Work in Sports
Wild deals expansion picks Vernon, Terreri, Juneau
MINNEAPOLIS (CNNSI.com) -- People can talk all they want about how the expansion draft is filled with rejects and castoffs, but Minnesota Wild general manager Doug Risebrough sure found plenty of takers for the ones he chose.
Goalies Mike Vernon and Chris Terreri along with forward Joe Juneau were traded in separate deals. This after Risebrough talked about going against the trend and keeping expansion draft picks.
"It is the history of expansion that players are turned over [before the first season begins]," he said. "We didn't go into this looking for a lot of turnover."
But then Risebrough sent Vernon to the Calgary Flames for an eighth-round pick in this weekend's entry draft and Boston University defenseman Dan Cavanaugh.
Terreri was dealt back to New Jersey for defenseman Brad Bombardir. The Wild also traded center Joe Juneau, drafted from Ottawa, to Phoenix, for center Rickard Wallin, who played last season for the Swedish team Troj-Ljungby.
The Wild alternated picks with the NHL's other expansion club the Columbus Blue Jackets and drafted a mix of veterans, rookies, minor leaguers and players with overseas experience.
Goalies Jamie McLennan of St. Louis and Zac Bierk of Tampa Bay were chosen to compete for the starting job with Manny Fernandez, Dallas' backup goalie who was acquired earlier this month in a trade.
Alternating with Columbus, the Wild took eight defensemen and 14 forwards. Minnesota has 39 players on its roster, including those signed as free agents and acquired in trades.
"Considering the players that were out there, I think we did a good draft," coach Jacques Lemaire said of the Wild, who will begin play in the upcoming season in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference.
Among the skaters chosen were defenseman Sean O'Donnell, who played in 80 games for Los Angeles, and left wing Cam Stewart, who was in 65 games for the Panthers, scoring just 16 points.
"This group of players will provide our organization with a good foundation to build upon," Risebrough said.
Several of the Wild's selections have minimal experience playing in the United States. Defensemen Artem Anisimov, 23, and defenseman Oleg Orekhovsky, 22, have spent the last seven seasons skating in Russia; defenseman Ladislav Benysek, 25, played with Sparta Praha in the Czech Republic last season; and center Stefan Nilsson, 31, has played in Sweden the last five years.
Bierk split time between the Lightning and a minor league team, and McLennan appeared in 19 games for the Blues.
McLennan is the most experienced of five goalies on the Wild roster. He has played 138 NHL games and had his best year in 1997-98, when he won 16 games.
"Obviously, McLennan was a member of the team that was the overall points champion in the league," chief amateur scout Tom Thompson said. "Bierk is a big-skilled guy and he was certainly a very good prospect coming out of junior league hockey."
Risebrough selected two Minnesotans, Darby Hendrickson from Vancouver and Jeff Nielson from Anaheim. The two were linemates in the early 1990s at Minnesota.
Hendrickson had nine points in 40 games last season for the Canucks. Nielson, the captain of the 1993-94 Minnesota team that reached the NCAA Final Four, scored 18 points in 79 games for the Mighty Ducks.
The Wild, who own the third pick in the entry draft, will add nine players in the selection to be held Saturday and Sunday.
Minnesota executives know the team won't be contending for the Stanley Cup in the early years, but Wild officials said that building a competitive franchise is crucial for maintaining fan support.
The Florida Panthers had the best expansion season among teams that entered the NHL since 1991. In 1993-94, the Panthers were 33-34-17. The worst of the seven new entries came in 1992-93, when the Ottawa Senators were 10-74-4.