The NHL trade deadline takes place on April 12th and several teams still have plenty of work to do to their rosters. To offer some inspiration, we decided to countdown the five best NHL trades of all time.
5 best NHL trades of all time
5. Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks’ six player trade (1967)
The first on our list of the best NHL trades ever takes us back some 50 odd years. The Bruins shipped out the trio of Gilles Marotte, Pit Martin and Jack Norris to the Blackhawks in exchange for Phil Esposito, Fred Stanfield and Ken Hodge. It’s fair to say the Bruins got the better deal with two of the three arrivals going on to form the backbone of their Stanley Cup winning teams in 1970 and 72 with the third, Stanfield, taking his place as a more than steady depth player.
It wasn’t just the cup wins that made this trade a steal though; Esposito won multiple scoring titles whilst making 10 All-Star teams whilst Hodge broke the 100 point mark on a couple of occasions to cement his status as a legend.
4. The Oilers let Messier slip away (1991)
This might not be the biggest mistake the Edmonton Oilers have ever made but it’s certainly up there. Mark Messier had been with the franchise for 12 years, helped them to five Stanley Cups – captaining them to one – and made earned seven All-Star nods whilst donning their jersey. Trouble came on the horizon in the very early nineties though.
Messier knew he was good and pressed for a bumper new contract. The Oilers said no and sent him packing to New York. In exchange, they received Bernie Nicholls, Steven Rice and Louise DeBrusk. It was only the latter who made any real impact to the team. Messier meanwhile was ripping it up for the Rangers and added another Stanley Cup to his cabinet a few years later. It was for the Rangers. As Captain.
3. The Lindros trade (1992)
Any NHL fan from the time will not need to be told too much about the Eric Lindros trade. Lindros was the number one seed heading into the 1991 draft. When it emerged that the Quebec Nordiques would have the first pick the centre made no secret of his dislike of the team. In fact, he said he’d never play for them. They picked him anyway. He was true to his word.
Thankfully, the stalemate only lasted for 12 months and Lindros joined the Philadelphia Flyers, it cost them a fair whack though. They sent two first round picks, $15m and six – yes SIX – players to Quebec. One of those players was Peter Forsberg. He went on to establish himself as one of the greatest players in NHL history with the Nordiques rebranded Avalanche team. Lindros meanwhile wasn’t bad either; he was a scoring machine throughout his career and is regarded as one of the best players never to win a Stanley Cup. For sheer drama it has to go down as one of the best NHL trades of all time.
2. The Avalanche are at it again (1993)
Given we’ve just spoken about the Lindros deal, you might start to think there is a trend between the Avalanche – as they were known by the time this trade unfolded in 1995 – and picking up players with an attitude. They sent Andrei Kovalenko, Martin Rucinsky and Jocelyn Thibault to Montreal and received Patrick Roy and Mike Keane in return.
Both players had played a role in helping the Canadiens to their 1993 Stanley Cup success with triumph Roy’s second in Montreal. Still, Roy was far from a star to toe the line. He’d let fly at the hierarchy after being pulled during a heavy loss to Detroit stating he was finished with the franchise. The duo came to Colorado soon after and won the Stanley Cup in 1996. Roy achieved the same feat again in 2001. With returns like that, who cares about attitude?
1. Wayne Gretzky… obviously (1988)
There might have been five players (as well as $15m and three first round picks) but there is only one name that actually matters. Wayne Gretzky. ‘The Great One’ had just carried the Oilers to their fourth Stanley Cup success in just five years. He still had years and year left in him too and showed no signs of dropping his incredible standards. Still, owner Peter Pocklington opted to bomb him out to the Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings had to pay a handsome price to land Gretzky; it was seen as a move to breathe new life into what was becoming a stagnant franchise. Although the Oilers won another Stanley Cup shortly after Gretzky left and the player himself failed to add another to his collection, it was still ranks as the best NHL trade of all time. He elevated the Kings’ profile overnight and spent eight years scoring goals and racking up points. Now, he’s immortalised as a statue at the Staples Center. A worthy first place on our list of the five best NHL trades of all time.
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