Eric Lindros leaves Quebec, Wayne Gretzky goes to Los Angeles, Buffalo acquires Dominik Hasek and Boston deals for Phil Esposito. Is there a way to compare these trades? Using a new system developed in my book, Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract, we can find the best trades in every franchise's history and even compare them between teams.
The major ground rule is to treat the players as if they remained with their new franchise or, at the very least, were only later exchanged for players of equal value. After all, this is all about who left the table that day with the better end of the deal, not whether or not it was later squandered.
The other ground rule is to set aside financial considerations and the character-based intangibles you'd need to actually be in the dressing room to fully understand.
In many cases it's surprising how great a role luck plays in the success of a trade, either through injury, a fortunate break on a draft choice or a prospect (Hello, Boston!). It's also interesting how some players appear repeatedly, including the legendary sniper featured in the very first trade.
Note: In this article when you see the net difference in goals, it is not being measured by the literal number of goals the players scored, but with a nifty statistic called Goals Versus Threshold (GVT) invented by Tom Awad of Hockey Prospectus.
All advanced statistics are via writer's own original research unless otherwise noted.