Ranking the NHL's Biggest Trade Coups of the Past Decade
Good trades can make a world of difference for an NHL franchise, and each of the 30 general managers in the league is looking to do just that as the Feb. 29 deadline approaches.
Not all GMs are going to be able to give their teams a chance to compete this spring, but even the sellers will be looking to load up for the future if they can find a team willing to part with some nice pieces in exchange for a chance at glory.
On the subject of wheeling and dealing, we're using this space to rank the biggest scores of the last decade of negotiating in the NHL. We're looking at deadline deals, draft-day swaps, offseason and midseason moves as equally eligible—with criteria for the rankings including immediate impact, long-term influence and, of course, championship conclusions.
Outside the window and setting the stage for the last decade were the blockbuster deals in 2005 involving Chris Pronger to the Edmonton Oilers, Joe Thornton to the San Jose Sharks, and Patrick Sharp to the Chicago Blackhawks—all huge deals with massive impact.
We're also not including some of this past calendar year's strong additions, such as the recent arrival of former superstar Vincent Lecavalier (pictured above) at the Los Angeles Kings, reigniting his offensive flair, or Jaromir Jagr's move to the Florida Panthers, boosting the play of his young linemates—but they could find themselves on a similar list to this one another nine years in the future.
Click ahead to count down one writer's ranking of the biggest coups of the last 10 years, and leave your own contributions in the comment section.
9. Brotherly Love Lands Van Riemsdyk in Leafs Land
The Deal: The Philadelphia Flyers deal James van Riemsdyk straight up to the Toronto Maple Leafs for defenseman Luke Schenn on June 23, 2012.
The Coup: It's hard to believe these two players were ever valued evenly by any NHL franchises, but Schenn was a 22-year-old who looked like he might turn into a solid two-way defenseman with size and some offensive ability.
He was the fifth overall draft pick in 2008, and the Flyers may have felt his presence would help brother Brayden find his game at the NHL level. But Luke's game went south quickly with the Flyers, and he's since been sent to Los Angeles.
Van Riemsdyk, meanwhile, turned into a productive power forward, complementing former Leafs superstar Phil Kessel for three seasons and becoming one of the team's top pieces for its rebuild under coach Mike Babcock.
8. Ben Bishop Becomes a Bolt
The Deal: Goaltender Ben Bishop is peddled from the Ottawa Senators to the Tampa Bay Lightning for rookie forward Cory Conacher and a fourth-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft.
The Coup: Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman made off like a bandit in this one. He did the definition of selling high on Conacher and turned a then-overachieving 5'8" forward into a 6'7" starting goaltender who would go on to establish himself as one of the league's elite over the next couple of years.
Bishop is in the first of a two-year extension that pays him $5.95 million a season, and he helped the Bolts reach the Stanley Cup Final in just his second full season with the franchise.
Conacher lasted less than one full season with the Sens before being waived and has since bounced from the Buffalo Sabres to the New York Islanders to the American Hockey League affiliates. He's now employed in Switzerland by SC Bern.
Bishop was a 2016 All-Star and someone Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur considers one of the best in the game today, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
7. Neal and Niskanen Fly to the Penguins
The Deal: The Dallas Stars traded winger James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins for defenseman Alex Goligoski on Feb. 21, 2011.
The Coup: Neal was slumping at the time of the trade and Goligoski was peaking as a young point producer. Niskanen had faded after a strong couple of years to start his career.
But while Goligoski has played a big role as a puck-moving defenseman for the Stars since the swap, Neal recovered to become a bona fide sniper and help the Penguins to an Eastern Conference Final in 2013 and a second-round showdown against the New York Rangers two years ago. The Stars, meanwhile, have made one first-round appearance.
Considering Goligoski and Niskanen have posted similar numbers the past few years, it's almost as if Neal joined the Pens for free.
6. Minnesota Wild Rescue Goaltender Devan Dubnyk
The Deal: The Minnesota Wild picked up goaltender Devan Dubnyk from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a third-round pick at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft on January 14, 2015.
The Coup: Not only did the Wild land a starting goaltender for the price of a spare part, but the incredible play by Dubnyk over the second half of the 2014-15 season launched the team into the playoff hunt and ultimately locked up a postseason berth.
Thanks in part to the goalie's strong play, the Wild went on to win in the opening round against the St. Louis Blues, making millions in unexpected revenue with the extra games, and then they used some of that dough in the offseason to ink Dubnyk to a six-year deal worth $4.3 million to solidify the position for years to come.
The Coyotes, meanwhile, wound up selecting long-term project forward Brendan Warren with that draft pick. It will be years before he makes any kind of NHL impact—if he ever does. The Wild won the lottery in a big way with the surprise deal of last season.
5. Canucks Land Bobby Lou
The Deal: Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo, defenseman Lukas Krajicek and a sixth-round pick are sent to the Vancouver Canucks on June 23, 2006, for goalie Alex Auld, defenseman Bryan Allen and winger Todd Bertuzzi.
The Coup: The Panthers may have felt forced to make a deal because of a rocky relationship between GM Mike Keenan and Luongo, and the resulting trade was incredibly lopsided in spite of the numbers involved favoring the Floridians.
Big Bert was never the same player after leaving the Canucks and missed the majority of the 2006-07 season because of a back injury that required surgery before being traded to the Detroit Red Wings—where he experienced a slight revival.
Auld played just one year with the Panthers, and Allen wasn't mobile enough to make a positive impact in the post-lockout NHL.
Luongo, meanwhile, was part of a dominant Canucks team for years, highlighted by a run to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Although they felt short on the championship front, Luongo gave the Canucks an elite franchise goalie for more than half a decade.
4. Tuukka Rask's Future a Bruin
The Deal: The Toronto Maple Leafs deal the rights to netminder Tuukka Rask to the Toronto Maple Leafs for goaltender Andrew Raycroft on June 24, 2006.
The Coup: While Raycroft was named rookie of the year just two years prior, this deal was a landslide win for the Boston Bruins. Raycroft's career with the Leafs lasted just two seasons, and the young netminder they had tagged to take over the crease eventually, Justin Pogge, never panned out despite his size and junior hockey pedigree.
Rask, meanwhile, has become a superstar for the Bruins. He helped the team get back to the Stanley Cup Final in 2013 after he backed up Tim Thomas for the 2011 title. Rask won the Vezina Trophy in 2014, and at just 28, he appears to have many years left in the tank as a top goaltender in the NHL.
3. Seguin Scooped Up by Dallas Stars
The Deal: The Boston Bruins send center Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars along with forward Rich Peverley and defenseman Ryan Button on July 4, 2013 for winger Loui Eriksson and prospects Joseph Morrow, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser.
The Coup: Looking back, it's hard to believe the Bruins didn't even get a draft pick as part of the package for the second overall pick in the 2010 draft who had already posted a nearly 30-goal season and hit 67 points as a sophomore. Instead, the Stars gave up a decent two-way veteran forward in Eriksson and a few prospects who were—and remain—far from the elite status Seguin projected to.
So what do the Bruins have to show for it now? Eriksson is having a season equal to his career best, but it has come as an impending free agent. Fraser is an AHLer with another organization. Smith is a member of the Florida Panthers and is outperforming the guy he was swapped for, Jimmy Hayes. Morrow is a mediocre plug-and-play option on the Bruins blue line.
If the Bruins don't sign Eriksson or get something solid in return at the deadline this year, they'll have little left from the Seguin deal. The Stars have a perennial Art Ross and Maurice Richard Trophy candidate.
2. Gaborik Sheds Jackets to Help Crown Kings
The Deal: The Columbus Blue Jackets acquire Matt Frattin, a second-round pick in 2015 and a third-round selection in 2014 for Marian Gaborik.
The Coup: Neither Matt Frattin nor either of the picks have amounted to anything promising for the Blue Jackets, and Gaborik became one of the stars of the Kings' postseason run in 2014. Without Gaborik, the second Stanley Cup in three years likely wouldn't have been possible for the Kings, who struggled over the first half of the regular season but flourished with the addition of the oft-injured sniper.
Gaborik stayed healthy and scored 14 goals in 26 games to lead the NHL in the playoffs. He followed up with a decent year, but the Kings missed the postseason. He's struggling mightily this year, but his impact was made immediately. Everything since has been gravy for the Kings.
1. Mark Recchi in Like a Hurricane
The Deal: Veteran Mark Recchi joins the Carolina Hurricanes on March 9, 2006, in return for Krystofer Kolanos, Niklas Nordgren and a second-round pick in 2007.
The Coup: The payoff of a trade doesn't always have to be long-term to be considered successful. In the case of Recchi to the Hurricanes for a meager few months, it was short but sweet. Giving up nothing but a couple of spare parts in Kolanos and Nordgren, and a pick that was later traded away, provided a key piece in the Canes' first Stanley Cup triumph.
Recchi was a proven winner and leader, and immediately affected the locker room in a positive way for the shocking champions. Although he provided little offense in his 20 regular-season games—four goals and seven points) he exploded with key contributions in the playoffs, netting seven goals and 16 points in 25 contests, including six points in the Stanley Cup Final.