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On anniversary of Maple Leafs’ Sundin deal, here are the best franchise players acquired by trade

The draft has given Sidney Crosby to the Penguins, Connor McDavid to the Oilers and Alex Ovechkin to the Capitals. But not every franchise player is drafted. Here are five who were acquired via trade.

Historically, all the top franchise players in league history have found their way to their respective homes by way of the draft. It’s why the annual selection process is one of the most important events of the NHL calendar. It’s a chance for each franchise to find the next player who can change the fate.

In the past 15 years, it’s been the draft that has seen Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Connor McDavid land in Pittsburgh, Washington, Chicago and Edmonton, respectively, with each going on to become award winners, title holders and undeniable leaders of their squads. It goes beyond the current generation of stars, however, as the draft is where some of the all-time greats, from Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr to Joe Sakic and Ray Bourque, have landed in their respective homes.

But the draft isn’t the only way to land a franchise-altering star, and June 28 has a history of being a monumental day for a pair of Canadian franchises. It was on this date in 1964 when the Montreal Canadiens made a deal to land a young goaltender by the name of Ken Dryden in a swap with the rival Boston Bruins, and 30 years later, in 1994, the Toronto Maple Leafs decided to send legendary leader Wendel Clark to the Quebec Nordiques for a 22-year-old Mats Sundin.

For both teams, the acquisitions brought an undeniable star. 

Dryden made his way to Montreal 1970-71 campaign and immediately guide the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup, capturing the Conn Smythe trophy with all of six regular season games under his belt. He would go on to win 258 games in the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge, capturing five Vezina Trophies and another five Stanley Cups along the way, before going down in history as one of the greatest goaltenders in the storied history of the Canadiens.

As for Sundin, he would have much more longevity wearing Maple Leafs’ colors. The big Swedish center became Toronto’s captain four seasons into his tenure, went on to become the top scorer in franchise history and was the biggest star the team had upon his arrival and well into the 2000s as his career wound down.

And while it may not be common to trade for a franchise player the likes of Dryden or Sundin, they’re not the only stars to burn brighter in a new home. Here are five other franchise players who were acquired via trade:

5. Markus Naslund, Vancouver Canucks

A first round pick, 16th-overall, of the Penguins in 1991, Naslund has struggled to find any consistency in Pittsburgh to start his career. Through his first 85 games in the league, spread across two seasons, he had managed six goals and 15 points and wasn’t really a contributing member of the mid-90s Penguins. But after he broke out for 19 goals and 52 points in 66 games in 1995-96, Pittsburgh decided to sell high, shipping Naslund to Vancouver for Alek Stojanov, who had been taken nine picks earlier in the 1991 draft.

Well, that was quite the mistake. It would have been a bad trade for the Penguins either way — Stojanov played 45 games, scoring two goals and six points for Pittsburgh — but it was made that much worse by Naslund’s impact in Vancouver. In his first full season, he cracked 20 goals and 40 points and by his prime he was a consistent 40-goal threat, earning himself MVP honors in 2002-03 with a 48-goal, 104-point campaign.

Trevor Linden may have been the heart and soul player for the Canucks, but Naslund was the scoring star that made the offense tick. By the time his stay in Vancouver ended, Naslund had scored 346 goals and 756 points in 884 games as a Canuck. At the time, he was the highest scoring Canuck in franchise history.

4. Brett Hull, St. Louis Blues

As the Calgary Flames headed toward the 1988 playoffs, the feeling was that they needed to bulk up on the blueline. So, with the post-season in the offing, the Flames decided to flip promising youngster Hull, who had scored 26 goals and 50 points in 52 games to that point in the campaign, for Rob Ramage and goaltender Rick Wamsley. And while the Flames won the Stanley Cup the following season with Ramage on defense and Wamsley backing up in goal, they likely would have taken Hull back in a heartbeat.

The season after being shipped to Calgary, Hull started to find the form that made him one of the most lethal goal scorers in the world, and his first full season saw him net 41 goals and 84 points in 78 games. But that was barely even a taste of what Hull could do. Over the next three campaigns, Hull scored 228 goals (!) in 231 games (!!) while capturing dual MVP honors in 1990-91. It should be noted that he did so by scoring 86 goals and 131 points in 78 games, beating out Wayne Gretzky, who posted 163 points, for the hardware.

Hull would go on to play 11 seasons in St. Louis, notching 527 goals and 936 points in 744 games, finishing his time as a Blue as the second-highest scorer in franchise history.

3. Marcel Dionne, Los Angeles Kings

Four seasons after being selected second-overall by the Detroit Red Wings, Dionne had established himself as one of the brightest young stars in the game. His 139 goals and 366 points were nearly 100 more points than any other Red Wing over that span and included a monster 47-goal, 121-point campaign in 1974-75. But a dispute over money led to Dionne looking for a new home, and he found himself shipped to the Kings ahead of the 1975-76 season.

In Los Angeles, Dionne would become the franchise’s first true legendary player. Before there was a Gretzky or Luc Robitaille in Los Angeles, it was Dionne who brought Kings fans to their feet. He dazzled when he touched the puck and absolutely peppered opposition netminders, dotting the score sheet on a nightly basis en route to a remarkable 550 goals and 1,307 points in 921 games as a King. Trouble was that Dionne rarely had another star to play alongside. 

Dionne’s outstanding point total was, get this, 513 points more than any other player racked up in Los Angeles in the decade he spent as a King, and Dionne’s teams only earned their way through the first round of the post-season three times during his stay.

2. Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks

Selanne broke into the league in 1992-93 with a dream season. In 84 games, the ‘Finnish Flash’ scored 76 goals, 132 points, captured the Calder Trophy, finished sixth in Hart Trophy voting and made the league’s first all-star team. He was incredible in a way that few rookies have ever been and a freshman campaign like his is unlikely to happen ever again. And that’s what made his trade only two and a half seasons later so shocking.

Sure, Selanne had fallen off a bit — he followed up his rookie year with 47 goals and 102 points in 96 games — but he was coming back alive in 1995-96, netting 24 goals and 72 points in 51 games befor the trade to Anaheim. But the Jets’, and subsequently the Coyotes’, loss was the then-Might Ducks’ gain. Selanne came to California and was almost immediately a 100-point player again, earning Hart consideration in each of his first three seasons as a Duck and capturing his third goal-scoring title in 1998-99 with a 47-goal season. 

Selanne would go on to have two stints in Anaheim, the first lasting 394 games and the second spanning nine years and 572 games, over which time he added 232 goals and 506 points to his already considerable totals as a Duck. When he finally hung up his skates in following 2013-14, he did so as Anaheim’s all-time leading goal scorer (457), assist leader (531) and points leader (988).

1. Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames

Do the Stars win the 1998-99 Stanley Cup without Joe Nieuwendyk, who captured the Conn Smythe with his outstanding playoff effort? Maybe not, but it’s not likely a deal Dallas would have made had they known the type of player Iginla would go on to become for the Flames.

At the time of the deal, Iginla had yet to suit up in the NHL, having only been selected 11th overall by the Stars months earlier, but he found his way out of the WHL and into the NHL by 1996-97 as an instant young star for the Flames. His rookie campaign was a 21-goal, 50-point year that saw him finish second in Calder voting, and by his third season in Calgary, Iginla had become the goal-scoring, hard-hitting, heart-and-soul player that near everyone has come to love over the course of his career.

Iginla is almost inarguably the best franchise player ever acquired by trade, and he’s the player most synonymous with the Flames for entire generations of fans. Over the course of his time in Calgary, Iginla won two goal scoring crowns, one Art Ross as the league’s highest scorer, got an MVP nod in 2001-02 and made four end-of-season all-star teams. Not only that, but he wore the ‘C’ in Calgary for nine seasons, is the franchise’s all-time leader in games played (1,129), goals (525) and points (1,095).



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