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Eight of the NHL's worst trades of all time
As we draw nearer to the NHL trade deadline (Feb. 26), let's take a few moments to look back at some of the dumbest, most ill-advised trades ever consummated between two NHL teams. These aren't the only bad trades ever made, but they are certainly among the worst.
To borrow an adage from another sport, any free-swinging baseball slugger will tell you that two extreme outcomes can happen when you take that big swing at a pitch: You can hit a home run, or you can look silly corkscrewing yourself into the ground after completely whiffing. That's what happened in the following big NHL trades. (Keep in mind, however, that every foolhardy trade on this list made the opposite team's brass look absolutely brilliant.)
Trade: The Vancouver Canucks traded Cam Neely and its first-round draft pick in 1987 to the Boston Bruins for Barry Pederson.
Date: June 6, 1986
Outcome: Neely was 21 when this trade was made and was coming off three pretty good seasons for the Canucks. There was ample evidence that he was about to turn into the prototypical power forward. Instead, the Canucks swapped him for a guy who was three inches shorter, 40 pounds lighter and four years older, who really didn't like to hit or be hit. To compound the idiocy of this trade, the Bruins turned the draft pick they received into Glen Wesley. Not a bad return for Pederson. Had Neely been able to stay healthy in the second half of his career, he would have probably reached the 1,000-point mark.
Trade: The Detroit Red Wings traded Adam Oates and Paul MacLean to the St. Louis Blues for Bernie Federko and Tony McKegney.
Date: June 15, 1989.
Outcome: The Wings moved a budding superstar playmaker and a guy coming off a 36-goal season playing on a line with Steve Yzerman and Gerard Gallant for a 33-year-old lifetime member of the Blues who really did not want to move at all and an out-of-shape winger who played all of 14 games with the Wings before moving on. Federko retired after his one season in Detroit (in which he clashed with Yzerman as they jockeyed for locker room leadership superiority), and Oates went on to have a stellar career setting up Brett Hull in St. Louis and Cam Neely in Boston. Oates had his best years in Boston from 1992-96, including a year in which he scored 45 goals, far surpassing his previous (and future) high water marks for goals. As good as he was, Oates got traded often, and during the end of his career became a bit of a center-for-hire at trade deadline time.
Trade: The Vancouver Canucks traded Alek Stojanov to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Markus Naslund.
Date: March 20, 1996.
Outcome: Naslund was just coming into his own with the Pens when they inexplicably sent him away for a former first-round draft pick that went on to play just 45 more NHL games before calling it quits. Meanwhile, Naslund has been with the Canucks ever since and will finish his career with his place on every career leaders list for the Canucks firmly secured. This can only be explained as a failure on the part of the Pittsburgh scouts, who not only couldn't see that Stojanov would never be anything special, but also failed to see that Naslund was on the precipice of becoming a feared NHL sniper.
Trade: The Boston Bruins traded Pit Martin, Jack Norris and Gille Marotte to the Chicago Blackhawks for Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield.
Date: May 15, 1967.
Outcome: The Blackhawks effectively provided the Bruins with the ammunition to become an NHL superpower for years to come, and for very little return. Pit Martin had a good career in Chicago, but he never put up the kinds of numbers Esposito did, and he never won a Cup with the 'Hawks. The other two guys the 'Hawks got played no major role in the team's fortunes over the next few years, while Hodge had nine very productive years in Boston (twice topping the 100-point mark) and Stanfield, one of that era's most underrated players, scored close to 80 points per season playing on the third line. This trade changed the balance of power in the NHL at the time, and one could make a case that the Blackhawks still haven't fully recovered from this colossal mistake.
Interestingly, Esposito was involved in another hugely controversial trade when the Bruins shipped him to the Rangers, along with Carol Vadnais for Brad Park, Joe Zanussi and Jean Ratelle in November 1975. Espo then slipped into the persona of party animal in the Big Apple, regularly hitting the clubs with teammates like Barry Beck, Ron Duguay and Ron Greschner. Still, he produced on the ice and gave the Rangers six very good seasons.
Trade: The New York Rangers traded Kelly Miller, Mike Ridley and Bob Crawford to the Washington Capitals for Bob Carpenter and a second-round draft choice.
Date: Jan. 1, 1987.
Outcome: Carpenter's first five years in Washington were pretty good, but he only had one really outstanding season for the Caps (1984-85). He was also a bit of a problem child; he just needed time to mature. After the trade was made, Carpenter played in just 28 games for the Rangers before they flipped him to Los Angeles. He then played several more years with the Bruins and Devils, with one year back in Washington, but he was never the big scorer for those teams that he had been in his early 20s with the Caps. Miller and Ridley went on to personify the hard-working Caps of the late 1980s and 1990s. Miller played nearly 13 seasons for the Caps, and was incredibly durable and steady. Ridley was the better scorer of the two, and averaged 75 points per season on a team that largely depended on Peter Bondra and Michal Pivonka for the bulk of its scoring. While at the time of the trade Carpenter was considered a budding superstar, subsequent events showed that steadiness and hard work always win out over promise and flash. Carpenter played 28 games for the Rangers; Miller and Ridley played a combined 1,586 games for the Caps. It was the best trade in Capitals history, by far.
Trade: The Philadelphia Flyers traded Peter Forsberg, Kerry Huffman, Steve Duchesne, Mike Ricci, Ron Hextall, a draft pick they turned into Jocelyn Thibault, Chris Simon and $15 million to the Quebec Nordiques for Eric Lindros.
Date: June 30, 1992.
Outcome: Where do we start with this one? Lindros didn't want to play in Quebec, and basically forced the Nords' hand. In return, they received two serviceable defensemen, one of the most creative forwards of all-time, an agitator who played a big role in the Colorado Avalanche's initial success, and a goaltender that they packaged in a deal for Patrick Roy. Lindros had several great seasons in Philadelphia, but he never could deliver the Cup. This trade enabled the Avalanche to win two Cups within five years, with Roy leading the way. How can this not be considered one of the most lopsided trades in NHL history?
Trade: The St. Louis Blues traded Rob Ramage and Rick Wamsley to the Calgary Flames for Brett Hull and Steve Bozek.
Date: March 7, 1988.
Outcome: On the surface, this trade at the time did not seem so one-sided. It's only when you apply retrospect to it that it begins to seem ridiculous. The Flames won a Cup soon after this trade was made, but Hull went on to have a Hall of Fame career as the premier sniper of the 1990s, won two Cups and was still excelling in the league long after Ramage and Wamsley hung up their skates.
Trade: The Detroit Red Wings traded Garry Unger and Wayne Connelly to the St. Louis Blues for Red Berenson and Tim Ecclestone.
Date: Feb. 6, 1971.
Outcome: Unger was traded basically because he wouldn't cut his hair. The Red Wings' old school coach at the time, Ned Harkness, would brook no threat to his authority, and he viewed Unger's long locks as a major abrogation of his iron hand. Berenson had a couple of decent seasons in Detroit, but the team was so bad by this time that he had no major impact on its fortunes. Ecclestone and Connelly were basically throw-ins, but Unger went on to set the Iron Man record at the time, and to lead the 1970s-era Blues in every offensive category. Harkness was gone soon after the trade was made, but he harbors the blame for one of the worst and most short-sighted trades in NHL history.