One Player Each NHL Team Wishes They Never Traded
In a normal year, the NHL's brief holiday break is a time when fans and management pause to assess their team through the first stretch of the season. Trade rumors often run wild as struggling franchises look to kick-start their campaigns, bottom-feeders try to move assets for prospects or cap space, and leaders seek that last piece of the puzzle to push them over the top.
The climate for NHL trades has changed considerably since the advent of the salary cap but one truth is universal, dating back to the days of the Original Six. Every franchise has one player they'd like to have back.
Which player do you think your team should never have traded? Sound off in the comments below.
Anaheim Ducks: Teemu Selanne
Date: March 5, 2001
As we wait to see if the lockout will be settled in time for Teemu Selanne to enjoy his swan song in an Anaheim uniform, it's easy to forget that possibly the most beloved player in franchise history was traded to division rival San Jose in March 2001.
Selanne's production with the Sharks and then the Colorado Avalanche did not match his output with the Ducks. He eventually returned to Anaheim as a free agent after the 2004-05 lockout, winning a Stanley Cup in 2007 and building his legacy to what it is today.
It's almost like he never left.
Boston Bruins: Joe Thornton
Date: Nov. 30, 2005
This is a tricky one. Boston did go on to win the Stanley Cup in 2011, five-and-a-half years after trading its captain in an attempt to shake up team chemistry. But none of the assets Boston got back for Thornton remained with the team for long, and there's no doubt that Jumbo Joe is by far the best player in this deal. It was during the year of the trade that he won the Art Ross Trophy as the league's top scorer and the Hart Trophy as most valuable player.
Since his arrival, the Sharks have remained among the top contenders in the Western Conference, although they have yet to find a way to push beyond the conference finals.
Buffalo Sabres: Danny Gare
Date: Dec. 2, 1981
Danny Gare was an instant success with the Buffalo Sabres after being drafted in the second round in 1974. He scored 31 goals in his rookie campaign and helped Buffalo reach the Stanley Cup Final, where it fell to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Despite being small of stature, Gare was a reliable goal scorer for the Sabres and was named to the second All-Star Team in 1980. At 27, he was packaged up and sent to Detroit in the winter of 1981. Gare lasted six more seasons in the NHL but never showed the same scoring touch as he did during those early years with the Sabres.
Honorable Mention: Dominik Hasek
The Sabres fleeced the Hawks when they acquired Hasek for Stephane Beauregard in 1997. The Dominator made a name for himself in a Buffalo uniform. His enigmatic act wore thin pretty quickly, however. Buffalo did pick up Slava Kozlov and Detroit's 2002 first-rounder when it dealt him, but neither acquisition amounted to much for the Sabres.
Hasek, of course, went on to win the Stanley Cup in his first year with the Red Wings and another in 2008 in a backup role behind Chris Osgood.
Calgary Flames/Atlanta Flames: Brett Hull
Date: March 7, 1988
This was a no-brainer. Brett Hull had 50 points in 52 games in 1987-88 for Calgary when he was shipped off to the Bllues. On his arrival, he only turned into one of the most prolific goal scorers in the history of the game. Hull won the Hart Trophy in 1990-91 in the midst of his three consecutive seasons of scoring 70 goals or more and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
The Flames also deserve a spanking for the Jan. 1992 deal that sent Doug Gilmour and four other players to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a package of five players headlined by Gary Leeman.
Carolina Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers: Ron Francis
Date: March 4, 1991
Captain Ron Francis was the heart and soul of the Hartford Whalers franchise when he was abruptly dealt to Pittsburgh at the 1991 trade deadline. John Cullen was the key piece coming back who was an undrafted center who'd put up back-to-back 90-point seasons with the Penguins.
Unfortunately for the Whalers, Cullen was peaking while Francis was simply in the midst of a long, consistent career. Francis' acquisition helped the Penguins to the first of two consecutive Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992, and he played seven full seasons with the Penguins.
In 1998, Francis returned to the Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes organization as a free agent and played for another six seasons before retiring after a brief 12-game stint with the Maple Leafs. He currently serves as director of hockey operations for the Hurricanes.
Chicago Blackhawks: Phil Esposito
Date: May 15, 1967
The Trade: Esposito traded from Chicago Blackhawks with RW Ken Hodge and LW Fred Stanfield to Boston Bruins for D Gilles Marotte, F Pit Martin and G Jack Norris.
Phil Esposito was a useful player during his four seasons with the Blackhawks. After being traded to Boston, he blossomed into one of the greatest ever to play the game.
"Espo" won two Stanley Cups with the Bruins in 1970 and 1972 and accumulated a plethrora of personal achievements: five Art Ross Trophies, two Hart Trophies and six First All-Star Team appearances, just to name a few. Meanwhile, the Hawks languished.
Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques: Mats Sundin
Date: June 28, 1994
The Trade: Sundin traded from Quebec Nordiques with D Garth Butcher, LW Todd Warriner and 1994 first-round pick (D Nolan Baumgartner) to Toronto Maple Leafs for LW Wendel Clark, D Sylvain Lefebvre, RW Landon Wilson and 1994 first-round pick (D Jeff Kealty)
This was a trade that looked pretty good for the Nordiques at the time. Wendel Clark and the Leafs were coming off a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 1994 and the Nords were stacked at center. With Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg ahead of him, Sundin was deemed expendable and Clark was expected to add grit as well as a scoring touch.
After moving to Colorado, the franchise won two Stanley Cups, in 1996 and 2001, with major contributions from Sakic and Forsberg. Clark lasted just a year before being flipped to the Islanders for Claude Lemieux.
But within the scope of this trade, Sundin stands out. His career went on for another 14 seasons, and he became a Hall of Famer based on his heart-and-soul commitment to the Leafs.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Rick Nash
Date: July 23, 2012
The Trade: Nash traded from Columbus Blue Jackets with D Steven Delisle and 2013 conditional third-round pick to New York Rangers for F Brandon Dubinsky, F Artem Anisimov, D Tim Erixon and 2013 first-round pick
The jury's still out on this deal since Nash has yet to play a game in a Rangers uniform, but it makes the list simply due to all the hand-wringing in Columbus once Nash asked to be traded.
Earmarked as the franchise player to build around from the day he was drafted first overall by the Jackets in 2002, Nash had shown all the talent of a superstar but had not been able to lead Columbus to consistent respectability on the ice.
Scott Howson's decision makes sense, but it remains to be seen if the assets acquired from this deal will be enough to change the Blue Jackets' fortunes for the better.
Dallas Stars/Minnesota North Stars/Cleveland Barons: Guy Lafleur
Date: May 22, 1970
The Trade: 1971 first-round pick (first overall—Guy Lafleur) traded by California Golden Seals with D Francois Lacombe to Montreal Canadiens for LW Ernie Hicke and 1970 first-round pick (Chris Oddleifson)
This team has had so many incarnations they almost couldn't all fit in the headline. The Cleveland Barons were also the California Seals/Oakland Seals/California Golden Seals in the early years after they entered the NHL in the 1967 expansion. As one might guess by their constant name changes and the fact that they were eventually moved to Cleveland, then merged with Minnesota and eventually moved on to Dallas, the franchise was a disaster that makes the Phoenix Coyotes debacle look stable by comparison.
The Lafleur deal goes down in NHL history as one of the great fleecings of an expansion franchise. The Canadiens organization, already strong, had caught wind of awesome prospect Lafleur playing for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. With a strong tradition of francophones on their roster, they wanted to acquire him but knew he'd go early in the draft.
A year before Lafleur's draft date, they targeted the California Golden Seals as the team most likely to finish last the following season, 1971. They offered to swap their 1970 first-rounder for California's pick in 1971—providing them with more immediate help and also an extra body in left winger Ernie Hicke.
The Seals took the bait and lived up to their destiny as cellar-dwellers, while the Habs grabbed Lafleur and one of the greatest dynasties in pro sports was born.
Detroit Red Wings: Marcel Dionne
Date: June 23, 1975
Marcel Dionne was the No. 2 pick in the 1971 draft, right behind Guy Lafleur. He developed nicely for the Red Wings and scored 121 points as a 23-year-old in 1974-75 but the Wings weren't making the playoffs, so he was traded in an effort to change team chemistry.
In Los Angeles, Dionne enjoyed 12 outstanding seasons. He was part of the famous "Triple Crown Line" and was the biggest star in Kings' history until Wayne Gretzky showed up just after his departure. Dionne was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992 and is a royal ambassador for the Kings organization.
For a team that now has such a solid reputation for good management, Detroit has plenty of black marks in its trade history. Sending Adam Oates and Paul MacLean to St. Louis in 1989 in exchange for an aging Bernie Federko and Tony McKegney is just one example.
Both Oates and Federko were named to the Hockey Hall of Fame, but Federko lasted just one season with the Wings before retiring, while Oates hooked up with Brett Hull to put up record numbers in St. Louis as just one small part of his 18 additional NHL seasons.
Edmonton Oilers: Mark Messier
Date: Oct. 4, 1991
Yes, the Gretzky trade got serious consideration for this spot. But Peter Pocklington got a solid return in that deal, as well as $15 million in cash. The Oilers were able to win another Stanley Cup in 1990 on the back of Messier and the young bucks like Martin Gelinas and Jimmy Carson.
Trading Messier a year later really marked the end of the Oilers dynasty. The team's financial troubles had taken a firm grip and management had no choice but to try to rebuild. Bernie Nicholls had been a star in Los Angeles, but he was 30 by the time he was traded to Edmonton, where his career decline began. DeBrusk and Rice were never more than role players.
Meanwhile, Messier played 13 more seasons, starring with the Rangers and leading them in 1994 to a Stanley Cup—an achievement Gretzky never matched in his post-Oilers career.
Florida Panthers: Roberto Luongo
Date: June 23, 2006
The Trade: Luongo traded from Florida Panthers with D Lukas Krajicek and 2006 sixth-round pick (Sergei Shirokov) to Canucks for LW Todd Bertuzzi, D Bryan Allen, G Alex Auld and 2007 conditional draft pick
Luongo may be hard for the Canucks to move now, but he was easy to acquire back in 2006. Vancouver needed to move Todd Bertuzzi after his play declined amidst the fallout from the 2003 Steve Moore incident, and general manager Davis Nonis wanted to acquire a franchise goaltender as part of his rebuild.
Allen and Auld have had solid careers, and Bertuzzi has surprised as he is now the last member of his old West Coast Express line still playing in the NHL. Still, the Canucks took a big step forward when they acquired Luongo.
Luongo had shone on the international stage with Team Canada at all levels, but had never played a postseason game with the Panthers, so there was some risk involved. Luongo proved to be an important component for the Canucks' ascent to two-time Presidents' Trophy champions and 2011 Stanley Cup finalists.
Los Angeles Kings: Rob Blake
Date: Feb 21, 2001
The Kings moved Rob Blake at the 2001 trade deadline because he was about to become an unrestricted free agent. The players they received in return didn't make much of an impact, but Blake stuck a dagger in the Kings' heart almost immediately.
As fate would have it, Los Angeles ended up meeting the Avalanche in the second round of the 2001 playoffs, just a couple of months after the trade. They ultimately lost to Blake and company in seven games, and the Avs went on to win the Stanley Cup. Blake was a key component of the cup run, putting up six goals and 19 points in 23 games. Would things have been different if the Kings had hung on to their captain?
The Kings traded Blake as a rental, but he re-signed in Colorado and stayed for four more seasons before eventually returning to Los Angeles for two years and finally finishing out his career with the Sharks.
Minnesota Wild: Brent Burns
Date: June 24, 2011
In the summer of 2011, the Wild sought to make over their team with fresh faces and a new offensive approach. The acquisitions of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi from San Jose in separate trades were a big part of the makeover, and it was believed that Minnesota would have to sacrifice some talent in order to get quality assets in return.
Brent Burns was a fan favorite, a larger-than-life character with a reliable presence on the blue line. Fans were sad to see him go, but pleased with the spoils.
The jury is still out on Charlie Coyle and Zack Phillips, who are both with the AHL Houston Aeros this year, but Setoguchi has been a bit of a disappointment. He failed to crack the 20-goal mark and the Wild experienced a drastic freefall in the second half of the season to finish 12th in the Western Conference.
Ryan Suter may have been a prized free-agent signing this summer, but considering his contract, most Wild fans would likely prefer to have Burns' comparatively reasonable five-year, $5.7 million cap hit on the books instead.
Honorable Mention: Marian Gaborik
He wasn't traded, but to let a superstar of Gaborik's caliber go as an unrestricted free agent was the biggest player personnel loss in the Wild's history.
General manager Doug Risebrough gambled that the Wild could make the playoffs in 2009 by keeping Gaborik. They ended up in ninth place in the Western Conference, and Risebrough paid with his job. That summer, Gaborik signed a $37.5 million deal over five years with the New York Rangers.
Montreal Canadiens: Patrick Roy
Date: Dec. 6, 1995
The Trade: Roy traded from Montreal Canadiens with RW Mike Keane to Colorado Avalanche for RW Andrei Kovalenko, LW Martin Rucinsky and G Jocelyn Thibault
Another notorious deal. Roy was the classic French-Canadian superstar for the Montreal Canadiens. He led the Habs to the Stanley Cup in his rookie season in 1986 and backstopped the team to another unlikely Cup in 1993.
On December 2, 1995, Montreal played its worst home game in franchise history at the old Forum, dropping an 11-1 decision to Detroit. Roy allowed nine goals on 26 shots before being pulled by coach Mario Tremblay. Being a Saturday game, the debacle was being broadcast nationally in Canada. Upon reaching the bench, Roy stormed past his coach and spoke directly to team president Ronald Corey, who sat in the first row behind the Canadiens' bench. Reportedly angry that Tremblay had left him in net to be embarrassed in front of the home fans, he told Corey, "It's my last game in Montreal."
Corey took him seriously. It was just four days before he was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche—formerly the Habs' hated rival, the Quebec Nordiques.
Montreal got reasonably decent value for Roy, but he won two more Stanley Cups with Colorado. Meanwhile, the Canadiens are now mired in the longest Cup-less drought in their franchise's storied history. The dramatic in-game blow-up and the impetuousness of the trade are what makes this one a standout.
Nashville Predators: Tomas Vokoun
Date: June 22, 2007
The Trade: Vokoun traded from Nashville Predators to Florida Panthers for 2007 second-round pick (C Nick Spaling), 2007 or 2008 conditional second-round pick (D Aaron Ness) and 2008 first-round pick (Josh Bailey). The rights to Ness and Bailey were subsequently traded to the New York Islanders for 2008 first-round pick (C Colin Wilson)
It speaks to Nashville's generally prudent player personnel policy that Vokoun still stands out as its most egregious trade. Five years after the fact, the Predators have an even better goaltender in Pekka Rinne, while Vokoun's NHL role has declined considerably. Furthermore, the Preds were able to parlay the draft picks they received for Vokoun into two serviceable young players, Spaling and Wilson.
Since Vokoun was moved, Nashville hasn't been so lucky moving potential unrestricted free agents. Dan Hamhuis left a hole in the blue line when he signed in Vancouver in 2010, and Ryan Suter's absence will be even more noticeable when NHL play resumes.
New Jersey Devils/Colorado Rockies/Kansas City Scouts: Barry Beck
Date: Nov. 2, 1979
The Trade: Beck traded from Colorado Rockies to New York Rangers for F Lucien Deblois, F Pat Hickey, D Mike McEwen D Dean Turner and future considerations (RW Bob Crawford)
Barry Beck was a big bruising defenseman who was drafted second overall by the Colorado Rockies in 1977. He set the record for rookie goal scoring by a defenseman in his first year, with 22. But he lasted just over two seasons before being shipped out to the New York Rangers.
Management in the Big Apple recognized that Beck's combination of physical play and great hands was unique. Much like today's deal for Rick Nash, they put together a package of youngsters that proved irresistible to the Rockies. Beck became captain of the Rangers at age 23 and played there for seven seasons, though his physical style took a toll on his body. He left the Rangers in 1986 at age 29, returning to the NHL for a brief comeback with Los Angeles in 1989-90.
The Rockies moved to New Jersey and became the Devils in 1982, just a couple of years after trading away their franchise player.
New York Islanders: Zdeno Chara
Date: June 23, 2001
This was a tough one. The Islanders have a rich and storied history of bad trades, so it was hard to choose just one.
Chara tops the list because of the player he has become. He was moved from the Islanders after just two NHL seasons, during which he posted a stunning minus-27 each year. There wasn't much evidence that the gigantic Slovak would mature into one of the best defensemen and classiest leaders in the NHL. He didn't reach his full potential until leaving Ottawa to sign as a free agent with Boston, where he captained the team to a Cup in 2011.
The trade also rates because of what the Islanders got in return. Alexei Yashin was a royal pain whose production declined steadily during his five years with the Islanders and who never approached the level of play expected when he signed his 10-year, $87.5 million deal.
The fact that the Islanders also threw in a first-rounder who became Jason Spezza just adds insult to injury. Mike Milbury, this one takes the prize!
New York Rangers: Rick Middleton
Date: May 26, 1976
The Trade: Middleton traded from New York Rangers to Boston Bruins for RW Ken Hodge Sr.
With a long history and plenty of dramatic trades on their docket, the New York Rangers have generally fared pretty well with their big deals. Their bottomless budget has doubtless been of help.
One glaring misstep was their one-for-one trade of Rick Middleton to Boston for Ken Hodge in 1976.
Hodge had been a fixture on the Bruins' Cup-winning teams of the early 70s, but by 1976 he was 32 years old and starting to decline. Rick Middleton was a first-round pick who had played just two seasons with the Rangers when they pulled the trigger on the deal.
Hodge lasted only one full season in New York before being demoted to the minors in 1977-78. Meanwhile, Middleton blossomed into a star in Boston, playing 12 seasons. He retired as a Bruin in 1988, just shy of the 1,000-point plateau.
Ottawa Senators: Brooks Laich
Date: Feb. 18, 2004
For all the challenges this franchise has faced over the years, Ottawa's trade record is actually quite good.
The Senators have had many assets they've needed to move for one reason or another over the years, but have usually been successful in getting value in return.
Yes, they found themselves trading Alexei Yashin, Alexandre Daigle and Radek Bonk when none of the the franchise's early first-rounders lived up to expectations, but they didn't get fleeced in the process. Bryan Berard eventually netted a serviceable substitute in Wade Redden. And once Chris Phillips came along, things started looking up.
After reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in 2003, the Sens decided to make the push to go farther in 2004. At the trade deadline, they picked up perennial 50-goal man Peter Bondra from Washington in exchange for a second-round pick and 2001 draft choice Brooks Laich, who had played exactly one game in a Sens uniform.
Bondra was a bust. He didn't score a point in Ottawa's first-round playoff loss to Toronto and only played two more abbreviated seasons in the NHL after the lockout. Laich has gone on to be a dependable and durable leader with Washington. As a center who plays in all situations, Laich logged at least 15 goals and 35 points in each of the last five seasons while missing only four games during that span.
Philadelphia Flyers: Peter Forsberg
Date: June 30, 1992
The Trade: Forsberg traded from Philadelphia Flyers with D Steve Duchesne, G Ron Hextall, D Kerry Huffman, C Mike Ricci, 1993 first-round pick (G Jocelyn Thibault), future considerations (LW Chris Simon, D Nolan Baumgartner) and $15 million in cash to Quebec Nordiques for C Eric Lindros
Sure, Eric Lindros was an important player and the Nordiques did a masterful job of maximizing his trade value when it became clear that he'd have to be moved. But in retrospect, Lindros-for-Forsberg one-for-one would be a questionable proposition—never mind all the other guys that helped build the Avalanche into 1996 Stanley Cup winners.
Here are the bare bones:
Lindros scored 865 points in 750 NHL games and retired in 2007. His best postseason performance was the Flyers' run in 1997, when they were swept by Detroit in the final.
Forsberg scored 885 points in 708 NHL games and retired in 2011. He won two Stanley Cups with Colorado in 1996 and 2001.
Both players were born in 1973, and both were hampered by injury throughout their careers, though Forsberg also logged significant time with Modo of the Swedish Elite league at the beginning of his career and also a bit near the end.
In the NHL, Forsberg has more points in fewer games and two championships. The Flyers would have done just fine if they'd hung onto him instead of pursuing The Big "E" at all costs.
Phoenix Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets (past): Keith Tkachuk
Date: March 13, 2001
Keith Tkachuk was a star in Winnipeg. At 24 years old, he'd just put up a 98-point season when the Jets were shipped off to the desert in 1996. It was his best year, and one could argue that his career arc was altered when the Jets left Winnipeg.
Tkachuk was a solid performer for the Phoenix Coyotes and logged five seasons with the team. In fact, it was his star quality that caused the problem—the perennially cash-strapped Desert Dogs didn't have the money to re-sign Tkachuk after the 2001 season.
So, they pulled the trigger on the deal that sent him to St. Louis. The assets they got in return were pretty decent, but Tkachuk's departure was a blow to the essence of the desert dream. It was an early sign that there was tough sledding ahead to turn this into a profitable, successful franchise.
Tkachuk retired as a Blue in 2010, with only an 18-game "rental player" period in Atlanta breaking up his long tenure in St. Louis.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Markus Naslund
Date: March 20, 1996
The Trade: Naslund traded from Pittsburgh Penguins to Vancouver Canucks for RW Alek Stojanov
In the spring of 1996, the Vancouver Canucks were sliding into decline after their Stanley Cup Final appearance just two years previously. One bright spot for the team was their acquisition of Markus Naslund.
Alek Stojanov was a 1991 first-round draft choice who had failed to make much of an impression with the Canucks. A big, physical player, he had logged just four NHL games prior to the 1995-96 season, when Pittsburgh came looking for a big body to make some room for their skilled forwards.
Vancouver was happy to oblige. As Peter Forsberg's compatriot from Modo, Naslund was a first-round pick himself who had disappointed in Pittsburgh as he fought for ice time with their many other snipers. He'd started to show promise in 1995-96, logging 52 points in 66 games before the trade.
Of course, Naslund went on to play for Vancouver for 11 more seasons, becoming captain in 2000 and eventually having his number retired while chalking up just about every offensive team record possible. All told, he put up 756 points in 882 games in a Vancouver uniform.
Stojanov played just 45 games for the Penguins and was out of the NHL for good by 1997.
St. Louis Blues: Chris Pronger
Date: Aug. 2, 2005
Rather than trading individual star players, the St. Louis Blues have been more notorious for making package deals. "Professor" Ron Caron was particularly impulsive during his tenure as GM between 1983 and 1993, with results on both sides of the ledger.
Larry Pleau was at the wheel when captain Chris Pronger was dealt from St. Louis in the summer of 2005, after the institution of the salary cap. Pronger promptly led Edmonton on an unlikely trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006 before demanding to be traded again—and winning a Cup in Anaheim.
Concussion problems have plagued Pronger in recent years, and his NHL return is uncertain. Despite putting in some quality years with the Blues, Pronger didn't reach his full potential, especially in postseason, until after he left St. Louis.
San Jose Sharks: Igor Larionov
Date: Dec. 28, 2000
The Trade: Larionov traded from San Jose Sharks to Detroit Red Wings for RW Ray Sheppard
The Sharks were not the only team to underestimate Igor Larionov's longevity. After bringing him over from Russia, the Vancouver Canucks let Larionov go after three seasons at age 31 after the Russians demanded further compensation.
Igor played a year in Switzerland before being lured back to the NHL by the San Jose Sharks in 1993. He was on board for the Sharks' first two playoff runs in franchise history—heady times where they reached the second round on both occasions.
By 1996, the team was looking for a change in chemistry, so the 35-year-old Larionov was shipped to Detroit for reliable winger Ray Sheppard.
Sheppard lasted just one season in the Shark Tank before moving on to Florida, while Larionov ended up making his permanent home in Detroit, where he still works with the team and runs his office as a player agent.
Larionov was a key member of Detroit's famous "Russian Five" and won three Stanley Cups with the Wings before ultimately retiring in 2004 at age 44. He was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008, as much for his success in the NHL as his spectacular early career in the Soviet Union.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Brad Richards
Date: Feb. 26, 2008
After winning the Stanley Cup in 2004, the introduction of the salary cap era meant that the Tampa Bay Lightning had some big decisions to make when it came to retaining the star players who had led them to a championship.
The Stars reached the Western Conference Finals in 2008, their first year with Richards, but failed to make the postseason again during his three subsequent years with the team. Nevertheless, he put up solid numbers and his pedigree was enough to make him the prized unrestricted free agent of the class of 2011.
The New York Rangers won that sweepstakes, and Richards proved himself to be worth the fuss. The Rangers charged to their first Atlantic Division title since 1994 and an impressive run to the Eastern Conference Finals before falling to New Jersey, reminding Lightning fans of what they'd given up when Richards left the Sunshine State.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Russ Courtnall
Date: Nov. 7, 1988
The Trade: Courtnall traded from Toronto Maple Leafs to Montreal Canadiens for D John Kordic and 1989 sixth-round pick (F Mike Doers)
The hapless Leafs have plenty of bad trades in their history but in terms of pure, near-instantaneous disappointment, Courtnall-for-Kordic tops the list.
On the surface, it seemed simple enough. Both Courtnall and Kordic were promising 23-year-olds when the deal went down. Courtnall was a first-round draft choice with a reputation as a speedy sniper, while Kordic was a tough guy. The Leafs felt they were long on skill and needed some muscle.
Russ Courtnall continued his solid offensive production in Montreal and played a total of 1,029 NHL games, retiring in 1999 with 744 points.
Meanwhile, Kordic played just 104 games for Toronto and was moved to Washington in 1991. The enforcer died in a Quebec City motel room in the summer of 1992 at age 27, a tragic early example of the heavy toll the tough guys' lifestyle could take.
Vancouver Canucks: Cam Neely
Date: June 6, 1986
The Trade: Neely traded from Vancouver Canucks with 1987 first-round pick (D Glen Wesley) to Boston Bruins for C Barry Pederson.
After drafting local boy Cam Neely with high expectations in the first round in 1993, a poorly managed Vancouver Canucks squad grew frustrated with the power forward's progress after just three seasons. After seeing his goal-scoring output drop from 21 goals in 1984-85 to just 14 in 1985-86, with a similar decline in points and plus-minus, Jack Gordon decided to trade his prized prospect to Boston on his 21st birthday for a player he could count on—Barry Pederson.
Pederson was a legitimate first-line center, just four years older than Neely with two 100-plus point seasons under his belt. The trade could have worked out for Vancouver—but it didn't.
Pederson never attained those heights again, with his production declining until he was traded on to Pittsburgh in 1990 in a package deal. Pederson eventually rejoined the Bruins briefly before retiring in 1992.
Of course, Cam Neely is now the president of the Bruins' organization after having played 10 seasons for Boston before retiring in 1996. The consummate power forward, Neely scored 50 goals for Boston three times and played an aggressive, physical style that fans loved.
His style was also hard on his body. Neely had chronic hip problems and eventually retired with just 726 games played but 694 points. He remains the heart and soul of the Bruins to this day.
Oh yeah—Gordon also threw in a first-rounder who became Glen Wesley. Let's not even talk about that part.
Washington Capitals: Dino Ciccarelli
Date: June 20, 1992
During the 1980s, so many NHLers were putting up crazy offensive numbers that a player like Dino Ciccarelli could toil away in relative obscurity in Minnesota and Washington, casually posting 40- and 50-goal seasons and point-a-game averages.
It's an example of how cavalierly such stars were treated that in 1992, the Capitals dealt 32-year-old Ciccarelli to Detroit for journeyman Kevin Miller.
Ciccarelli scored more than 100 goals for the Wings over four seasons before moving on, retiring in 1999 at age 39. He ended his career with 1,200 points in 1,232 games and was passed over numerous times for the Hockey Hall of Fame before finally being inducted in 2010.
Kevin Miller played his last NHL games in 2003-04, but he lasted just 10 games with the Caps in the 1992 season before being flipped to St. Louis for Paul Cavallini. Not a great return on investment.
Winnipeg Jets (present)/Atlanta Thrashers: Braydon Coburn
Date: Feb. 24, 2007
The Trade: Coburn traded from Atlanta Thrashers to Philadelphia Flyers for D Alexei Zhitnik
On the verge of winning their sole division championship, the Atlanta Thrashers were active at the 2007 trade deadline, bringing in veteran presences in anticipation of their first (and only) playoff run.
Keith Tkachuk cost the Thrashers Glen Metropolit and three draft choices as a short-term rental. The price for defenseman Alexei Zhitnik was arguably higher, as Atlanta parted with first-round prospect Braydon Coburn, who had played just 38 NHL games.
All the effort was ultimately for naught. The Thrashers were swept 4-0 by the New York Rangers in their only playoff series, offensive stars Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk were soon sent packing, and the Thrashers franchise was packed up to Winnipeg four summers later.
Coburn, on the other hand, has blossomed into a solid defensive presence on a Philadelphia team that has had issues with depth at the blue line due to injuries. Now 27, Coburn has missed just eight games in five full seasons with the Flyers and signed a four-year contract extension with a cap hit of $4.5 million a year in November 2011.
Zhitnik stayed with the Thrashers for one more season before having his contract bought out. He closed out his hockey career in 2010 in the KHL with Moscow Dynamo.
Hope you enjoyed this snapshot, though it might bring back some sad memories of ghosts from your favorite team.
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