Imagine Michael Jordan being traded to the Washington Wizards after he won the first of his championships with Chicago. For you young whippersnappers who don't remember exactly who Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan were, think Sidney Crosby without the injuries (and petulance) or LeBron James (with more heart).
As beloved as Crosby, James and Jordan are/were in their respective cities, Gretzky was a national treasure for Canada in Edmonton. When LeBron James left Cleveland there was outrage in Ohio and jerseys were burned. There was no trade, and therefore no one to step into the massive footprint left behind by King James.
In Edmonton, the Oilers chose to move Gretzky. They knew they couldn't afford him so they made what they thought was the best possible exchange for The Great One. The centerpiece of the deal returning to Edmonton was actually the $15 million in cash the Oilers received.
But on the ice it was Jimmy Carson.
Carson was a high-scoring center for the Los Angeles Kings who had just dropped 55 goals and 107 points in his sophomore season in the NHL. Though no one really expected for Carson to replace Gretzky, the enormous pressure on him eventually led him to demand a trade out of Edmonton after just one season with the Oilers.
Ironically, the players Edmonton received for Carson would be key elements to the Oilers' 1990 Stanley Cup run. In another fun twist, Carson would be shipped back to Los Angeles as Gretzky's teammate five years after the original trade. The Gretzky trade quite possibly ruined Carson's once-promising career.