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Five that sizzled, five that fizzled

Thursday, 01.31.2008 / 12:00 PM / 2008 Trade Deadline

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

When the Islanders acquired Butch Goring from the Kings in 1980, they created the gold standard of all trades.
The days before the NHL trading deadline can be like the last few shopping days before Christmas: Lots of teams looking for just the right last-minute deal -- either to make them a Stanley Cup challenger, a playoff contender, or to speed the rebuilding process. A team that makes the right deal can win a Cup, or even start a dynasty; one that makes the wrong deal can set itself back -- sometimes for years.

Here’s a sampling of some of most (and least) productive deals made at or near the trading deadline.

Five That Sizzled

1980: New York Islanders acquire C Butch Goring from Los Angeles for D Dave Lewis and RW Billy Harris -- Nearly a quarter of a century later, this is still the gold standard for deadline dealing, because not only did it fill in a Cup contender’s last hole, it triggered the start of a dynasty.

The Islanders, the 1978-79 regular-season champs, spent most of the next season trying to regroup after an upset loss to the Rangers in the semifinals. They had become a one-line team, and General Manager Bill Torrey knew he had to change that. The arrival of defenseman Ken Morrow from the U.S. Olympic team freed him to trade Lewis, a dependable defensive defenseman, along with Harris, a productive right wing, for Goring, who gave the Isles an infusion of speed and skill that gave coach Al Arbour a second offensive unit.

The Islanders went 8-0-4 in their last 12 regular-season games and went on to win the next four Stanley Cups, with Goring capturing the 1981 Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Harris and Lewis were useful players, though neither came close to winning a championship. Lewis went into coaching, earning Stanley Cup rings as an assistant coach under Scotty Bowman.

1991: Pittsburgh Penguins acquire C Ron Francis, D Ulf Samuelsson, and D Grant Jennings from Hartford for C John Cullen, D Zarley Zalapski, and LW Jeff Parker -- The Penguins, led by Mario Lemieux, had no trouble scoring; it was keeping the other team off the scoreboard that was holding them back.

John Kreiser
John Kreiser, who has covered the NHL since 1975, is NHL.com's man behind the numbers. His column appears each weekend on NHL.com.
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Cullen and Zalapski were offensive contributors, which intrigued Hartford, but were seen as one-way players by Pittsburgh GM Craig Patrick. He filled two needs -- a top-flight, two-way center and a physical defenseman -- in the same deal by landing Francis and Samuelsson from the Whalers. Francis, like Goring a decade before him, was solid in his own end and more than enough of an offensive threat to keep opponents from ganging up on Lemieux, while Samuelsson provided muscle on the blue line that the offensive-minded Pens severely lacked.

The trade keyed the Penguins’ back-to-back championships in 1991 and 1992. Without Lemieux, Cullen and Zalapski were never the same.

1994: New York Rangers acquire RW Glenn Anderson from Toronto for RW Mike Gartner; RW Stephane Matteau and RW Brian Noonan from Chicago for LW Tony Amonte; and C Craig MacTavish from Edmonton for C Todd Marchant -- When you haven’t won a Stanley Cup in more than 50 years, being in first place late in the season isn’t enough. For Rangers GM Neil Smith, whose team hit March leading the overall standings while chasing its first Cup since 1940, the future was now, so he went for it all.

Smith dealt away two players (Amonte and Marchant) who were productive for more than a decade, plus a Hall of Fame sharpshooter (Gartner) for three role players and a former star on his last legs. Marchant is still active today and won the Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007.

But the trade worked: Matteau scored two goals in double overtime in the semifinals, including the series-winner; Anderson, a former 50-goal scorer in Edmonton, got two game-winners in the Final. Noonan was a useful checker, and MacTavish forever endeared himself to Rangers fans by winning the last faceoff in Game 7, setting off a celebration the likes of which Madison Square Garden had never seen and has yet to see again.

1997: Detroit Red Wings acquire D Larry Murphy from Toronto for future considerations -- The Leafs thought Murphy, who played on two Cup-winners in Pittsburgh, was finished -- he was being booed lustily at Maple Leaf Gardens -- and were more than happy to give him away to the Red Wings. Murphy turned out to be far from done; he was a perfect fit for a team that was in the market for a skilled puck-handler and passer on the blue line. Murphy helped the Wings in 1997 to their first Stanley Cup since 1954 and was back the next year when they repeated. He retired with four rings and the NHL record (since broken) for most games played by a defenseman.

2001: Colorado Avalanche acquire D Rob Blake and C Steven Reinprecht from Los Angeles for D Aaron Miller, C Adam Deadmarsh, two first-round picks, and a player to be named later The Avalanche didn’t win in 2000, when they landed Ray Bourque from Boston at the deadline. So, they went shopping again a year later and came up with Blake, one of the NHL’s premier defensemen, along with Reinprecht, a useful forward. The deal helped the Avalanche send Bourque into retirement with the championship he had chased since entering the NHL in 1979.

The Kings’ end of the deal would look better if Miller and Deadmarsh had been healthier. Miller only played full seasons twice for the Kings before moving on before the 2007-08 season. Deadmarsh only played 114 games for the Kings in two-plus seasons before retiring because of injury problems in 2005.

***

Five That Fizzled

Mike Keenan hoped Wayne Gretzky, alongside Brett Hull, would help the Blues get past the second round of the playoffs.

1996: St. Louis acquired C Wayne Gretzky from Los Angeles for C Craig Johnson, RW Patrice Tardif, LW Roman Vopat, and first- and fifth-round draft picks -- The Blues, coached by Mike Keenan, hoped the addition of Gretzky to play with Brett Hull would help them get past the second round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade. They gave up three players and two draft picks to Los Angeles for hockey’s all-time leading scorer.

But though the Blues did win a round, something they hadn’t done since 1993, that was as far as they got and Gretzky left as a free agent to sign with the Rangers. The only consolation for St. Louis was that none of the three players it gave up went on to stardom.

1997: New York Rangers acquire RW Jari Kurri, LW Shane Churla, and D Marty McSorley from Los Angeles for C Ray Ferraro, C Ian Laperriere, C Nathan LaFayette, and D Mattias Norstrom -- Rangers GM Neil Smith had had success bringing key members of the Edmonton dynasty of the 1980s to the Big Apple, but his luck ran out three years later. Though the Rangers advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals that spring, neither Kurri nor McSorley played a major role.

Ferraro, who had signed with the Rangers after leaving the Islanders and had enjoyed some success, was very disappointed with the deal, and the Rangers missed him. As the years have gone by, they also could have used Norstrom, who made the All-Star team twice with Los Angeles. Today, he is still contributing, now playing for the Dallas Stars.

1995: New York Islanders acquire C Kirk Muller, D Mathieu Schneider, and C Craig Darby from Montreal for C Pierre Turgeon and D Vladimir Malakhov -- Few trades are lines in the sand; this is one. The Islanders felt they needed leadership from Muller and more muscle on the blue line, so they dealt their leading scorer (Turgeon) and a talented young defenseman (Malakhov) for Muller, who captained the Canadiens’ 1993 Cup champs, and Schneider, a New York City native.

But Muller wanted no part of playing on Long Island and eventually forced a trade to Toronto; Schneider wound up there as part of a separate deal. The deal tore apart the Islanders, who missed the playoffs that year and the next six as well.

Turgeon became captain of the Canadiens, but never won a Cup before being dealt to St. Louis and winding up in Dallas; Malakhov did win a Cup in 2000 during a short stay with New Jersey before inking a free-agent deal with the Rangers.

1996: Pittsburgh Penguins acquire LW Alek Stojanov from Vancouver for LW Markus Naslund -- The Penguins wanted muscle up front, so they dealt for Stojanov, a former No. 1 draft pick who they felt would provide a physical presence. All it cost was Naslund, their first-round pick in 1991, who at 22 was just starting to show signs of being a productive player.

Stojanov was gone from the NHL a year later; Naslund turned in three-straight 40-goal seasons with the Canucks and has been a First-Team All-Star three times. He is still a first-line player for Vancouver.

Injuries kept Pavel Bure from being the scorer the Rangers needed.

2002: New York Rangers acquire RW Pavel Bure and a second-round draft pick from Florida for D Igor Ulanov, D Filip Novak, and first-, second-, and fourth-round draft picks -- The Rangers were convinced they needed more scoring, so GM Glen Sather dealt for Bure, perhaps the most feared shooter in the NHL. It looked like a good deal at first: Bure scored 12 goals in 12 games as a Ranger after the deal, though the team missed the playoffs. But the five-time 50-goal scorer’s knees were on their last legs. Bure was injured again in December 2002 and played just 39 games in 2002-03, scoring 19 times. He never played another NHL game, forced to retire because of chronic knee injuries.

The Panthers used most of the assets, including Ulanov, in later deals.

***

Everybody Wins (Two Deals That Helped Both Sides)

1963: Toronto Maple Leafs acquire RW Andy Bathgate and LW Don McKinney from New York Rangers for RWs Bob Nevin and Dick Duff, C Bill Collins, and Ds Rod Seiling and Arnie Brown -- Bathgate was one of the NHL’s top scorers, but new GM Emile Francis, in a rebuilding mode, was willing to sacrifice him and McKinney to dip into Toronto’s well-stocked system. Bathgate helped the Leafs to titles in 1963 and 1964 and is in the Hall of Fame; Collins and Duff were soon gone, but Nevin, Seiling (a prized junior) and Brown were key elements in the Rangers’ late-1960s revival.

2001: St. Louis acquires LW Keith Tkachuk from Phoenix for C Michal Handzus, LW Ladislav Nagy, C Jeff Taffe, and a first-round pick -- Tkachuk was an elite player in Winnipeg and Phoenix and hasn’t changed much since being dealt to St. Louis. But the Coyotes got a lot in return: Nagy blossomed into a 20-goal scorer before moving on to Dallas in 2007, Taffe was a highly regarded rookie at the time who never panned out. He is now playing with Pittsburgh. Handzus was dealt in the trade that brought goaltender Brian Boucher to the Valley of the Sun. The first-round pick, by the way, was Ben Eager.

 

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I came into a team that had 65 points, that was at the bottom of the basement, a team that everybody wrote off as never going to be good. My goal is to go from the very bottom to the very top.

— Forward Brandon Dubinsky on signing a six-year contract extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets