A Wild Day as Kings Lose O’Donnell
The Kings lost a valued defenseman and leader in Friday’s expansion draft when the Minnesota Wild claimed Sean O’Donnell, one of the few players who will be missed by his former team.
Otherwise proving $80 million doesn’t buy much these days, the Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets built their rosters with 52 has-beens, marginal veterans and underachievers. Neither got much for its expansion fee, but both managed to pull off some trades soon after the draft, which was conducted in Calgary, Canada.
Minnesota made three deals. The Wild claimed goalie Mike Vernon from Florida and traded him to the Calgary Flames, whom he helped win the Stanley Cup in 1989, and got Boston University center Dan Cavanaugh and a draft pick. The Wild also claimed goalie Chris Terreri from the Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils and traded him back there, for defenseman Brad Bombardir. Center Joe Juneau, taken from Ottawa, was sent to Phoenix for Swedish prospect Rickard Wallin.
Minnesota kept the other two goalies it drafted, Jamie McLennan of St. Louis and Zac Bierk of Tampa Bay. It previously acquired Dallas backup Manny Fernandez.
The Blue Jackets claimed forward Turner Stevenson from Montreal but sent him to the Devils as compensation for their acquisition of enforcer Krzysztof Oliwa.
The Mighty Ducks won their gamble that no one would claim goalie Guy Hebert. But they lost Minnesota-born right wing Jeff Nielsen and unsigned Czech defensive prospect Ladislav Benysek to the Wild.
“We wanted him to stay and it turned out good for us,” Duck General Manager Pierre Gauthier said. “I talked to Guy this morning and he was excited.”
Losing O’Donnell, who was chosen first among defensemen, creates two problems for the Kings. They also lost rugged left wing Steve McKenna to Minnesota, leaving them short on muscle and defense. McKenna was third on the Kings with 125 penalty minutes in 46 games last season; O’Donnell was fourth with 114 in 80 games.
“I think the game is moving toward speed and skill,” King General Manager Dave Taylor said, “and if we feel we need toughness, we will address it.”
O’Donnell had matured into a reliable defenseman and had two goals, 14 points and a plus-four plus-minus rating last season. However, because Taylor opted to protect two goalies, he could protect only three defensemen--Rob Blake, Mattias Norstrom and Aki Berg. He tried to make deals with the Wild and Blue Jackets to skip O’Donnell, but neither obliged.
“We’re disappointed. Both players are excellent character players and I think they’ll be excellent additions to Minnesota,” Taylor said. “We made a decision it was important to get through the expansion draft with our goaltending intact, and we realized that might mean we would lose Sean. . . .
“It leaves us with some holes on defense. We will have Philippe Boucher back at 100% [after foot surgery] at training camp, and Jaroslav Modry played well in a limited role. We will look at our options in the [entry] draft and the free-agency period and possibly trades.”
The Kings may use their depth in goal to shore up their defense that could become perilously thin. Taylor said veteran Garry Galley, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency but had said he wanted to return, “is going to wait and have a look at the free-agent market in July.” Taylor must also re-sign Berg, a restricted free agent who went home to Finland for a season when 1998 talks stalemated, and restricted free agent Jere Karalahti.
Columbus assembled a decent defense by claiming Mattias Timander from Boston, Jamie Pushor from Dallas, Lyle Odelein from Phoenix and Mathieu Schneider from the New York Rangers. Columbus General Manager Doug MacLean said he will try to sign Odelein and right wing Dallas Drake, whom he claimed from Phoenix, before they can become free agents July 1. He may allow Schneider to file for free agency and instead take a compensatory draft pick.
The Blue Jackets had the first pick among forwards and used it on Buffalo winger Geoff Sanderson, a two-time 40-goal scorer who scored 13 goals in 67 games last season. Drake played on Phoenix’s top line last season but scored only 15 goals and 45 points--tops among the 15 forwards Columbus chose.
The Wild got some skill in right wing Sergei Krivokrasov, who had 25 goals for the expansion Nashville Predators in 1998-99 and then was traded to Calgary. He had 37 points last season, the top NHL performance on the Wild roster.
Staff writer Elliott Teaford contributed to this story.
* EXPANSION DRAFT LIST, PAGE 10