Making magic at the deadline
It's April 5, 1995 and I'm sitting between Eric Lindros and John LeClair when the Philadelphia Flyers equipment manager comes into the team's locker room at its practice rink in Vorhees, N.J., almost out of breath.
''Did you hear the trade?'' he says.
The heads of Lindros and LeClair, and yes, yours truly, pop to attention on this NHL trade deadline day.
The players' must have looked more concerned than excited -- like I was -- because the equipment manager says, ''No, it wasn't someone from the Flyers.''
I could feel a sigh of relief in the room.
''Well, what was the deal?'' Lindros asks.
''It was Montreal trading Kirk Muller, Mathieu Schneider and some kid named Craig Darby to the Islanders for Pierre Turgeon and Vladimir Malakhov,'' the kid says.
''No way,'' LeClair says. ''No way would the Canadiens trade Kirk Muller. No way.
''Pierre Turgeon? He would have to score 150 points in Montreal to come close to doing for the Canadiens what Kirk Muller did.''
Says Lindros: ''Turgeon didn't give the Islanders the grit and leadership that Muller will. Except for the age, it's a very good trade for the Islanders.''
Lucky me, having the opportunity to sit between two stars when news like this is delivered. We talk a lot about trades and how they will affect a team on the ice. But the players always think in terms of how a deal might affect a team in the locker room and on the bench.
And that chemistry is what most general managers talk about before the annual trade deadline, as well -- but sometimes don't really ask the players how they think a deal might work out.
The reason those two Flyers were so much on edge was because of all of the talk around the NHL at that time that the Flyers needed someone other than Ron Hextall in goal.
And, make no mistake about it, Hextall was very popular in that Flyers' room.
Also, Flyers GM Bobby Clarke has long been known for his many trades. So anything was possible.
Maybe I take the annual trading deadline more seriously than others because I've seen too many teams sit back and watch while others see they have to pay maybe a big price to make a deal that just might put them over the top.
The biggest attention-grabber was made in 1980 when then-Islanders GM Bill Torrey, after seeing his team lose in consecutive crushing playoff series to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1978 and the New York Rangers in '79, sent winger Billy Harris and defenseman Dave Lewis to the Los Angeles Kings for Butch Goring.
Right wing Duane Sutter and defenseman Ken Morrow were added during the 1980 season, but Torrey still wasn't satisfied. He wanted a veteran and he wanted help up the middle to go with Bryan Trottier. And Goring couldn't have been more perfect -- on the ice and in the room.
''I'll never forget Butchie coming in the locker room and saying to us, 'Do you guys have any idea how good you are, or how good you can be?' '' Hall of Famer Denis Potvin once told me.
''It was like getting a shot of confidence in the arm,'' Trottier told me.
They went 8-0-4 in the regular season after that trade and went on to win the first of four-straight Stanley Cups.
But the deadline magic didn't stop there.
The next major deal to have a dramatic impact on the Stanley Cup trail came in 1991, when the Pittsburgh Penguins obtained center Ron Francis, defensemen Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings from the Hartord Whalers for center John Cullen, winger Jeff Parker and defenseman Zarley Zalapski.
The Penguins won two-straight Stanley Cups following that deal -- and with the help of deadline deals for Rick Tocchet and Kjell Samuelsson in '92.
From that point on through the 1990s to today, you can usually point to a deadline deal that had a big effect on who won the Stanley Cup.