Saturday, April 6, 2013

1958 NHL Intra-League Draft

The 1958 NHL Intra-League Draft took place on June 4, and was easily the busiest intra-league draft to date. A record ten players were chosen. Why the spike in activity? Some of it must be attributed to the New York Rangers, who decided to leave eight of their NHL regulars off their protected list (including goalie Gump Worsley; Rangers' GM Muzz Patrick elected to protect Bruce Gamble and Marcel Paille) in favour of players in the minors. Of the ten players chosen in the draft five of them were from the Rangers.

Rules were broadly the same as before: protected lists of 18 skaters and a pair of goalies, players chosen had to go through waivers before being traded or assigned to another team, draft price of $15,000, etc.

That little rule about having to keep a chosen player on the team's NHL roster or otherwise having to put him on waivers before assigning him to a minor affiliate or trading him to another club played particular importance on June 4, 1958.

Before the draft the Canadiens, Maple Leafs and Black Hawks conspired to make a three-way deal: the Canadiens would leave Bert Olmstead (who had been benched in the playoffs and replaced by Ab McDonald anyway) off their protected list for the Maple Leafs to pick, the Maple Leafs would trade Tod Sloan to the Black Hawks, the Black Hawks would also acquire Dollard St. Laurent from the Canadiens and the Canadiens would in turn get a defenceman from the Black Hawks and neither the Black Hawks nor Maple Leafs would choose Danny Lewicki or Dave Creighton from the Rangers in the draft, leaving Montreal to acquire them. Montreal wanted to stock up the Rochester Americans farm team with Lewicki, Creighton and the unnamed defenceman.

Olmstead was chosen by the Maple Leafs first, the Black Hawks picked defenceman Jack Evans from the Rangers with the intent of trading him to Montreal to complete the deal, and Montreal chose Lewicki and Creighton, but when President Clarence Campbell got wind of the trade of Evans to Montreal he reminded the three parties that Evans had to go through waivers before being traded to another club. So too did Lewicki and Creighton before they could be assigned to Rochester. Otherwise they had to be kept in the NHL for the '58-'59 season. Muzz Patrick reminded the other teams of this too, and stated he'd claim them off waivers if the Canadiens and Black Hawks tried to move Evans, Lewicki and Creighton.

Sloan and St. Laurent were traded to the Black Hawks as planned but the rest of the deal fell through. The Hawks kept Evans for another five years, including the Stanley Cup championship team in 1961. (Sloan and St. Laurent were also on the Cup-winning team.)

The Canadiens kept Lewicki and Creighton through the 1958 training camp and reluctantly placed them on waivers with the intent of assigning them to the AHL if none of the other NHL teams put in a claim. Unfortunately for the Canadiens both players were claimed: Lewicki by the Black Hawks and Creighton by the Maple Leafs! The Canadiens' were betrayed by their co-conspirators at the draft three months earlier.

OverallPlayer ChosenByFromPlayer Removed
From Protected List
Round 1
1Bert OlmsteadToronto Maple LeafsMontreal Canadiens
2Jack EvansNew York RangersMontreal Canadiens
3Gerry WilsonToronto Maple LeafsMontreal Canadiens
4Al ArbourChicago Black HawksDetroit Red WingsTed Lindsay
5Jean-Guy GendronBoston BruinsNew York Rangers
passDetroit Red Wings
 passNew York Rangers 
6Danny LewickiMontreal CanadiensNew York Rangers
Round 2
7Earl BalfourChicago Black HawksToronto Maple Leafs
8Gord RedahlBoston BruinsNew York Rangers
9Dave CreightonMontreal CanadiensNew York Rangers
Round 3
10Earl ReibelBoston BruinsChicago Black Hawks

Note that the only player I know of who was removed from a protected list was Ted Lindsay, removed from the Black Hawks' list after they picked up Al Arbour. I'm not sure who else was removed from protected lists during this draft but Lindsay's removal was well-reported. "Terrible Ted" had just played his first season in Chicago after having been traded to the Black Hawks in retribution for trying to organize a players union, and it was probably the worst season of his career.

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