Ranking the 5 Biggest Trades in Detroit Red Wings History
The trade deadline is one of the most exciting days of the season for hockey fans, and it’s fast approaching.
It’s a time when rumors swirl around big-name players, competing teams look to improve their lineup and others begin the rebuilding stage.
The Detroit Red Wings are right in the thick of things but are not in a pristine position to buy or sell. However, that hasn’t always been the case.
This year, Detroit is likely to stand pat because of its strain under the salary cap. With seven players coming off the books and approximately $21 million in cap space, it is safer to bet it’ll wait until the offseason.
In years past, the Red Wings have been consistent buyers at the trade deadline and haven’t been afraid to throw around draft picks like Skittles at a Seattle Seahawks game.
Even if a move isn’t made, it is still fun to think about some of the biggest deals the Red Wings have swung over the years.
Some have included an immense number of assets, a few have included some of the biggest names in hockey and others became the catalyst for substantial change in the organization—for better and worse.
With that, here are the five biggest trades in Detroit Red Wings history.
5. Frank Mahovlich to Montreal for Mickey Redmond, Guy Charron and Bill Collins
Under general manager Ned Harkness, Detroit made multiple deals that opened the floodgates and began the “Dead Wings” era.
In 1971, the Detroit Red Wings were in shambles, and Harkness started to make changes. Other league GMs saw the trouble Detroit was in and began making moves to better themselves.
Montreal GM Sam Pollock jumped at the opportunity to acquire Frank Mahovlich, sending Detroit Guy Charron, Bill Collins and Mickey Redmond in exchange.
Mahovlich helped the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup that season, while Redmond would become the most successful piece on Detroit’s end.
He would score 40 or more goals in each of the next three seasons, including back-to-back 50-goal seasons. He was the first 50-goal scorer in Detroit Red Wings history.
Redmond has been the team’s TV analyst since 1986 and has been a significant member of the organization since his retirement.
Mahovlich won two Stanley Cups with the Canadiens, but his trade out of Detroit contributed to the irrelevance the Red Wings would suffer until the 1980s.
4. Slava Kozlov and First-Round Pick to Buffalo for Dominik Hasek
July 1, 2001 was the first day in one of the biggest summers in Detroit Red Wings history.
The Detroit Red Wings would sign Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull in free agency, but the biggest move was trading Slava Kozlov and their first-round pick in 2002 to the Buffalo Sabres for Dominik Hasek.
The year before, goaltender Chris Osgood had a rough postseason. Detroit held a 2-0 lead when the seventh-seeded Los Angeles Kings won four straight to clinch the series in six games.
Detroit decided a change was necessary and acquired Hasek.
Although the 2001-02 Detroit Red Wings were chock-full of Hall of Famers, Hasek won 41 of his 65 starts and posted a 2.17 goals-against average.
He also recorded six postseason shutouts on his way to a Stanley Cup title.
Hasek spent parts of four seasons with Detroit, won 64 percent of his starts and was part of two Stanley Cup championship teams.
The deal pushed Detroit over the top and gave it the legitimate Vezina Trophy candidate it lacked for a long while.
Some big names were involved in the deal, but unlike the previous slide, this move led Detroit back to the Promised Land and added to its storied history.
3. Garry Unger Acquired and Traded Away
In 1968, Detroit sent Norm Ullman, Paul Henderson, Floyd Smith and Doug Barrie to Toronto for Frank Mahovlich, Garry Unger, Pete Stemkowski and the rights to Carl Brewer.
One of the biggest trades in team history in regards to total players, Mahovlich and Unger would each play parts of four seasons in Detroit before the “Darkness with Harkness” set in.
The deal to acquire Mahovlich and Unger came when Sid Abel was general manager of the Red Wings. At the time, the team was working their way back to the postseason after missing two straight years.
The deal would work out well with the two forwards, but it didn’t last long. From 1968-1970, those two combined to score 153 goals, and Detroit returned to the playoffs.
In 1970, Detroit owner Bruce Norris fired Abel and promoted Ned Harkness from coach to GM after players filed a grievance concerning Harkness. He was a strict disciplinarian, and it did not sit well with players.
The deal came less than a month after trading Mahovlich to Montreal, and the team would go on to miss the playoffs 12 of the next 13 seasons.
Both deals come in at No. 3 on this list because each had an effect on the club’s success and included big-name players.
It was a great trade for Detroit in the beginning, but politics caused disastrous fallout, ushering in the darkest stage in team history.
2. Ted Lindsay and Glenn Hall to Chicago for Four Players and Cash
The Detroit Red Wings were flying high when a falling out with general manager Jack Adams sent Ted Lindsay packing.
Lindsay helped organize the NHL Players’ Association in 1957 in order to ensure the league negotiated fairly with free agents. Adams and Lindsay were not on good terms beforehand, and Lindsay’s involvement turned their relationship sour.
Wilson and Kennedy combined to score just 37 goals and 103 points with Detroit after the trade. Bassen won just 33 of his 98 games played in six seasons, and Bill Preston never played for the Red Wings.
The deal was massive and quite one-sided in favor of Chicago. It was done out of spite, but the impact it had on both teams was potent.
It certainly wasn’t one of the best in Detroit Red Wings history, but by headline and effect, it certainly ranks as one of the biggest.
1. Paul Coffey, Keith Primeau and Draft Pick to Hartford for Brendan Shanahan
Easily one of the biggest trades and most deserving on this list, the acquisition of Brendan Shanahan was the catalyst for Detroit’s Stanley Cup titles in the 1990s.
It needed a pure scorer, significant toughness among the top-six forwards and a heavy shot on the power play.
Brendan Shanahan provided all of it.
On October 9, 1997, Detroit general manager Ken Holland sent Paul Coffey, Keith Primeau and a first-round pick to the Hartford Whalers for Shanahan and Brian Glynn.
In his first season with Detroit, he scored 46 goals, 20 of which came on the power play, and amassed 131 penalty minutes. He is the only player in NHL history with 600 goals and 2,000 penalty minutes.
According to Katie Strang of ESPN.com, he was what Holland called one of the “pivotal pieces of the puzzle” for the late '90s Detroit team.
His contributions include seven 30-goal seasons, three 40-goal campaigns, 1,037 penalty minutes and three Stanley Cup titles in nine seasons with Detroit.
Shanahan’s contributions alone are worthy of the top spot, but the names involved going the other way make the exchange the largest in team history.