Rob Blake was in his 11th full season with the Los Angeles Kings in 2000-01, but his status as a pending free agent helped him move from a struggling franchise to one of the NHL's premier clubs. It also helped him lift the Stanley Cup.
The Colorado Avalanche already were blessed with plenty of future Hall-of-Fame talents, but adding Blake was the final step to claiming the Cup for a second time in the franchise's brief tenure in Denver.
"When the trade happened there was a lot of speculation, so maybe that prepared me more than usual," Blake said. "It was still a feeling of shock when it first happened. Everything moves so quick -- within hours you're on a plane and you're heading to a new city.
"When I look back at it now, I was pretty fortunate. I could have ended up on any of the other 28 teams, but you end up with a team that was first in the West at the time, had the Stanley Cup a few years before and was poised to win it again. For me, as soon as it happened, I was on the plane thinking it was an unbelievable opportunity to go to that type of franchise."
Blake had reached the Cup Final with Los Angeles in 1993, but moving to the Avalanche gave him his first great chance to win the Stanley Cup in eight years.
His team needed back-to-back victories against the New Jersey Devils to complete the quest. A 4-0 win in New Jersey in Game 6 forced Game 7 back in Denver, and the Avalanche clinched the Cup thanks to two goals from Alex Tanguay and one from captain Joe Sakic in a 3-1 triumph.
Blake finished the 2001 Stanley Cup Playoffs as Colorado's fourth-leading scorer with 6 goals and 19 points. Only Sakic, Milan Hejduk and Tanguay had more.
"At the time you don't want to go to a Game 7, but we didn't have much of a choice after we got down 3-2 (in the series)," Blake said. "I think the fans in the building and just the excitement surrounding the whole situation leading up to the Game 7 was pretty amazing."
The return on Blake was actually quite high, but the Kings failed to reap all of the benefits. Deadmarsh had a nice season in 2001-02 (29 goals, 62 points) and played for the United States in the 2002 Winter Olympics, but concussions ended his career prematurely. Miller also struggled to stay healthy after the deal.
Both of the first-round picks have become NHL regulars, but not with Los Angeles. David Steckel was the pick in 2001, but he signed with Washington after four seasons at Ohio State. Brian Boyle was sent to the New York Rangers at the 2009 Entry Draft and has had a breakout season in 2010-11 with 19 goals.
"I think depth and talent-wise, for sure," Blake said. "I think the main thing, though, was the leaders -- Patrick Roy and Ray Bourque and Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. I mean, you name those four guys on a team and then you add Hejduk and Drury and Adam Foote. You can go on and on with the list, but I think the four main guys who led that team were very impressive."
He's only 17 but he can see the ice so well and he moves the puck and goes to the open ice all the time, so I just think he's a player that is ready to play in the NHL. I'm really looking forward to coaching someone like this.
— U.S. National Junior Team coach Ron Wilson on Auston Matthews, the projected No. 1 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft