The Florida Panthers started to assemble 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.
After slaying it in the goaltender section of the expansion draft, let's take a look at how then GM Bobby Clarke did assembling the foundation of the Panthers' first defense corps.
Milan Tichy: The Cats went first when it came to selecting defensmen and plucked Tichy from the Chicago Blackhawks roster. Chicago had drafted Tichy in the eighth-round of the 1989 draft and after parts of two seasons with the IHL's Indianapolis Ice, the Czech native played 13 NHL games for them during the 1992-93 season.
Cats contribution: None. Tichy was traded to the Winnipeg Jets for minor-league veteran Brent Severyn, who made 67 appearances with the Cats during their inaugural season. He would spent most of the rest of his pro career in the minors, playing just 10 more NHL games, all with the New York Islanders.
Paul Laus: After missing the boat on Tichy, Clarke struck gold with Laus, who was taken from the Pittsburgh Penguins. The rugged Laus was chosen 37th overall in 1989 draft and had marinated in the minors for three seasons before becoming a Panther.
Cats contribution: Laus suited up 39 times, and scored 2 goals, for the Cats in 1993-94 before becoming a regular the next season. The Beamsville, ON native was a dependable defensive-defenseman and held down the club's enforcer role until retiring after playing 45 games in 2001-02. He was co-captain with Pavel Bure during his final season with the Cats and is still a favorite among the team's longtime fans.
Joe Cirella: After picking players on the verge of cracking the bigs with his first two choices, Clarke landed an experienced, ten-year NHL veteran when he took Cirella from the New York Rangers. Cirella was the 5th overall selection of the Colorado Rockies in 1981 and spent his first six years with the organization after it became the New Jersey Devils.
Cats contribution: Cirella had a solid first season with Florida, scoring 10 points and finishing with a +8 rating in 63 games played. He only made 20 appearances for the Cats in the lockout-shortened 1994-95 campaign. Cirella spent most of the 1995-96 season toiling for the IHL's Milwaukee Admirals while also suiting up for the Ottawa Senators six times. He finished his playing career a year later in Germany with the Cologne Sharks. Cirella returned to the Panthers organization in 1997-98 for a single season as an assistant coach.
Alexander Godynyuk: Immediately after selecting Cirella, the Cats grabbed Godynyuk from the roster of the Calgary Flames with their next pick. Originally drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the sixth-round in 1990, the Ukrainian blueliner scored 3 goals and added 4 assists in 27 games for the Flames in 1992-93.
Cats contribution: Godynyuk played 26 games for the Panthers, and posted 10 assists, before he was traded to the Hartford Whalers in a three-way deal that saw Cats acquire unhappy Whaler forward Jim McKenzie and then flip him to the Dallas Stars for a fourth-round pick in 1995. Godynyuk spent the rest of his NHL career with the Whalers organization before he returned to Europe to finish out his playing days.
Gord Murphy: Clarke selected Murphy from the Dallas Stars after the Mighty Ducks had picked Bobby Dollas. A five-year NHL veteran originally drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers, Murphy spent the 1992-93 season with the Boston Bruins, where he scored 5 goals and 17 points in 49 games. The B's shipped Murphy to Dallas just days before the expansion draft in a deal that also saw the two clubs end up swapping goaltenders, with Andy Moog heading to the Lone Star state and Jon Casey going to Beantown.
Cats contribution: Murphy's first season with the Florida was the finest of his solid career. He played in all 84 games and scored 14 goals and 43 points to not only pace the club's blueliners in scoring, but also help lead his new team to instant respectability. He put up 22 points in 46 games in 1994-95 to top the team's d-men in scoring a second time. Murphy ended up staying with the Panthers for four additional seasons before he was traded to another expansion club, the Atlanta Thrashers, as part of a package for goaltender Trevor Kidd in the summer of 1999.
Steve Bancroft: After the selection of Murphy, Anaheim went twice before the Panthers selected Bancroft from the Winnipeg Jets. The former first-round draft choice of the Maple Leafs had three minor-league seasons under his belt as well as one NHL game,with the Blackhawks, in 1992-93.
Cats contribution: None. Bancroft never played for the Panthers. He spent the 1993-94 season with the IHL's Cleveland Lumberjacks. After that, Bancroft continued his career as a minor-league journeyman, with his last season coming in 2005-06 with the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights of the AHL. He did play an additional five NHL games in 2001-02 with the San Jose Sharks.
Stephane Richer: Florida selected Richer from the roster of the Boston Bruins. Already a seasoned minor-league veteran, the Hull, QC native played 21 games for the Bruins during in 1992-93 and scored one goal and added four assists.
Cats contribution: Richer spent most of the Panthers inaugural season tearing it up for the club's IHL affiliate, the Cincinnati Cyclones, where he posted 64 points in 66 games, earning a berth on the league's Second All-Star Team. He did play two games for the Panthers that year and registered one assist. The 1994-95 season saw Richer repeat his dominance in the IHL, putting up 69 points (16G/53A) in 80 games. Richer also made his last appearance for the Cats, going scoreless. After leaving the Florida organization, Richer played eight productive seasons in the German Elite League.
Gord Hynes: The Cats wrapped up their selection of defensmen with silver medal-winning Canadian Olympian Gord Hynes, who was taken from the roster of the Flyers. Originally a sixth-round pick of the Bruins in 1985, Hynes played 37 games for Philadelphia in 1992-93 and contributed 3 goals and 4 assists in 37 games.
Cats contribution: Hynes failed to crack the Panthers' initial roster and spent the 1993-94 season with the Cyclones in the IHL. He scored 15 goals and added 43 helpers in 80 regular season games, and put up in 8 points in 24 postseason tilts. In 1994-95, Hynes moved on to the IHL's Detroit Vipers before finishing his career with six strong seasons in the German Elite League.