The Florida Panthers started to assembly its first roster in earnest on June 24, 1993 in Quebec City. The Cats and fellow new expansion team, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, were allowed to pick 24 players each from the existing 24 NHL clubs. The Panthers and Mighty Ducks would choose three goaltenders, eight defensemen and thirteen forwards. A day later, a second phase of the expansion draft took place, where recent entries, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks,were allowed to pick two players from the two new expansion teams. Florida and Anaheim were allowed to protect one goaltender, five defensemen and ten forwards. The two clubs could lose one player per position.
Let's take a look back at the three goalies then general manager Bobby Clarke took on that fateful day and check out the contributions they made to the team during their respective stints with Florida.
John Vanbiesbrouck: The Panthers kicked off the expansion draft by selecting longtime New York Ranger Vanbiesbrouck from the Vancouver Canucks. The "Beezer" was coming off a season which saw him post a 20-18-7 record, 3.31 GAA and 4 shutouts for the Rangers, who had dealt the veteran to Vancouver for defenseman Doug Lidster prior to the draft.
Cats contribution: This pick couldn't have worked out any better for the Panthers. Vanbiesbrouck was Florida's first star and his fine play gave the brand new club instant respectability. The "Beezer" lasted five full seasons in South Florida, and played in three All-Star Games, before he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers after the 1997-98 campaign. He posted a 106-108-43 record with the Cats. His finest regular season came in 1996-97, when he won 27 games and posted a stingy 2.29 GAA. However, it was his stellar play in the 1996 Stanley Cup playoffs, which saw the Panthers crowned Eastern Conference champions before they fell to the Colorado Avalanche, that cemented his legendary status in the hearts and minds of Panther fans.
Mark Fitzpatrick: After the Cats selected Vanbiesbrouck, the Mighty Ducks took the next two goaltenders, Guy Hebert and Glenn Healy. With the fourth pick in the expansion draft, the Panthers made Quebec Nordique Mark Fitzpatrick their selection. Fitzpatrick had been traded to the Nordiques by the New York Islanders for Ron Hextall and a swap of first-round picks four days prior to the draft. The 1992 Bill Masteron Trophy-winning keeper posted a 17-15-5 record for the Islanders in 1992-93.
Cats contribution: Not only did the Cats pull a starting goalie out of the expansion draft, they also drew a very capable back-up. Fitzpatrick served as Florida's exclusive number two option in net for the first four years of the franchise before he was traded to the Lightning on January 16, 1998, along with Jody Hull, for Dino Ciccarelli and Jeff Norton. Fitzpatrick won 15 games in 1995-96 and posted a tidy 2.36 GAA a season later. He finished his stint with the Panthers with a 43-42-22 record.
Daren Puppa: After taking Fitzpatrick, the Panthers completed selecting its trio of goalies by nabbing Daren Puppa from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Puppa posted a 6-2 record for the Leafs in 1992-93 after coming over in a big trade, that also involved Grant Fuhr and Dave Andreychuk, from the Buffalo Sabres, where he went 11-5-4 prior to the deal.
Cats contribution: None. A Panther for only a day, Puppa was chosen in the second record of Phase II of the expansion draft by Tampa Bay. The move was a good one for the Bolts as Puppa would remain with the club for the rest of his career before chronic back trouble finally forced him to retire midway through the 1999-2000 campaign.