6 Major NHL Breakups That Led to Blockbuster Trades

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2021

6 Major NHL Breakups That Led to Blockbuster Trades

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    A trade involving a big-name NHL player always generates plenty of surprise and excitement whenever they go down. A level of entertaining intrigue adds spice to those deals whenever they're the result of a falling-out between a star and his team.

    The NHL has seen its share of big stars getting moved following a breakup with their teams. Hall of Famers such as Patrick Roy, Eric Lindros and Martin St. Louis were among the most noteworthy to change clubs following a spat with a coach or general manager.

    Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel and St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko could soon join that list. Eichel and the Sabres are at an impasse over treatment for a herniated disk in his neck. Tarasenko, meanwhile, is reportedly unhappy with how the Blues' medical staff handled two of his three shoulder surgeries.

    As we await the fates of Eichel and Tarasenko, here's a look at six noteworthy NHL breakups that led to blockbuster trades. Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts on this topic in the comments section.

Pierre-Luc Dubois Swapped for Patrik Laine

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    Blockbuster trades are rare occurrences in today's salary-cap world. Scarcer are two players unhappy with their respective teams getting swapped for each other. That's what happened on Jan. 23, 2021, as the Columbus Blue Jackets shipped center Pierre-Luc Dubois and a 2022 third-round pick to the Winnipeg Jets for forwards Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic.

    Dubois, a talented two-way forward, was the Jackets' first-line center entering 2020-21. He signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the club on New Year's Eve 2020 but soon made it known he wanted a trade. "Yeah, he wants out," then-coach John Tortorella admitted on Jan. 13 during an interview before the club's season opener.

    Tortorella declined to state the reasons behind Dubois' request, sparking speculation the two were butting heads. That conjecture grew after the center was benched for a lack of effort during a 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 22.

    Following the trade, however, Dubois denied any rift with Tortorella. He didn't reveal his reasons for his trade request other than to admit it was something he'd thought about for some time.

    Laine, meanwhile, is among the league's notable scorers, reaching a career-best 44-goal performance in 2017-18. However, the young left winger was unhappy with his second-line role with the Jets.

    When the trade went down, NHL.com's Tim Campbell recounted that Laine made public his desire for first-line minutes prior to signing a two-year, $13.5 million contract on Sept. 27, 2019. He also pointed out the sniper's agent last summer suggested that a trade might be beneficial for his client and the Jets.

    It's too early to tell which team won this trade, but the immediate results weren't promising. Injuries and an already-shortened schedule further compressed by game postponements caused by COVID-19 led to Dubois and Laine struggling through career-worst performances. Dubois had only 20 points in 41 games with the Jets, while Laine managed 21 points in 45 contests with the Blue Jackets.

Martin St. Louis Bolts for the New York Rangers

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    Martin St. Louis was one of the greatest players in Tampa Bay Lightning history. Their all-time leader with 588 assists and 953 points, he became their first player to win the Hart Memorial Trophy, the Art Ross Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award. He also helped them win their first Stanley Cup in 2004.

    St. Louis' tenure with the Lightning, however, ended on March 5, 2014. In a stunning move, he was traded to the New York Rangers for winger Ryan Callahan, a first-round pick and a conditional second-round pick.

    The move was made at St. Louis' request. He initially requested a trade after Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, who was also the executive director of Canada's 2014 men's Olympic hockey team, passed over the veteran winger in his initial selection of the Canadian roster. Yzerman would later choose St. Louis as a replacement for the sidelined Steven Stamkos.

    His pride stung, St. Louis again asked Yzerman to be traded. In a June 10, 2014 interview with the Tampa Bay Times' Tom Jones, St. Louis said he wanted to be moved because he could no longer believe in a man (Yzerman) who no longer believed in him.

    St. Louis went on to play a key role in the Rangers' march to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final with eight goals and 15 points. He played one more season with the Blueshirts and hung up his skates on July 2, 2015. St. Louis would later reconcile with Yzerman and the Lightning, who retired his No. 26 on Jan. 13, 2017. The following year, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018.

Pavel Bure Forces the Vancouver Canucks to Trade Him

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    Pavel Bure was one of hockey's most electrifying scorers. Bursting onto the NHL stage with the Vancouver Canucks in 1991-92, The Russian Rocket won the Calder Memorial Trophy in the first season of what became a memorable but injury-shortened career.

    Bure followed up his impressive NHL debut with back-to-back 60-goal seasons. Injuries limited him to just 59 games over the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons and held him to 63 games in 1996-97. However, he regained his high-scoring form with 51 goals and 90 points in 1997-98.

    That season, however, was Bure's last with the Canucks, with him refusing to report for the '98-'99 season until they traded him. On Jan. 18, 1999, they shipped him to the Florida Panthers in a seven-player swap. Defenseman Ed Jovanovski was among four players the Canucks received in return.

    Bad blood had simmered between Bure and management for years. Then-Canucks general manager Brian Burke said the superstar felt the organization hadn't supported him in the past and he disliked the fishbowl existence in Vancouver. Following the trade, the Province's Tony Gallagher reported Bure accused someone in the Canucks front office of planting a story that he threatened to withhold his services during the 1994 playoffs.

    Bure would tally 58 goals in 1999-2000 and 59 in 2000-01 with the Panthers, winning the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy in both campaigns. He was traded to the New York Rangers on March 18, 2002, but chronic knee injuries limited him to just 39 games in 2002-03 and forced his retirement in 2005.

    Time helped to heal the wound between Bure and the Canucks. After he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in June 2012, the club honored him by retiring his No. 10 jersey during a pregame ceremony at Rogers Arena on Nov. 2, 2013.

Jaromir Jagr Parts Ways with the Pittsburgh Penguins

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    One of the greatest players in Pittsburgh Penguins history, Jaromir Jagr sits among their all-time career leaders with 439 goals, 640 assists and 1,079 points. In his 11 seasons in Pittsburgh, he helped the team win the Stanley Cup in 1991 and 1992, was a five-time Art Ross Trophy winner, won two of his three Ted Lindsay Awards with them and took home the Hart Memorial Trophy in 1998-99.

    By the 2000-01 season, however, the Penguins were in a difficult financial situation and could no longer afford Jagr's contract. He was unhappy in Pittsburgh by that point, requesting a trade on two occasions. He also seemed uncomfortable being overshadowed by Mario Lemieux's comeback.

    The New York Rangers were interested, but the Penguins got what they considered a better return of promising young players. On July 11, 2001, Jagr was traded to the Washington Capitals in exchange for prospects Kris Beech, Michal Sivek and Ross Lupaschuk. The Caps also paid the Penguins $4.9 million.

    At that point, Ted Leonsis had been the owner of the Capitals for two years. He was seeking a marketable big-name star to build around and improve his club's profile in the Washington area. Unfortunately, it didn't work out and Jagr was shipped to the Rangers on Jan. 23, 2004. Leonsis would eventually get his franchise player in the 2004 NHL draft as his club chose Alex Ovechkin with the first overall pick.

    The Penguins went through some difficult years following the Jagr trade. The youngsters they received from the Capitals failed to pan out. They missed the playoffs four straight years amid rumors of relocation. Drafting Evgeni Malkin in 2004 and Sidney Crosby in 2005 gave them two cornerstones to rebuild into three-time Cup champions. A new arena (PPG Paints Arena) ended the relocation whispers.

    Jagr, meanwhile, spent four seasons with the Rangers before spending three years in the KHL. Returning to the NHL in 2011-12, he spent seven seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames. He returned to his hometown team in Kladno, Czech Republic, where he's preparing for another season at age 49.  

Eric Lindros' Tumultuous Tenure with the Philadelphia Flyers

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    Eric Lindros' tenure with the Philadelphia Flyers began with a trade in 1992 that was the result of a holdout and ended in a similar fashion nine years later.

    As recounted by NHL.com's Adam Kimelman in Nov. 2016, Lindros was chosen first overall by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1991 NHL entry draft. Lindros refused to sign with Quebec, spending the 1991-92 season playing for his junior team in Oshawa, Ontario, as well as Canada's men's Olympic team. He gave them little choice but to trade him after threatening to play outside the NHL in '92-'93 and re-enter the draft.

    The Nordiques' efforts to trade him became a messy affair. On June 20, 1992, they traded Lindros' rights first to Philadelphia and then to the New York Rangers. An arbiter was required to settle the matter, awarding the talented center to the Flyers in a blockbuster deal that sent six players (including Peter Forsberg and Ron Hextall), two first-round picks and $15 million in cash to the Nordiques.

    Lindros enjoyed his best seasons during his eight years in Philadelphia. His career totals with the Flyers (290 goals, 369 assists, 659 points) place him among their all-time franchise leaders. He won the Hart Memorial Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award in 1994-95. He might've accomplished more if not for a series of injuries that plagued him over the course of his career.

    Fast-forward to 2000 and Lindros' deteriorating association with Flyers general manager Bob Clarke had reached the breaking point. His criticism of the team's medical staff over treatment of multiple concussions saw him stripped of his captaincy. A restricted free agent that summer, he sat out the 2000-01 season hoping to force a trade to his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Unable to get dealt to the Leafs, Lindros accepted a trade to the New York Rangers on Aug. 20, 2001. Unlike the deal that brought him to Philadelphia, the Rangers got him for a lesser return involving two players (Jan Hlavac and Kim Johnsson), prospect Pavel Brendl and a 2003 third-round pick.

    Lindros had a respectable 73 points in 72 games during his first season with the Rangers but would never reach those heights again. The physical toll the sport took on his body limited him to 39, 33 and 49 games in his final three seasons with the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars. He retired in 2007 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016. Two years later, he was honored by the Flyers as they retired his No. 88. 

Patrick Roy Bids Adieu to the Montreal Canadiens

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    No other trade in NHL history resulted from such a public falling out as Patrick Roy's move from the Montreal Canadiens to the Colorado Avalanche. The spat that led to the deal took place during a Dec. 2, 1995, game against the Detroit Red Wings in front of a full house in the Montreal Forum and a national television audience in Canada.

    Roy had been the Canadiens' starting goalie and franchise player for a decade up to that night, carrying them to two Stanley Cups while winning the Conn Smythe Trophy twice and the Vezina Trophy three times. The Habs had gotten off to a rocky start in the 1995-96 season, resulting in Mario Tremblay taking over as head coach.

    On Dec. 6, 2020, the Montreal Gazette's Jack Todd recounted the events of that fateful game. Roy and Tremblay's uneasy relationship reached critical mass as the coach humiliated his superstar by leaving him in net for nine goals against before pulling him in an 11-1 loss.

    A fuming Roy stormed past Tremblay to then-team president Ronald Corey seated behind the Montreal bench to tell him he'd played his final game for the Canadiens. He was suspended by the club and traded to the Colorado Avalanche four days later (along with winger Mike Keane) for goaltender Jocelyn Thibault and wingers Martin Rucinsky and Andrei Kovalenko.

    That deal had far-reaching consequences for both clubs. With Roy between the pipes, the Avalanche became one of the NHL's elite clubs until his retirement in 2003, winning two Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001. The Canadiens, meanwhile, went into a free-fall spanning decades. They wouldn't reach the Cup Final again until 2021. 

    Roy was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 13, 2006. He and the Canadiens eventually reconciled as his No. 33 was raised to the rafters of the Bell Centre on Nov. 22, 2008.


    Stats and career accomplishments via Hockey Reference.


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