The Biggest Successes and Failures Among NHL Players Returning to Former Teams

Carol SchramFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2014

The Biggest Successes and Failures Among NHL Players Returning to Former Teams

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    The Vancouver Canucks completed the most startling deal of the 2014 trade deadline season when they sent goaltender Roberto Luongo back to his former team, the Florida Panthers.

    The Canucks acquired Luongo from the Panthers in the summer of 2006, along with Lukas Krajicek and a sixth-round draft pick, in exchange for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld.

    In eight roller-coaster seasons in Vancouver, Luongo's highest point and lowest point were reaching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2011, then being demoted to backup behind Cory Schneider just one year later.

    Though Schneider was traded himself at the 2013 draft, the wound did not heal. The trade to Luongo's desired destination finally came to fruition after he was passed over to start Vancouver's Heritage Classic game at BC Place in favor of rookie Eddie Lack.

    It will be awhile before the value of Luongo's long-term future in Florida is clear, but he'll be a valuable marketing tool for new Panthers owner Vinnie Viola. A shutout against Buffalo in Luongo's first start with the Panthers certainly helped to create a positive first impression.

    Luongo's far from the first player to book himself a return ticket to an old team. Here's a look at what happened when some other notable NHLers went home again.

     

    Stats from NHL.com; Salary information from capgeek.com.

Wendel Clark: Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    How He Left: Wendel Clark actually did three tours of duty with the Toronto Maples Leafs.

    Drafted first overall in 1985, he earned his keep as a gritty power forward and was at the peak of his value when he was sent off to Quebec at the 1994 draft with Sylvain Lefebvre, Landon Wilson and Toronto's first-round draft choice in exchange for the more skilled Mats Sundin as well as Garth Butcher, Todd Warriner and a first-rounder.

    How He Returned: Clark spent only the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season with the Nordiques before being shuffled on to the New York Islanders, who traded him back to the Leafs just a year later. Part of that package was Toronto's first pick in the 1997 entry draft, which the Islanders used to select Luongo.

    The Results: Meh. The Leafs paid a big price to bring back Clark at the 1996 trade deadline but gave up on him after two seasons out of the playoff hunt. Clark signed on as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Lightning to start the 1998-99 season and stopped off for brief stints in Detroit and Chicago before returning once again for a swan song with Toronto to wrap up the 1999-2000 season and his NHL career.

Peter Forsberg: Colorado Avalanche

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    How He Left: After two Stanley Cups with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996 and 2001 and both Art Ross and Hart Trophy wins in 2002-03, Peter Forsberg's hockey career was slowed by injury, particularly to his foot. In 2003-04, Forsberg played just 39 games in a season where he made $11 million.

    After the 2004-05 lockout, he elected to sign as a free agent with the team that drafted him, the Philadelphia Flyers, on a two-year $11.5 million deal.

    How He Returned: Forsberg potted 75 points in his first year with the Flyers, but his body continued to betray him. He didn't deliver for the Nashville Predators after they acquired him at the 2008 deadline, so the Avalanche re-signed him at $5 million for 2007-08.

    The Results: Disaster. Forsberg managed just nine games for the Avs before hanging up his skates and returning to Sweden. He played a few games with his hometown Modo club and suited up for Team Sweden in the 2010 Olympics before attempting one final comeback with Colorado in Feb. 2011. 

    After going pointless and recording a minus-4 in two games against Columbus and Nashville, Forsberg hung up the skates for good at age 37.

Trevor Linden: Vancouver Canucks

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    How He Left: After handing his captaincy over to Vancouver's new free-agent signing Mark Messier at the beginning of the 1997-98 season, Trevor Linden then clashed with new head coach and general manager Mike Keenan. 

    Linden was traded to the New York Islanders on Feb. 6, 1998. The Canucks received defenseman Bryan McCabe, forward Todd Bertuzzi and a 1998 third-round draft choice, which they used to pick Jarkko Ruutu.

    How He Returned: Linden didn't live up to his past successes with the Islanders or in subsequent trades to the Montreal Canadiens or Washington Capitals.

    On Nov. 10, 2001, three-and-a-half years after he was dealt, new Canucks' general manager Brian Burke reacquired Linden, along with a second-round draft choice, for a first-rounder and a third-rounder.

    The Results: Successful. While never returning to his lofty point totals of the early '90s, Linden played seven more seasons in Vancouver. As an elder statesman for a young team led first by Markus Naslund and then by the Sedin twins, Linden's influence and experience helped set the stage for the most successful era in Canucks history.

    Linden announced his retirement at the end of the 2007-08 season. As the best-loved Canuck of all time, his number was raised to the rafters of Rogers Arena in an emotional ceremony on Dec. 18, 2008.

Howie Morenz: Montreal Canadiens

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    Associated Press

    How He Left: Don't ever think disputes between players and management are solely the product of the modern hockey era.

    Howie Morenz was an early offensive superstar in the NHL and won three Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens before injuries led to a decline in his production.

    Despite his proclamations of loyalty to the Canadiens, he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks along with goaltender Lorne Chabot and defenseman Marty Burke at the beginning of the 1934-35 season. The Canadiens received forwards Lionel Conacher and Leroy Goldsworthy and defenseman Roger Jenkins in return.

    How He Returned: The Canadiens continued to struggle without Morenz even missing the playoffs in 1935-36. That summer, former coach Cecil Hart rejoined the team on the condition that Morenz would return. The Canadiens purchased his contract from the New York Rangers, and all was right with the world once again.

    The Results: Successful, then tragic. Morenz's return sparked a resurgence for the Canadiens, who climbed back among the best teams in the NHL. But midway through his first season back in Montreal, Morenz suffered a gruesome broken leg in the Canadiens' Jan. 28, 1937 game against the Blackhawks.

    On March 8, while still in hospital, Morenz passed away from complications due to his injury. He was just 34 years old.

Teemu Selanne: Anaheim Ducks

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    MARK J. TERRILL/Associated Press

    How He Left: After spending four high-scoring seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, Teemu Selanne was traded to the division-rival San Jose Sharks at the 2001 trade deadline. The Ducks received forward Jeff Friesen, goaltender Steve Shields and a second-round pick for their rental player. 

    Despite high expectations, the Sharks got bounced in the first round of the 2001 playoffs. Selanne stayed in San Jose for two more seasons before signing a one-year free agent deal in Colorado that allowed him to reunite with his old Ducks teammate Paul Kariya.

    How He Returned: The year in Colorado was a disaster. Despite his $5.8 million salary, the 33-year-old Selanne scored just 32 points. After a lost year due to the 2004-05 NHL lockout, many people assumed his career was finished.

    The Ducks took a chance and offered Selanne a one-year, $1 million deal to return to his old stomping grounds.

    The Results: Fanastic! Selanne scored 40 goals and 90 points in his first year back with the Ducks and had 15 points as a key contributor during the team's 2007 run to the Stanley Cup.

    Now 43, the Finnish Flash continues to defy expectations and is now in his ninth season since his return to the Ducks.

Nikolai Khabibulin: Chicago Blackhawks

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    How He Left: After winning the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, the Chicago Blackhawks signed the Russian netminder to a four-year, $27 million contract as the anchor of the team's rebuilding program. It didn't pay dividends until the final season, when the 'Hawks reached the conference final in their first year back in the playoff picture.

    Chicago chose not to re-sign its goalie, who moved on to a four-year deal in Edmonton.

    How He Returned: The Blackhawks survived just fine in Khabibulin's absence, winning a Stanley Cup with Antti Niemi in net in 2010, then with Corey Crawford in 2013. After his contract expired in Edmonton, he was signed to a one-year, $2 million deal to back up Crawford this season.

    The Results: Disaster. Khabibulin played just 168 minutes over four games with the Blackhawks, posting a 1-0-1 record, before being sidelined in November with a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery. That could spell the end of the NHL road for the 41-year-old.