New York Rangers: 5 Major Trades Since 1990 That Redefined the Franchise

Ben Lippel@thewritebenContributor IIIAugust 10, 2012

New York Rangers: 5 Major Trades Since 1990 That Redefined the Franchise

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    "You'll always miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take." Wayne Gretzky

    Leave it to the Great One to come up with such words of wisdom.

    Not only does his quote apply to what happens on the ice, it also applies to what happens in the front office. Neil Smith and Glen Sather, the only two General Managers for the New York Rangers since 1990, can certainly attest to that.

    Making a trade is all about taking the shot. Taking the risk to acquire the talent that could put the team over the top. Taking the chance that the assets given away won't become stars for their new organizations.

    Basically, it's a crap shoot no matter how you look at it.

    Both Smith and Sather made their share of deals. Sometimes they missed. Badly. But other times, they scored. Big time. But they took the shots nevertheless.

    So, on the heels of the recently-completed Rick Nash deal, here's a look at five big Blueshirts deals that redefined the franchise. 

    And in paying homage to Mr. Gretzky to open the article, please note that August 9 marked the 24th anniversary of the biggest deal in NHL history, as he was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings

    All trade details to follow courtesy of

Bernie Played Broadway

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    On January 20, 1990, former Rangers GM Neil Smith pulled the trigger on a big one. He acquired Bernie Nicholls from the Los Angeles Kings, in exchange for Tony Granato and Tomas Sandstrom.

    Sandstrom had 88 points in 1988-89. Granato had 63 that same season, his rookie campaign.

    Both players were fan favorites at Madison Square Garden. But Smith had to do something drastic to get his team going as the 1989-1990 season moved along.

    The team played unevenly in Nicholls' first month as a Ranger. However, they went on an 11-3-3 run from February 16-March 27, as they clinched first place in the Patrick Division.

    Granato and Sandstrom enjoyed success with their new team as well. They were part of the Kings team that went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993.

    Nicholls amassed 110 points in 104 games as a Ranger. So this deal worked out, to be sure. But, it paid even bigger dividends down the road apiece—as noted by the next deal on the list. 

A Fine Mess

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    October 4, 1991.

    That was the day everything changed for the Rangers. They had finished the season before with 85 points, good for second place in the Patrick Division behind the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    But Neil Smith wasn't satisfied and wanted to take his team to the next level. So he swung for the fences and brought Mark Messier to Gotham.

    Bernie Nicholls, Louis DeBrusk, Steven Rice went to the Edmonton Oilers in this deal.

    During Messier's first season in New York, the captain led his troops to the Presidents' Trophy, as they hit the 105 point plateau. However, the Rangers lost to the Penguins in the playoffs that season and didn't make the playoffs in 1992-93.

    However, they made history in 1994, as the Rangers, led by Messier, their beloved captain, captured the Stanley Cup for the first time in 54 years.

    To this day, he's a part of the Rangers organization, and has become an iconic figure in New York sports lore. 

Matteau Worked Overtime

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    The 1993-1994 season turned out to be one for the ages, as the Blueshirts won the fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history.

    But if this particular deal didn't get done, it may not have happened.

    It was March 21, 1994. Trade deadline day in the NHL. The Rangers were in the midst of finishing a superb regular season. But Neil Smith and former coach Mike Keenan felt the team needed to add size and grit for the playoffs.

    So Smith engineered five deals that day, which included the one that shipped Tony Amonte to the Chicago Blackhawks for Stephane Matteau and Brian Noonan.

    Amonte went on to have a great career, as he tallied 416 goals and finished with 900 points. But Rangers management felt that he wasn't a piece to the Stanley Cup puzzle. And they were right.

    Matteau and Noonan? Well, that's another story.

    Both players added the ingredients both Smith and Keenan sought after. And it was Matteau who scored the legendary double-overtime winner in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils. The goal that propelled the Rangers to the final round against the Vancouver Canucks

    And remember: Matteau scored the double overtime winner in Game 3 of the Devils series.


68 Brought Them Back from the Abyss

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    It was January 23, 2004.

    The Rangers were in the midst of another woeful campaign and headed toward their seventh consecutive non-playoff season. Glen Sather knew his club desperately needed an infusion of big-name talent to turn the tide. So he turned his sights to the nation's capitol, and acquired Jaromir Jagr from the Washington Capitals for Anson Carter.

    This deal didn't pay immediate dividends, particularly as the NHL shut down for the entire 2004-2005 season in a heated labor dispute between players and owners. However, when play resumed in 2005, Jagr came out of the gates on a rampage, and he and his teammates never looked back, as they put up 100 points. That same season, Jagr set club records for goals in a season with 54, points in a season with 123 and he won the Lester B. Pearson Award for Most Valuable Player, as voted on the the players themselves. 


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    He may note have known it at the time, but on June 30, 2009, Glen Sather made one of the best deals in recent Rangers history.

    He acquired Ryan McDonagh, Pavel Valentenko, Christopher Higgins and Doug Janik from the Montreal Canadiens, in exchange for Scott Gomez, Tom Pyatt and Michael Busto. 

    McDonagh was Montreal's first round pick, the 12th overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Gomez, who signed a five-year, $51.5 million dollar deal as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2007, underachieved terribly in his brief tenure on Broadway.

    And while Sather cleared out his massive contract in the trade with Montreal, he opened up the necessary space under the salary cap to sign the high-powered Marian Gaborik to a five-year, $37.5 million deal as a UFA on July 1, 2009. 

    So not only did Sather get McDonagh, who has blossomed into one of the best young defensemen in the game, he brought in Gaborik, the Slovakian sniper who has tallied 105 goals in his three seasons as a Ranger.

    McMasterful indeed.