals and 12 points.
1993 Expansion Draft
The NHL held its third straight expansion draft to welcome the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Florida Panthers. The rules this time stipulated all teams were allowed to protect one goaltender, five defensemen and nine forwards.
The Ducks selected the first player off the Sabres’ roster in defender Bill Houlder. The former fourth-round pick of the Washington Capitals in 1985 played 846 games, but only one season with the Ducks. He scored 250 points in his 17-year NHL career.
The Ducks made a second selection off the Sabres’ roster by picking forward Bob Corkum. The 1986 third-round pick of the club played 720 games, including three seasons with the Ducks. He registered 200 points in his NHL career while playing for seven different teams.
1998 Expansion Draft
After adding teams for three straight years, the NHL didn’t expand again until 1998 when the Nashville Predators joined the league. The expansion rules evolved again with the 26 current clubs having the option to protect one goaltender, five defensemen and nine forwards. The other option was to protect two goaltenders, three defensemen and seven forwards.
The Predators went with defenseman Bob Boughner as their selection from the Sabres. Boughner played 630 games, with 141 of those games coming as a member of the Predators. He was a physical blueliner who only registered 72 points in 12 years as a player. Boughner was recently named the new head coach of the Florida Panthers.
1999 Expansion Draft
The NHL was back in the business of adding teams. The Atlanta Thrashers would end up being the second team in three straight years added to the league. The Predators were exempt from the expansion rules, but the protected list guidelines remained the same as the previous year.
This time around the Sabres made a side deal with the Thrashers to protect certain players on their roster. They traded Dean Sylvester to the new franchise for future considerations. Sylvester played two seasons with Atlanta and a total of 96 in his NHL career, registering only 37 points in his brief stint in the big leagues.
For the actual selection in the expansion draft, the Thrashers went with defenseman Darryl Shannon. He played only one season with the Thrashers and only three years total in the NHL after being selected in the draft. Shannon was 31 years old and on the downside of his career that totaled 544 games.
2000 Expansion Draft
The 2000 expansion draft would be the last one we would see for a long time. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild joined the NHL as the third and fourth expansion clubs in three years. The Predators and Thrashers were exempt from the draft, while the protection requirements for the other teams followed the same position breakdowns of the previous two years.
The Sabres again pulled off a side deal with the Jackets to protect Dominik Hasek and Marty Biron. They agreed to trade defenseman Grand-Luc Grand-Pierre, forward Matt Davidson and two fifth-round picks (one in 2000 and one in 2001).
Grand-Pierre played 269 games in the NHL while Davidson only played 56 in three seasons with the Jackets. Neither player turned out to be a big contributor for the new expansion franchise. Grand-Pierre would only register eight points in three seasons in Columbus.
The Jackets ended up selecting forward Geoff Sanderson from the Sabres. Sanderson had a productive long career in the NHL and may have been the best player the team would end up ever losing in the expansion drafts. He scored 700 points in 1,104 career games while playing for eight different clubs.
Another player who ended up having a long, stellar career was selected by the Wild: goalie Dwayne Roloson. He won over 200 games between the pipes for six different franchises. He was part of big playoff runs with both the Edmonton Oilers and Lightning. Roloson also spent the last few years as a goalie coach, most recently with the Ducks until he stepped down in 2016.
At the end of it all, you can see that while the Sabres may lose a player off the roster, the impact will likely be insignificant. In the next 24 hours, we’ll get a clear view of exactly what this expansion draft meant for the Sabres and the entire league for that matter. We’ll find out the depths that teams went to protect their rosters in side deals and how many players will be on the move around the NHL.