We are rapidly closing in on the Vegas Golden Knights announcing their first roster from the expansion draft. The NHL hasn’t seen an expansion draft since 2000, and none have garnered this much attention and hype (thanks, social media). One player will be selected from each NHL team and every GM has had an opportunity to trade assets to prevent Vegas from drafting one of their coveted unprotected players. The Predators find themselves in that position. Can they somehow protect players like James Neal, Colton Sissons, or Pontus Åberg, despite leaving them exposed? The only solution comes via trade.
General manager David Poile is the only current GM who has seen an expansion draft from both sides with the same team. He knows exactly what George McPhee is going through right now to acquire assets and build a better team other than what he just selects in the expansion draft. Here are some of the more interesting deals Poile made back in ’98.
Nashville acquired Dominic Roussel and Jeff Staples from Philadelphia for a 7th round pick (#175-Cam Ondrik)
Both Roussel and Staples never played a single game for Nashville. And Cam Ondrik never played in the NHL. So why does this trade stand out? Because of the condition that came with it. Philadelphia agreed to send Roussel and Staples to Nashville if they didn’t select Paul Coffey. Yes, THE Paul Coffey. The second-highest scoring defenseman in NHL history, a four-time Stanley Cup champion, and a member of the NHL 100 Greatest Players. Despite making that deal, the Flyers still traded Coffey to Chicago the next day for the Islanders 5th round choice that year (#124-Francis Belanger). That seemed to be as far as this trade would go.
However, on October 5, 1998, five days before opening night, Poile traded Dominic Roussel to Anaheim for two players. One was defenseman Marc Moro, who only played 27 games for the Predators. The other was goaltender Chris Mason, a longtime Predator, who has since come back to Nashville to serve as a broadcaster and president of the Nashville Jr. Predators NA3HL team. His Twitter account has gained a cult following since returning to Nashville at the end of his playing career.
Predators acquired Ville Peltonen from Sharks
San Jose sent Ville Peltonen to the Predators in exchange for 1998 5th round pick (#116-Josh Blackburn). Peltonen played a few seasons with the Preds and scored 42 points in 116 games. He later became a much more successful player with the Florida Panthers. The interesting condition to this deal was the Predators couldn’t draft Tony Granato, one of the best American-born players of his time. This trade with the Sharks would lead to another trade a week later at the Entry Draft that had a much bigger impact.
San Jose acquired picks #3 and #29. Those players became Brad Stuart and Jonathan Cheechoo. Nashville gained picks #2 and #85. Never mind who #85 turned out to be. The second overall pick became David Legwand. “Leggy” became the most tenured Predator in franchise history, playing for the team from 1998-2014. He was one of Nashville’s top offensive threats for many years and formed chemistry with players like Martin Erat and Paul Kariya. Legwand is still the franchise leader in games played (956), goals (210), assists (356), and points (566).
Nashville agreed not to select Chris Terreri from Blackhawks
A Nashville-Chicago trade is unheard of nowadays. However, this deal with the Blackhawks was one of the first in franchise history, and it was pretty significant in the team’s infancy. Chris Terreri had once been the starting goaltender in New Jersey, and then lost his job to the legendary Martin Brodeur. Clearly his best days were behind him. However, Nashville needed goaltending help, but Chicago was not about to budge with their backup. So they agreed to give Nashville Sergei Krivokrasov (spellcheck alert). History lesson, kids. Krivokrasov would go on to become Nashville’s first All Star, representing the Preds in the 1999 All Star Game in Tampa. Remember that the next time you’re playing bar trivia. The player Nashville selected from Chicago was Greg Johnson, who served as team captain from 2002-2006.
Predators agreed not to select Gary Galley from Kings
Gary Galley is an analyst for Hockey Night in Canada, but before then he was a steady defenseman that played 17 NHL seasons. Los Angeles wanted to keep their solid veteran defenseman, and in return they gave Nashville two players. One was Czechoslavakian-born winger Jan Vopat. The other was some Finnish defenseman nobody had heard of. Both these players were sent in exchange for “future considerations.” Oh, by the way, that Finnish defenseman was Kimmo Timonen.
This move was extremely significant for the franchise. Timonen went on to lead Nashville’s defense for eight seasons. He set team records in goals, assists, and points by a defenseman, only to get eclipsed by the great Shea Weber. His final season in Nashville, 2006-07, was the best in his career, tallying 13 goals, 42 assists, for a total of 55 points. Unfortunately, due to the possibility of the franchise being sold and relocated, he was not renewed and was shipped to Philadelphia along with Scott Hartnell. Timonen stands 4th highest in points as a Predator with 301. His impact is still felt to this day.
Predators agree not to select Peter Popovic from the Canadiens
Nashville has had an eventful trading history with Montreal, such as the Blake Geoffrion for Hal Gill deal, and of course Shea Weber for P.K. Subban. However, the first trade between the two clubs came under the condition that the Preds wouldn’t select Swedish defenseman Peter Popovic. In return, the Canadiens sent forward Sebastien Bordeleau. Bordeleau would then become one of Nashville’s secondary scoring options over its first three seasons, tallying 40 points. He also scored the first overtime goal in franchise history. This led Nashville to make its greatest selection in the expansion draft. The Predators chose Czech goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who had only one career NHL game under his belt with the Canadiens.
Together, with Mike Dunham, the two became a goaltending tandem the team could depend on for several seasons. He was finally given the reigns as the starting goaltender in the 2002-03 season before becoming an All Star and leading Nashville to its first playoff appearance in 2004. He remained the rock in goal for two more seasons, before suffering blood clot issues and being traded to the Florida Panthers. He finished his tenure in Nashville with a .913 save percentage, and occasionally still makes appearances in Nashville.
Interesting expansion draft choices
It is interesting to note a few expansion draft choices that never suited up in Nashville. Along with Vokoun and Dunham, the Predators also selected legendary American goaltender Mike Richter, who had just one a Stanley Cup a few seasons prior. However, he signed as a free agent to return to the New York Rangers. The Preds also signed defenseman Al Iafrate and Uwe Krupp. Iafrate was known for having the record-setting hardest shot in the All Star Game for many years, and Krupp scored the Stanley Cup-Winning goal for the Avalanche in 1996. Iafrate ended up retiring and Krupp signed with Detroit. Another choice by Nashville ended up being Mike Sullivan, who was immediately traded to the Phoenix Coyotes. Sullivan would come back 19 years later and win a Stanley Cup versus Nashville as head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Who saw that coming?
In conclusion, you can throw your mock drafts away. These side deals teams made with the incoming expansion team completely change the outcome of an expansion draft. Vegas is hoping they can find some “diamonds in the rough” much like Nashville did. If there’s one thing the 1998 expansion draft taught us, it’s that you can still lose an impactful player, despite protecting all of your big names. Best of luck to the Vegas Golden Knights. We are in for an entertaining summer.