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Five trades from the past 25 years that saw Hall of Fame players swapped

On this day in 1995, the Blues and Whalers swapped Brendan Shanahan and Chris Pronger in a one-for-one deal, and it's not the only time in the past 25 years teams have flipped future Hall of Famers.
Ian Tomlinson /Allsport

Ian Tomlinson /Allsport

On July 27, 1995, the St. Louis Blues and Hartford Whalers combined for a blockbuster trade. The deal, a one-for-one swap, saw the Blues ship off prime-aged scoring winger Brendan Shanahan to the Whalers in return for rearguard Chris Pronger, an up-and-comer who was only two seasons into his NHL career.

When the trade was made, Pronger had only 124 games under his belt, but he was already seen as a promising defenseman with future No. 1 ability written all over him. He had the size, strength and the mean-streak to become one of the fiercest rearguards in the league, and over time that’s exactly what he would become in St. Louis.

Meanwhile, Shanahan would head off to Hartford after eight years of nearly point-per-game play. He was 558 games into his career, over which time he had emerged as a top talent, scoring 224 goals and 520 points split between the Blues and New Jersey Devils. In Hartford, Shanahan would be an immediate impact player, scoring a whopping 44 goals and 78 points in 74 games, but his tenure with the club would end just two games into the 1996-97 campaign after uncertainty surrounding the Whalers led Shanahan to request a trade. The subsequent deal would end up landing Shanahan in Detroit, and, three Stanley Cups later, it’s not hard to see how well that went.

But the most interesting thing about the swap between the Whalers and the Blues isn’t just the level of talent that was traded, it’s that — while neither team could know it at the time — the trade actually saw a rare flip of future Hall of Famers. After hanging up his skates in 2009, Shanahan was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013, and two years later, Pronger, who was forced to retire due to injury, entered the Hall, as well.

Deals of that ilk are rare. So rare, in fact, that you won’t find any deals that involve two Hall of Fame players in the past 15 years. Legendary players simply don’t get flipped that often, and even when they do, it’s rarely for another player who carries the same veteran clout. But that’s not to say Pronger and Shanahan are the only Hall of Fame duo to be traded for one another over the past 25 years. 

Here are five other trades over the past two and a half decades that have seen one Hall of Famer flipped for another:

October 9, 1996

To Detroit Red Wings:
Brendan Shanahan, Brian Glynn

To Hartford Whalers: Paul Coffey, Keith Primeau, 1997 first-round pick

Remember that Shanahan deal to Detroit? Well, it took another future Hall of Famer to get Hartford to agree to ship Shanahan to the Red Wings. At the time of the deal, Paul Coffey was about to enter his mid-30s and well into his NHL career. He already had more than 370 goals and 1,400 points to his name and was one season removed from winning his third Norris Trophy. What the Whalers were set to get in Coffey was a known commodity — and that commodity was one of the best offensive defensemen who has ever played the game.

Unfortunately, like Shanahan, Coffey’s stint in Hartford was even shorter than Shanahan’s. He skated in 20 games with the Whalers in the 1996-97 campaign before being sent off to the Philadelphia Flyers for Kevin Haller, and first- and seventh-round picks in the 1997 draft. The Red Wings definitely came out on top in the deal.

July 4, 1994

To Calgary Flames:
Phil Housley, 1996 second-round pick, 1997 second-round

To St. Louis Blues: Al MacInnis, 1997 fourthr-round pick

Housley’s 1993-94 campaign was a difficult one. Only one year removed from a monster 18-goal, 97-point season with the Winnipeg Jets, Housley played in just 26 games for the Blues. That said, he was effective when he was in the lineup, notching seven goals and 22 points. Unfortunately, he didn’t show St. Louis enough, and when the chance arose for the Blues to ship him off to the Calgary Flames for Al MacInnis, St. Louis jumped on it. And it couldn’t have worked out any better for the Blues.

In St. Louis, MacInnis was brilliant. He started off a bit slow in his first few seasons, but by the 1998-99 campaign — by which time Housley had been traded from and reacquired by the Flames — MacInnis was dominant. At 35, he had what some may call the best season of his career, putting up 20 goals and 62 points in the midst of the dead puck era, earning himself Hart Trophy consideration and winning the Norris for the first time in his career.

March 21, 1994

To Toronto Maple Leafs:
Mike Gartner

To New York Rangers: Glenn Anderson, 1994 fourth-round pick

Unlike other deals that came when the future Hall of Famers were in or close to their primes, the deal that sent Mike Gartner from the Rangers to the Maple Leafs in exchange for Glenn Anderson came at a point when both players were on the back-nine. Gartner, a speedster who had been a consistent 40-goal player during his heyday, was still a 30-goal scorer but the signs of slowing were there, while Anderson, a depth stud on the dynasty Oilers’ teams, was only 80 games away from retirement when he became a Ranger.

That said, Anderson’s ability and presence as a playoff performer is exactly what New York was after heading into the 1994 post-season. Though he was far from the group’s top scorer, Anderson came into the Big Apple for the Blueshirts’ playoff run and contributed three goals and six points as the Rangers broke their 54-year playoff drought. It marked the sixth time Anderson hoisted the Stanley Cup.

February 2, 1993

To Buffalo Sabres:
Grant Fuhr, 1995 fifth-round pick

To Toronto Maple Leafs: Dave Andreychuk, Darren Puppa, 1993 first-round pick

There are power play specialists, and then there’s Dave Andreychuk. When it came to scoring goals with the extra man, he was as good as it gets, and to this day he holds the NHL record for most power play goals, scoring 274 tallies while on the man advantage over the course of his 1,639-game career. And Andreychuk had established himself as a dominant scoring threat early in his career in Buffalo, so when Toronto needed some scoring, they decided to flip starting goaltender Grant Fuhr to the Sabres for some extra help up front.

In Toronto, Andreychuk would continue to light the lamp at a torrid pace, putting up 120 goals, including 53 power play tallies, for the Maple Leafs in 223 games. However, by the 1996 trade deadline, the Maple Leafs decided to send Andreychuk packing for a pair of draft picks.

As for Fuhr, he was forced to share the crease in Buffalo upon his arrival. However, he did share in winning the 1993-94 Jennings Trophy, but that was thanks in large part to a 29-year-old netminder named Dominik Hasek.

June 30, 1992

To Philadelphia Flyers:
Eric Lindros

To Quebec Nordiques: Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, Steve Duchesne, Mike Ricci, Kerry Huffman, 1993 first-round pick, 1994 first-round pick

The Flyers went all-in to land Lindros from the Nordiques, and it took a seven-player package, which also included $15 million, to bring the ‘Big E’ to Philadelphia.

Lindros, of course, was worth every piece of the deal. In his rookie season, he scored 41 goals and 75 points. He followed that up with a 44-goal, 97-point campaign. And by his third season, 1994-95, Lindros captured dual MVP honors, the Hart and Pearson, with 29 goals and 70 points. But another piece of the Lindros trade was making his own mark on the league that same season: rookie Peter Forsberg.

Forsberg, who had been drafted sixth-overall in 1991 before being flipped to Quebec, made his NHL debut in the shortened season and wowed everyone with a 15-goal, 50-point output, earning himself the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. And over the next several seasons, following the Nordiques’ relocation to become the Colorado Avalanche, Forsberg would grow into the top two-way center in the league. He reached his pinnacle in 2002-03 — by which time Lindros was a New York Ranger — capturing the Hart, Art Ross and finishing fourth in Selke voting in the same campaign.

On a team level, Forsberg had far more success, winning two Stanley Cups with the Avalanche, but injuries hampered the careers of both players. Forsberg finished his playing days with 249 goals and 885 points in 708 games, while Lindros managed 372 goals and 865 points in 760 games.

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