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The Deal: The Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Ron Francis, Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings from the Hartford Whalers for John Cullen, Zarley Zalapski and Jeff Parker at the 1991 trade deadline.
The Motivation: The Hartford Whalers had to move a couple of unhappy superstars, and the Penguins, who desperately needed blue line toughness, had just the right players to offer.
Ron Francis had fallen into disfavor with management, had been stripped of his captaincy earlier in the year, and was playing out his option.
The 27-year-old had established himself as one of the league's top two-way forwards the previous season, his first one across the 100-point level, when he finished fifth in Selke voting. He currently led the Whalers with 76 points in 67 games and was their all-time leading scorer with 821 points in 714 games.
Pittsburgh was one of the few teams with a player that could possibly match Francis, their own high-scoring all-star John Cullen. The 26-year-old was fifth in the NHL with 94 points in 65 games and carried the Penguins offensively when the legendary Mario Lemieux was out of the line-up.
Hartford had a little more to offer, since 26-year-old tough two-way defenseman Ulf Samuelsson was dissatisfied and considering a return home to Sweden. This was the perfect added enticement for the Penguins, who desperately needed some blue line toughness. To this end the Penguins even threw in 25-year-old low-scoring tough defender Grant Jennings.
To secure these additional assets, the Whalers wanted one of Pittsburgh's three puck-moving defensemen, 22-year-old speedster Zarley Zalapski, who had 135 points in 190 NHL games thus far. Jeff Parker was also thrown in, a tough 26-year-old depth winger with just 35 points in 137 games.
The Result: Two consecutive Stanley Cup championships for the Penguins.
After the trade, Pittsburgh went 9-3-2 down the stretch to go from third to first in the Patrick division for the first time ever.
The star of the trade was obviously Ron Francis, who played 13 more seasons, including seven full seasons in Pittsburgh. Evgeni Malkin just passed him for the fifth leading Pittsburgh Penguin scorer of all time, eclipsing his 613 points in 553 games.
Not to list all of the Hall of Famer's accomplishments, but Francis is the fourth all-time leading scorer in NHL history, and is second in assists. As a Penguin he twice led the league in assists, and once in plus/minus, won the Selke in 1994-95 and finished no worse than eighth in Selke voting for six straight seasons.
The upgrades to the blue line also worked out as expected. Samuelsson played four more full seasons with Pittsburgh, featuring back-to-back 29 point seasons starting in 1992-93, the year he finished fourth in Norris trophy voting. Jennings played three more full seasons with Pittsburgh, scoring 28 points in 210 games.
As for Hartford, Cullen played only one full season there, scoring 77 points in 77 games while making a second consecutive all-star game appearance. Unfortunately for the Whalers he struggled with some back problems and was essentially gifted to Toronto the next year for a second round pick.
As for Zalapski, he played two full seasons in Hartford, and would ultimately amass 165 points in 229 games for the team before being packaged off to Calgary. Parker played just four NHL games down the stretch before suffering a career-ending knee injury.
Rob Vollman is author of Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract, co-author of the annual Hockey Prospectus guides and a featured ESPN Insider writer. @robvollmanNHL.