The Washington Capitals have participated in numerous NHL expansion drafts over the years.
NHL expansion drafts are nothing new for the Washington Capitals. They even went through one in 1974. But chances are, when the Caps see the Vegas Golden Knights roster, they’ll be a bit jealous. Expansion drafts have been a unique part of the Caps history. There have been controversial picks, a near fight between two teams and some shady under the table deals.
It’s amazing how much the league has changed their expansion draft process. Looking at some of the expansion teams, they were awful. Some of the worst teams of all-time are first-year teams. Vegas should feel lucky because the expansion draft didn’t always guarantee good, or even competent, players. Let’s take a look at each draft the Caps have been a part of. Unless otherwise stated, all information is courtesy of Wikipedia.
1974 Expansion Draft
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This was the Capitals’ expansion draft. It shouldn’t be confused with the 1974 Amateur Draft. The Caps joined the NHL along with the Kansas City Scouts, who are known today as the New Jersey Devils. Both teams got to pick from the 16 active teams.
The Capitals’ most notable selections were goaltender Ron Low, defenseman Gord Smith, defenseman Dennis Dupere and defenseman Yvon Labre, the first Washington player to have his number retired. Here’s a list of all of their selections.
1979 Expansion Draft
The 1979 draft nearly ended terribly for the Capitals. Bengt-Ake Gustafsson is one of the best forwards in Caps history despite suffering knee injuries which eventually prematurely ended his career. Initially, he played for the Edmonton Oilers in the WHA. However, he was ruled ineligible because of league rules. The Oilers tried to protect him, but the Caps argued he was their property, as they selected him in the 1978 NHL Entry Draft.
Eventually, the NHL ruled in favor of the Capitals. In the 1979 expansion draft, the Caps lost forward Doug Patey to the Oilers, forward Blair Stewart to the Quebec Nordiques, and Gord Smith (who they got in the 1974 expansion draft) and Bill Riley to the Winnipeg Jets. Despite playing for the Jets in the WHA, Winnipeg had to select Hall of Fame forward Bobby Hull from the Chicago Blackhawks, who technically owned his NHL rights.