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Before they were stars: the risky business of trading prospects

Jarome Iginla became a legend in Calgary, but it wouldn't have happened that way if the team that had drafted him didn't trade him away. With Joe Nieuwendyk going the other way to Dallas, the swap worked out for both teams, but it changed the course of hockey history. And that trade doesn't stand alone.
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The Dallas Stars were thrilled when they drafted Jarome Iginla in 1995 and, yes, they did think he’d be available when they chose 11th.

“I believe Central Scouting had him ranked in the twenties,” recalled former Stars director of player personnel Craig Button.

The Stars envisioned Iginla as a future power forward; a John MacLean-type winger who would one day provide them with 25-to-30 goals a season.

Turns out Iginla was better than even the Stars imagined. It also turned out he’d never play a game for the Stars.

When veteran center Joe Nieuwendyk became available, the Stars could not resist even though it would cost them Iginla. He was traded to Calgary, along with center Corey Millen for Nieuwendyk Dec. 19, 1995.

It was a trade that worked for both teams.

It was a strong draft that year with the likes of Bryan Berard, Wade Redden, Aki Berg, Daymond Langkow, Shane Doan and Kyle McLaren being picked ahead of Iginla, but it is safe to say now Dallas got the best player in the Class of ’95. By the way, had Iginla not been available, Dallas would have likely drafted goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere who went two picks later to the Hartford Whalers.

The decision to trade Iginla was not an easy one for the Stars, but as Button recalls, “Detroit had Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov and Colorado had Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. We had Modano and we didn’t feel like we could compete unless we got Mike some help.”

The Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1998-99 and Nieuwendyk was named winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

While he has yet to win the Cup, Iginla has gone on to a Hall of Fame career and developed into a superstar with the Flames, with whom he played 15 seasons.

Iginla recalled being thrilled that the draft was switched from Winnipeg to Edmonton, his hometown, so his family and friends could attend. And he was equally thrilled to be chosen by Dallas.

“After you are picked your next goal is to play your first NHL game,” Iginla said. “At the time I was imagining it would be with the Stars. The truth is, whatever team picked me was going to automatically become my new favorite team.”

He said the trade to Calgary came out of the blue.

“I was at the World Junior camp and I got a call from the coach (Marcel Comeau),” Iginla said. “He told me I had just be traded and my first thought was I had been traded by Kamloops to another WHL team. I was relieved that it was an NHL trade.”

Trading a future star to another team before he gets a chance to play with the team that drafted him is not as rare as one might think. Dirk Graham was chosen in the fifth round by the Vancouver Canucks in 1979 and after spending five years in the minors he finally made his NHL debut with the Minnesota North Stars in 1983-84. Graham went on to captain the Chicago Blackhawks.

Defenseman Sean O’Donnell was a sixth round pick of the Buffalo Sabres, for whom he never played, but he wound up playing 1,224 NHL games and winning a Stanley Cup. Thomas Gradin was drafted by Chicago in 1976, never played for the Blackhawks, but did play 677 NHL games with Vancouver and Boston. Defender Robyn Regehr was drafted 19th overall by the Colorado Avalanche in 1998, but was traded to Calgary as part of the Theoren Fleury trade, and went on to play 1,089 games.

Perhaps the greatest example is the case of Eric Lindros. Drafted first overall in 1991 by the Quebec Nordiques, despite repeated warnings he would not report if they chose him, Lindros was ultimately dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers in one of the biggest trades in NHL history.

Coming back to the Nordiques in the Lindros deal were forwards Chris Simon, Mike Ricci and future Hockey Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg along with defencemen Steve Duchesne and Kerry Huffman, goalie Ron Hextall as well two first round draft picks and a boatload of cash.

The Flyers got one of the most dominant individuals to ever skate in the NHL and the Nordiques got the Stanley Cup (times two), albeit a year after the franchise shifted to Colorado.

The irony of the whole thing is, given the way their NHL careers unfolded, the Nordiques may have won the trade if they had dealt Lindros to Philadelphia for Forsberg straight up. Lindros scored 372 goals and 865 points in 760 games in a career that was cut short because of repeated concussions. He never won the Stanley Cup. Forsberg, meanwhile, also had his career cut short because of a chronic injury, but he managed 249 goals and 885 goals in 708 games and helped the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup in 1996 and 2001. Cups trump everything else.

Hall of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden was selected by the Boston Bruins 14th overall in the third round in the 1964 Amateur Draft, but elected to continue his education at Cornell University. As fate would have it, Dryden ended up with the Montreal Canadiens and when he burst on the NHL scene in 1970-71 he was almost singlehandedly responsible for the Canadiens eliminating the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs en route to the Stanley Cup championship.

The Canadiens pulled one over on the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1975 when they acquired small center Doug Jarvis for defenseman Greg Hubick. Jarvis had been drafted 24th overall by the Maple Leafs that year, but the Maple Leafs were in need of defensive help so they shipped Jarvis to Montreal for Hubick who had been drafted 53rd overall in 1971 and had spent three seasons with in the American League with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs.

Hubick was not the answer in Toronto. He scored six goals and 14 points in 72 games with Toronto in 1975-76 and concluded his NHL career with an assist in five games with the Vancouver Canucks in 1979-80. All Jarvis did was win Stanley Cups in his first four seasons with Montreal, set an NHL record by playing in 964 consecutive games and win the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward in 1983-84. A dependable two-way player, Jarvis scored 139 goals and 403 points in 964 games.

Even though the Canadiens were his favorite team, Jarvis was thrilled to be drafted by the Maple Leafs. Toronto was close to his hometown, Brantford, Ont., as well as where he played junior hockey, in Peterborough. Also, the Maple Leafs were losing veteran centers Norm Ullman and Dave Keon so Jarvis figured he had a decent shot at making the team.

When Jarvis found he had been traded to Montreal, he looked at Montreal’s roster and took into consideration what the Habs had in their minor league system and wasn’t as convinced his next stop would be the NHL.

“I was just determined within myself to find my way to training camp, do the best I can and we’ll see what takes place,” Jarvis said. “It worked out alright.”


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