The National Hockey League is currently entering the twelfth expansion draft in its history, in order to welcome its 31st team, the Vegas Golden Knights.
During the previous eleven expansion drafts the Canadiens lost some talent, but were generally masters of their own destiny through backroom dealings with the expanding team and shrewd resource management.
Goaltender Frederic Chabot holds a very infamous distinction of being the only player to be lost by the Montreal Canadiens on two separate occasions, and a total three times, during expansion drafts.
In the 90’s the NHL began a concentrated effort to grow the League into non-traditional markets where the winter sport of ice hockey was not played nor popular, which included forays into California and Florida.
In 1991 the San Jose Sharks were brought into the NHL, followed by the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning 1992. Existing teams were allowed to protect 14 skaters and two goalies, but if a team lost a goalie in 1991 they would be exempt from exposing a goalie the following year. The same rule was in place for defencemen. Since the Canadiens lost a defenceman in 1991, all their defencemen ended up being protected which left very slim pickings for Tampa Bay and Ottawa. Predictably, they turned towards goaltenders.
The minimum exposure limits for goaltenders was a mere 60 minutes experience played in the NHL. Thankfully, and quite on purpose, the Canadiens happened to give a start to a young prospect goaltender Frederic Chabot in February 1991 (a 3-3 tie with the New York Islanders) just to be able to make him eligible, meanwhile protecting established goaltenders Patrick Roy, Andre Racicot, and Rollie Melanson.
Chabot was then chosen by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the goaltender round, but he was immediately traded back to the Canadiens for another young goaltending prospect who was exempt from the draft in Jean-Claude Bergeron. This was clearly a pre-arranged deal the Canadiens made with the Lightning to bring back Chabot into the fold or protect another roster member from selection.
Chabot and his AHL stats never really did stand out. He played another two games for the Canadiens over the course of the next year and a half, and was eventually dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers in February 1994 for cash.
By the 1997-98 season Chabot found himself with the Los Angeles Kings where he played a career high 12 games that season, but once again found himself unprotected, this time in the expansion draft that welcomed the Nashville Predators to the league, in 1998. The Kings chose to protect Stephane Fiset and Jamie Storr, leaving Chabot to be selected by the Predators, as part of four goalies taken in the draft. The Predators, having struck gold with Tomas Vokoun who was selected from the Habs, placed Chabot on waivers where Los Angeles reclaimed him.
Fast forward to September 1998, on the eve of the 1998-99 season. The Canadiens reclaimed Chabot off of waivers from the Los Angeles Kings in preparation for yet another series of expansion drafts.
For the 2000 expansion draft each team was allowed to protect one goaltender, five defencemen and nine forwards, or they could choose to protect two goaltenders, three defencemen and seven forwards instead. Every team would lose two players. The Canadiens decided to protect two goaltenders, Jeff Hackett and Jose Theodore, meaning they could only protect three defencemen leaving defenceman Eric Weinrich exposed in the draft, a prime candidate to be selected.
There was a rule in place that if a team lost a goalie they would not be able to lose any defencemen, a rule which the Canadiens used to their advantage to eventually protect Weinrich. Rejean Houle, pulling a bit of a Sam Pollock magic out of his hat, traded a 2nd-round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for “Future Considerations”, which ended up being to specifically draft goaltender Chabot from the Habs during the goaltender round. Weinrich hence became exempt, meaning the Minnesota Wild had to settle on picking Turner Stevenson, who they immediately flipped to New Jersey.
It would be the second time that Chabot would be lost to expansion by the Canadiens, an amazing third time overall in just 11 expansion drafts. Not to mention his three waiver claims.
In his case, it was simply being the guy who in the right place at the right time to make it all possible.
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