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Expansion Like It's 1991

Trades give the 2016-17 Sharks a connection to their own expansion and dispersal drafts

by Ann Frazier /

For any expansion team, the expansion draft is an essential event: it's how the roster gets stocked with players for the inaugural season. With the Vegas Golden Knights expansion into the NHL, it's time for another expansion draft. 

Which means it's the perfect time to take it back to 1991 when the San Jose Sharks were a brand-new team just like the Vegas Golden Knights, ready to take part in an expansion and dispersal draft of their own. 

Quick background: in 1991, the yet-to-play-a-game Sharks participated in both an expansion draft (standard) and dispersal draft (not so much). The dispersal draft emerged from a complicated situation where the Sharks essentially split off from the Minnesota North Stars; this meant that the Sharks and North Stars took turns picking players off of the North Stars roster, then both participated in the expansion draft.

Yes, the beginning of the Sharks was kind of complicated.

In the dispersal draft, just as in the expansion draft, teams were allowed to make deals with each other to protect certain players in exchange for draft picks and other assets. 

And that's how the 2016-17 iteration of the Sharks have a roster connection to the yet-to-play-a-game iteration of the team.

The Minnesota North Stars wanted to ensure that one of their players would stay on their team in the dispersal draft (who that player was remains unconfirmed), so on May 31, 1991, they made a deal with the Sharks to ensure that the Sharks wouldn't select that player. In exchange, the Sharks got a 1991 2nd round draft pick and a 1992 1st round draft pick. 

READ: The full results of the 1991 Sharks Expansion and Dispersal Drafts. 

With those picks, the Sharks drafted defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh and forward Andrei Nazarov respectively. Both players made contributions to the early Sharks teams: Ozolinsh played 212 games and scored 46 goals and 132 points (this includes his 2007-08 return to team teal), and Nazarov played 169 games and scored 23 goals and 51 points.

But their contributions to the team didn't stop there; both were later parts of significant trades. 

Ozolinsh was traded to the Colorado Avalanche for future Sharks captain Owen Nolan, but that's not what this article is about.

Nazarov, along with a 1998 1st round pick (eventually the first overall pick Vincent Lecavalier), was traded on March 24, 1998 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for David Shaw, Bryan Marchment, and a different 1998 1st round pick (eventually the second overall pick David Legwand). 

The Sharks then flipped that 1998 1st round pick (the Legwand pick, not the Lecavalier pick), along with a 1998 3rd round pick, to the Nashville Predators for yet another 1998 1st round pick (neither the Legwand nor the Lecavalier pick) and 1998 second round pick on June 27, 1999. 

Too confusing, didn't read? Over a period of three months the Sharks acquired and traded away each of the top three picks of the 1998 draft, ending up with two roster players and a 1st and 2nd round pick of the 1998 draft. 

The Sharks ended up drafting defenseman Brad Stuart third overall with the first, and forward Jonathan Cheechoo with the second round pick.

Those who know their Sharks history will see where this is going.

In late November 2005, as the Sharks were mired in a 10-game losing streak, yet another trade was made. Brad Stuart, along with Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau, was traded to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Joe Thornton. 

Yes, the same Joe Thornton who was the 13th player in NHL history to score his 1,000th assist this past season

To recap: Not selecting a player in the dispersal draft begat Andrei Nazarov, who begat a 1998 1st round pick, who begat Brad Stuart, who begat Joe Thornton, who played for the San Jose Sharks in 2016-17.

That's quite a link.

And who knows? Maybe the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft on Wednesday will have the same far-reaching effects as that of the Sharks. 

Video: Expansion Draft 101

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