New Jersey Devils: 10 of the Best Trades in Team History

Peter MillsContributor IIIFebruary 14, 2012

New Jersey Devils: 10 of the Best Trades in Team History

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    Since the New Jersey Devils entered the league in 1982, the team has had its ups and downs.

    Battling obscurity for years, the team slowly began its ascent into the upper echelons of the hockey world. From 1987 on, the voyage was overseen by GM Lou Lamoriello, and he did well by his team.

    Lou has been influential in the hockey world for years and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 2009. But he got by making some brilliant trades along the way.

    Here are 10 of the best trades ever made by the New Jersey Devils. 

Honorable Mention: The Superstar Swap

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    Blues Sign: Brendan Shanahan

    Devils Awarded: Scott Stevens

     

    After the 1990-91 season, Brendan Shanahan became a restricted free agent.

    Shanny was a budding star; after a quiet first year with the Devils, Shanahan registered 188 points (including 81 goals) over his next three seasons.

    After Shanahan decided to sign with St. Louis, the Blues faced a problem: Since Shanny was restricted, they owed the Devils compensation. However, the draft picks that ordinarily would have been in play were already owed to the Capitals, thanks to a deal the previous year that brought Scott Stevens to the Blues.

    After a great deal of deliberation, league arbitrators awarded the Devils Stevens as compensation.

    Stevens went on to win three Cups with the Devils and captained the team from 1992 to 2004. He established himself as one of the best open-ice hitters of all time, and his punishing body checks changed momentum in playoff series on a regular basis.

    Shanahan went on to have just as impressive a career, retiring with more than 650 goals, just under 700 assists and almost 2,500 penalty minutes. He also won three Cups, with the Red Wings in 1997, 1998 and 2002.

    While this was not technically a trade, it was one of the most important roster moves the organization ever made, and by securing Stevens, the team was able to find a leader for a winning team.

Honorable Mention: Role-Player Steal

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    Red Wings Sign: Troy Crowder

    Devils Awarded: Randy McKay and Dave Barr

     

    Troy Crowder was drafted 108th overall by the Devils in 1986. His career was far from impressive: He retired after parts of six seasons with a total of 16 points in 150 games.

    His greatest contribution to the Devils was when he decided to leave.

    Like Shanahan, Crowder was an RFA, and when he decided to sign with the Detroit Red Wings, the Devils were owed compensation. The players they received were Dave Barr and Randy McKay.

    While Dave Barr never did anything much with the Devils, McKay became an important part of the team. He joined the team as a 25-year-old and didn't leave until he was traded in 2002 at the age of 35.

    In his time with the Devils, he won two Stanley Cups and played a crucial role on the dreaded Crash Line—the Devils' overly-physical checking line, which also included Bobby Holik and Mike Peluso. Before being traded, he'd become an assistant captain of the Devils, and he scored all but 41 of his career 363 career points with the team.

Adding a Defensive Edge

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    Devils Receive: Bryce Salvador

    Blues Receive: Cam Janssen

     

    Bryce Salvador is not a game-changer. When the defenseman was traded to the Devils by the Blues, there weren't particularly high hopes for him; he was just supposed to be a solid, stay-at-home defender with a bit of extra strength to help him out.

    Cam Janssen, though a fun player to watch fight, does not offer any real value to a team (outside of toughness). He can—and will—fight with the best in the league, but that is the end of his contributions.

    So, when the two players were swapped in 2008, it wasn't expected to have much of an impact on either team. For a while, that was the case.

    But as time passed, and the once-great defense of the Devils continued to slip, Salvador's role on the team increased.

    He is still on the team today and reliably makes important defensive plays. He's not a standout—not by a long shot. But he brings some stability to a team without much, and the Devils gave up practically nothing to get him.

The Deadline Deal That Paid off

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    Devils Receive: Alexander Mogilny

    Canucks Receive: Brendan Morrison and Denis Pederson

     

    Late in the 1999-00 season, the Devils shipped Denis Pederson and Brendan Morrison to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Alex Mogilny.

    Mogilny's stint in New Jersey was short—he played just 12 regular season games in 2000 and only one season with the Devils after that. He made the most of his time, though.

    The Devils won the Stanley Cup in 2000, and Mogilny only contributed seven points in the playoffs. It was the next season where he showed what he could do.

    The Russian scored 43 goals and added 40 assists in 2000-01, good for second on the team in points behind Patrik Elias. In the playoffs, he had five goals and 11 assists, helping the Devils to Game 7 of the finals before an eventual loss to the Avalanche.

    While in New Jersey, Mogilny represented a lightning-fast scoring threat and offered some seasoned offensive perspective for a largely untested team.

Renting a Playoff Hero

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    Devils Receive: Neal Broten

    Stars Receive: Corey Millen

     

    Neal Broten had only a short stint with the Devils, but he made it count.

    Broten was traded to the Devils by the Dallas Stars in exchange for Corey Millen.

    Millen was coming off a career year in which he registered 50 points. Broten had already had a long, mildly impressive career before the trade and was nearing the end of his playing days.

    The trade was made straight-up, and Broten joined the Devils with 30 games to go in the 1995 season. In those 30 games, he scored eight goals and added 20 assists.

    Once in the playoffs, Broten kept up his impressive pace, scoring 19 points in 20 games as the Devils won the Stanley Cup.

    Millen, on the other hand, played only two more seasons—in which he combined for less than 50 points—before retiring.

Practically Stealing Mr. Conn Smythe

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    Devils Receive: Claude Lemieux

    Canadiens Receive: Sylvain Turgeon

     

    In September 1990, the Devils traded Sylvain Turgeon for Claude Lemieux.

    Turgeon had been in New Jersey just one year, putting up decent numbers: 30 goals and 17 assists in 72 games. Lemieux had been with the Canadiens for a while and reliably put up good numbers, but he had suffered an abdominal injury the previous year and did not play nearly as well in the games he was healthy for.

    After the trade, Turgeon registered a total of 120 points over five more seasons in his career.

    Lemieux, on the other hand, excelled with the Devils. In five seasons, he hit 40 points twice, 60 once and 80 once.

    In 1995, despite an unimpressive regular season, Lemieux scored 13 goals and had six assists in the playoffs en route to the Devils' first franchise Cup.

    Lemieux received the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Old Cornerstones for a New Cornerstone

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    Devils Receive: Jamie Langenbrunner and Joe Nieuwendyk

    Stars Receive: Randy McKay, Jason Arnott and 2002 first-round pick.

     

    Jason Arnott and Randy McKay are both important players in the history of the Devils. Both even appear on this list as key acquisitions for the Devils.

    But late in the 2002 season, the Devils decided to part ways with them. The two were shipped off, along with a first-round draft pick, to Dallas in exchange for Jamie Langenbrunner and Joe Nieuwendyk.

    Nieuwendyk played solidly, while Langenbrunner offered scoring potential and speed, and both players fit into the system well. The next season, the Devils made a Stanley Cup run, and Langenbrunner was the playoff leader in goals (11) and points (18), as well as adding four game-winning goals.

    Langer would later go on to captain the Devils from 2007 to 2011.

The Infamous Ilya Kovalchuk Affair

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    Devils Receive: Ilya Kovalchuk, Anssi Salmela and 2010 second-round pick

    Thrashers Receive: Niclas Bergfors, Johnny Oduya, Patrice Cormier and 2010 first- and second-round picks

     

    When Ilya Kovalchuk began nearing free agency, teams got crazy, and for good reason.

    The young Russian had five straight 40-goal seasons (including two with 52 goals) and was on pace for a sixth, and he was only 26 years old.

    It was known that he'd be traded, as the Thrashers were—and had been for a while—a somewhat pathetic excuse for a franchise.

    A number of teams put together offers, but in the end, the Devils—an unknown entrant in the Kovalchuk sweepstakes up to that point—came away with the prized winger.

    What's remarkable about this trade is how little they gave up in return.

    In exchange for Kovalchuk and D-man Anssi Salmela, the Devils gave up Niclas Bergfors, Johnny Oduya, prospect Patrice Cormier and a first-round pick.

    Bergfors had been drowning in the minors for years, and for the first time looked ready to play for an NHL team. With the Devils that season, he had 13 goals and 14 assists in 54 games—decent numbers for a rookie.

    Oduya was a good, reliable defender who put up decent offensive numbers: In the two seasons before the trade, he had 26 and 29 points, respectively.

    Patrice Cormier represented high-end potential, but had his share of problems, having caused brain damage to a skater via a dirty elbow earlier in the QMJHL season that year.

    The first-round pick became Daniel Paille.

    Since the trade, Bergfors has virtually disappeared, scoring 36 points last year, and just two this year. Oduya, while still a solid defender, has not developed any new aspects to his game or improved significantly. Cormier had two points in 21 games last season and nothing in six games this year.

    While Kovalchuk has certainly struggled with the Devils, he seems to be returning to form. However, even if he were to never hit 30 goals again, the pieces given up in that trade were worth the risk. The Devils secured a top talent in the league and did it without giving up anyone who would even be on the roster these days.

Home-Grown Talent for a Playoff Hero

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    Devils Receive: Jason Arnott and Bryan Muir

    Oilers Receive: Valeri Zelepukin and Bill Guerin

     

    Though the asking price was high, it's hard to argue with the results of this trade.

    In 1998, Bill Guerin had been a Devil for six full seasons and had done relatively well. Zelepukin had started his career with the Devils and had enjoyed similar success, though much less consistently.

    When Lou Lamoriello made this trade for Jason Arnott, part of the motivation was that Guerin's contract talks were not going well.

    Arnott, a young, tough scoring threat, immediately fit in well with the team, and by 2000, centered the A-Line for Petr Sykora and Patrik Elias. The A-Line was among the best in the league for a couple of seasons and provided many of the important playoff moments during the team's postseason drives.

    Arnott's most famous moment as a Devil came 8:20 into the second overtime of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, when he put a pass from Elias past Ed Belfour to win the Cup.

    The video can be found here, though I would warn Devils fans that it may cause joyful weeping.

Some Much-Needed Grit

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    Devils Receive: Bobby Holik and 1993 second-round pick

    Whalers Receive: Sean Burke and Eric Weinrich

     

    Sean Burke and Eric Weinrich began their careers with the Devils. In fact, they were both drafted in the second round of the 1985 NHL draft.

    Both players had journeyman careers: Weinrich finished with almost 400 points in 1,150 games and Burke with 324 wins, and both played for at least eight different teams.

    The Devils' return would set them up for years, though.

    Bobby Holik became a cornerstone of the team's Stanley Cup squads in 1995 and 2000, centering the Crash Line between Randy McKay and Mike Peluso. The checking line physically dominated opponents while supplying supplementary scoring.

    The pick that was included became just as important. It was used in the second round of the 1993 draft to get Jay Pandolfo.

    Pandolfo wasn't on the team for the '95 Cup run, but in 2000, he paired with rookie John Madden to become one of the most capable defensive duos in the league.

    The tandem played huge roles in both the 2000 and the 2003 playoffs. Pando and Maddog were assigned the opponents' top line every playoff series and delivered each time, be it against the Panthers' Bure line, the Leafs' Sundin line, the Bruins' Thornton line or the Stars' Modano line.

A Ridiculous Steal of a Trade

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    Devils Receive: 1991 first-round pick

    Maple Leafs Receive: Tom Kurvers

     

    Just one game into the 1989 season, Tom Kurvers left the Devils for the Toronto Maple Leafs. In return, the Devils received the Leafs' first-round draft pick for the 1991 entry draft.

    Acquiring draft picks is always risky. Some draft classes are better than others. Some prospects don't pan out. In this case, it worked out pretty well.

    The Maple Leafs finished with the second-worst record in the league, and the pick they traded ended up being good for third overall. With that pick, the Devils selected Scott Niedermayer.

    Niedermayer, as sure a bet as there is for a Hall of Famer, became a key part of the Devils' defensive core, along with Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko and Martin Brodeur. He won three Stanley Cups with the Devils, and during his time in the league was one of the fastest skaters, as well as one of the best puck-moving defensemen.

    Kurvers had a good career, finishing with 421 points in 659 games—above average for a defender. Unfortunately, the man that he ended up costing the Leafs was Niedermayer.

Lou Lamoriello on Top of His Game

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    Devils Receive: 17th overall pick

    Oilers Receive: 22nd and 68th overall picks

     

    It might not have seemed like much when Lou Lamoriello traded up five spots in the 2003 draft, swapping picks and throwing in an additional third-round pick to the Edmonton Oilers, but it turned out to be a smart move.

    That 17th pick was used on Zach Parise.

    Parise made the team post-lockout, and since then has amassed 184 goals and 205 assists in 475 games. He also became the team's captain this season.

    Meanwhile, the Oilers drafted Marc-Antoine Pouliot five picks later and Jean-Francois Jacques in the third round.

    The two have played 188 and 166 games, respectively, while combining to produce just 72 points over their careers—22 fewer points than Parise had in his best season.

    In all fairness, the trade could have gone quite differently. Players still available to the Oilers when Pouliot was drafted included Mike Richards, Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry. Had the Devils been in that position, it's impossible to say whom they'd have drafted.

    Still though, Lou saw what he wanted and pulled the trigger, and it ended by paying off as well as any trade in the team's history.