Skip to main content

Picking winners of five blockbuster trades from the past 25 years

Ray Bourque to Colorado? Mike Gartner to the Rangers? If hindsight is 20/20, then some teams must have made these deals in the dark, given how badly they turned out.
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

NORTH STARS ACQUIRE: Ulf Dahlen; 1990 4th-rounder (Cal McCowan); 1991 4th-rounder (Alexei Zhitnik)
THE BREAKDOWN: After a decade in Washington, Gartner hadn’t played a full season with the North Stars before being traded on deadline day 1990 for a package that included then-23-year-old Dahlen and two draft picks – the better of which (Zhitnik) was flipped to L.A. for two years of Todd Elik. Dahlen blossomed, scoring 92 goals in three seasons. But Gartner peeled off three straight seasons of at least 40 goals, playing a big role in two playoff runs before he was dealt to Toronto for Glenn Anderson a few months before the Blueshirts’ 1994 Cup win.

CANADIENS ACQUIRE: Vladimir Malakhov; Pierre Turgeon
ISLANDERS ACQUIRE: Kirk Muller; Mathieu Schneider; Craig Darby
THE BREAKDOWN: Montreal was only two years removed from a Stanley Cup but well out of the playoffs when GM Serge Savard pulled the trigger on a blockbuster in 1995: he moved Muller and Schneider to Long Island for Malakhov and Turgeon, who was then dealt to St. Louis in 1996 in a multi-player deal to bring Shayne Corson back for a second stint with the Habs. Savard was fired early in 1995-96, but considering Muller and Schneider were dealt by the Isles before the end of that campaign, this trade was a win for the Canadiens.
AVALANCHE ACQUIRE: Ray Bourque; Dave Andreychuk
BRUINS ACQUIRE: Brian Rolston; Sammy Pahlsson; Martin Grenier; 2000 1st-rounder (Martin Samuelsson)
THE BREAKDOWN: Given the dedication to the franchise Bourque showed in his service to the Bruins over 21 seasons, the magnitude of the star blueliner and longest-serving captain in team history being dealt to Colorado in 2000 can’t be overstated even now. Neither can the fact the Bruins lost out on this trade about as badly as a team can when trading an icon.

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The Avalanche weren’t Bourque’s first choice. After Boston sunk to the bottom of the Northeast Division, he requested a trade, preferably to an East Coast team. But 10 days before the March 16 trade deadline, Bruins GM Harry Sinden went with what he thought was the best return for Bourque and veteran winger Dave Andreychuk, and it came from Colorado: forward Brian Rolston (who’d already been traded from New Jersey to the Avs earlier that season); then-23-year-old center Samuel Pahlsson (finishing up his final year in his native Sweden); defensive prospect Martin Grenier; and a first-round pick in 2000 or 2001, (the choice Boston’s, and the Bruins took Swedish winger Martin Samuelsson 27th overall in 2000 with it).

The deal didn’t immediately pay championship dividends for Bourque and the Avalanche, though they did make it to Game 7 of the Western Conference final in 2000 before losing to the eventual-champion Dallas Stars. Bourque had eight assists and nine points in 13 post-season games that year, but at 39 he could’ve retired or signed with a different team as an unrestricted free agent. However, he re-signed for one final season, and after posting his best regular season numbers in five years, Bourque was instrumental in Colorado’s second Cup win. Andreychuk wasn’t part of that Cup-winning squad, having moved on at the end of 1999-00. But even if you only count Bourque’s 94 regular season games and 34 playoff games as Colorado’s bounty in the trade, it beats what Boston got: Rolston played four strong years for the Bruins but left for nothing in 2004 as a UFA; Pahlsson played only 17 games for Boston before being shipped to Anaheim for Andrei Nazarov and Patrick Traverse; Grenier never played for the Bruins; and Samuelsson appeared in just 14 games with the team.
AVALANCHE ACQUIRE: Chris Gratton; Ossi Vaananen; 2005 2nd-rounder (Paul Stastny)
COYOTES ACQUIRE: Keith Ballard; Derek Morris
THE BREAKDOWN: Arizona made this deal the day before the 2004 trade deadline. In hindsight, GM Mike Barnett should’ve waited the extra day and reconsidered. Ballard and Morris were staples on ‘D,’ but neither was around when the Coyotes made the playoffs in 2010 for the first time since 2002. On the other hand, despite forward Gratton leaving Colorado at season’s end and Vaananen giving them solid work on the blueline, the decisive point is the second-rounder that became Stastny. He’s an ex-Av now, but he was the best player in this swap.
BRUINS ACQUIRE: Dennis Seidenberg; Matt Bartkowski
PANTHERS ACQUIRE: Byron Bitz; Craig Weller; 2010 2nd-rounder (Alex Petrovic)
THE BREAKDOWN: This looks to have been a badly bungled deal by Panthers management. Seidenberg spent less than a full season in Florida before GM Randy Sexton shipped him and Bartkowski to Boston where Seidenberg was a key component in the Bruins’ 2010-11 championship run. Bitz skated in seven games for Florida and only played another 10 NHL games after that, while Weller never played any. Petrovic projects to be an NHLer, but he’ll have to be exceptionally good to make this 2010 deal even close to a wash.
This is feature appears in the March 9 edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.



NHL Hot Seat Radar: Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins' competitive window is shrinking – something that happens to virtually every successful franchise – so it's up to the team's management to see how they approach both the short- and long-term future.

Juraj Slafkovsky

Prospect Pool Overview: Montreal Canadiens

From making the Stanley Cup final to snagging the first overall pick, the Montreal Canadiens have had a riveting last year and a half. Tony Ferrari looks at the team's prospect pool and who you need to get excited about.


Jets Sign Appleton to Three-Year Extension, Avoid Arbitration

The Winnipeg Jets and forward Mason Appleton have avoided arbitration, agreeing to terms on a three-year contract extension.