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5 Memorable Players You Forgot Were Taken In The Expansion Draft

These players had large NHL legacies, but their connections to expansion drafts are often forgotten

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

NHL Expansion Drafts have a long and complicated history.

This lineage can be traced to 1967, when the NHL doubled in size from six teams to 12 and relocated more than 100 professional hockey players to new teams.

But for every John Vanbiesbrouck (Florida Panthers) and Billy Smith (New York Islanders) to become faces of their franchises after being taken in the Expansion Draft, there are a slew of forgotten names who saw their careers upended by these unique transactions.

In a few other cases, there were memorable names with lasting NHL legacies who were taken in Expansion Drafts, who, for one reason or another, just never became an important part of the teams that selected them.

In some cases, these players were taken in the Expansion Draft before they became well know, while other times, they were selected at the end of their careers.

And some were just part of their expansion teams for too short a period of time.

Below is our unofficial list of the five most memorable NHL players that you may have forgotten were taken in Expansion Drafts.

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5. Bobby Hull

Taken By: Winnipeg Jets (1979)

Taken From: Winnipeg Jets

It was one of the more convoluted transactions in NHL history.

Up until 1978-79, legendary superstar Bobby Hull had been playing with the World Hockey Association's Winnipeg Jets, having bolted the NHL for its rival league from the Chicago Blackhawks in 1972. Before the 1978-79 NHL season, when the WHA disbanded and four of its teams - Winnipeg, Edmonton Oilers, Quebec Nordiques, Hartford Whalers - merged with the NHL, every NHL player that had previously left an existing NHL contract for the WHA could be returned to his original NHL team.

This sent the aging Hull's rights back to Chicago. Although considering an organizational feud with their former star related to The Golden Jet's original migration, the Blackhawks had no interest in putting No. 9 back on their roster.

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This led to Chicago immediately exposing Hull in the Expansion Draft, where he was once again scooped up by the Jets, where he resumed his career without physically changing his address from the prior season.

Hull played 18 games with the NHL Jets in 1979-80 before being traded to another WHA expansion team, the Hartford Whalers, playing nine more games (alongside former rival Gordie Howe) and then retiring.

 

4. Pat Quinn

Taken By: Vancouver Canucks (1970), Atlanta Flames (1972)

Taken From: Toronto Maple Leafs (1970), Vancouver Canucks (1972)

The general manager that hired George McPhee into his first NHL managerial job with the Vancouver Canucks, Hall of Famer Pat Quinn is remembered much more for his career as a coach and general manager.

As a player, Quinn's career was less storied, despite a memorable incident in the 1968-69 playoffs when he received notoriety after hospitalizing Bruins star Bobby Orr with a punishing hit along the boards at Boston Garden. (Watch Below)

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Despite a less than storied playing career, Quinn was twice taken in Expansion Drafts.

First, he was taken by a team he'd eventually coach to the 1994 Stanley Cup Final, the Vancouver Canucks, before going to the inaugural Atlanta Flames two years later.

 

Watch: Youtube Video

 

3. Al Arbour

Taken By: St. Louis Blues (1967)

Taken From: Toronto Maple Leafs

Like Quinn, Arbour is remembered much more as a head coach.

It's in this capacity that Arbour was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame after leading the New York Islanders to four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-83.

Before this, Arbour was a journeyman player who collected Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackawks and Toronto Maple Leafs, despite spending nearly half his career in the minor leagues.

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Arbour's transition from less-than-spectacular player to very spectacular coach occurred with the St. Louis Blues, who selected him in the 1967 Expansion Draft.

Arbour played in the Stanley Cup Final with the Blues for three straight years from 1968-70, before retiring to become the team's coach in 1971.

 

2. Mike Richter

Taken By: Nashville Predators (1998)

Taken From: New York Rangers

Goaltender Mike Richter played his first NHL game with the New York Rangers in 1989, and his final NHL game in 2002 with the New York Rangers.

Within that 13-year stretch, Richter played all 666 of his career NHL games in a Rangers uniform, although he wasn't always on New York's roster.

In fact, in the days prior to becoming a free agent in the summer of 1998, Richter was taken with the third pick in the Expansion Draft by the Nashville Predators.

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And then 19 days later, Richter signed a contract to return to the Rangers, with most fans never knowing he'd ever been part of another team that offseason.

The Predators made this selection knowing they'd be losing Richter, having selected the 1994 Stanley Cup-winner for the specific purpose of losing him in the Expansion Draft and collecting free agent compensation after the Rangers signed "their" player.

 

Watch: Youtube Video

 

1. Guy Lafleur

Taken By: Minnesota North Stars (1991)

Taken From: Quebec Nordiques

Perhaps the most curious transaction in NHL history came in 1991, when the Minnesota North Stars selected Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur in the Expansion Draft.

After all, the North Stars weren't even an Expansion Team in 1991, and Lafleur had already retired (for the second time) earlier in the year.

This transaction, however, has many layers.

First off, despite the San Jose Sharks being the only expansion team coming into the league in 1991, both the Sharks and 24-year-old North Stars participated in the Expansion Draft.

Long story short, the (1967) expansion California Seals moved to become the Cleveland Barons in the mid-1970s, and then merged with the North Stars two years later.

When the Sharks entered the league, they were considered part of the Seals (Bay Area) lineage. So for San Jose to enter the NHL, it was as if the North Stars (which absorbed the Barons/Seals more than a decade before) were "unmerging."

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This allowed the Sharks to take several players directly from the North Stars before the Expansion Draft, and both clubs to participate in the Expansion Draft.

Lafleur, meanwhile, was the leading scorer in Montreal Canadiens history, but retired from the NHL in 1985 and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame three years later. Despite this, Lafleur returned in 1989 to play three more seasons with the New York Rangers and Quebec Nordiques before retiring (permanently).

Whether it was a Hail Mary at getting Lafleur to come out of retirement again or the lack of interest in any existing Nordiques - Quebec finished dead last in the NHL the prior three seasons - players, the North Stars gambled on Lafleur in the Expansion Draft.

Lafleur, however, remained retired and never played for the North Stars.

This is how a player who was already retired was taken by a tenured franchise he never played for in an Expansion Draft.

This is also how Lafleur climbed to the top of our list as the most memorable player in NHL history that you may have forgotten was taken in an Expansion Draft.

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