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Poile trade for Rod Langway set him on course to NHL history

Winningest GM hit home run with Capitals, continued success with Predators

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

The first trade David Poile made as an NHL general manager came 10 days after he was hired by the Washington Capitals on Aug. 30, 1982. It instantly transformed the Capitals from a struggling team trying to gain a foothold in Washington into one that qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for 14 consecutive seasons.

It also changed Rod Langway's life.


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"The best way to put it is the next step after making it into the NHL is making a name in the NHL," Langway said. "David did that for me."

Poile, who spent 15 seasons with the Capitals and has run the Nashville Predators since their inception in 1997, is 68 and has the most wins by a GM in NHL history after getting his 1,320th on Thursday with a 4-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers to move one ahead of Glen Sather.

In 1982, Poile was 32 and the League's youngest GM when he acquired Langway, fellow defenseman Brian Engblom, and forwards Doug Jarvis and Craig Laughlin from the Montreal Canadiens for defenseman Rick Green and forward Ryan Walter.

Walter was Washington's captain and happened to be then-owner Abe Pollin's favorite player, so Poile put his neck on the line when he made that trade. But the Capitals needed some kind of shake-up after failing to qualify for the playoffs or finish with a winning record in any of their first eight seasons.

There was talk of the team leaving Washington. Langway, who was 25 at the time, wasn't sure how long he'd be staying after the trade was completed.

"I had two practices in Hershey [at training camp] and I'm getting phone calls from Boston saying, 'Don't get comfortable. I think the Bruins are making a big pitch to get you,'" Langway said.

Langway remained with the Capitals and they went 39-25-16 in 1982-83 to qualify for the playoffs for the first time.

He had been unhappy in Montreal because of the high tax rate in Quebec, and being overshadowed during his four seasons on a team loaded with future Hockey Hall of Famers such as Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Bob Gainey, Guy Lapointe and Serge Savard. Playing for the Capitals within coach Bryan Murray's defensive structure, Langway succeeded Walter as captain and shined.

Nicknamed the "Secretary of Defense," he won the Norris Trophy in 1982-83 and 1983-84. He played in the NHL All-Star Game four times in his 11 seasons with the Capitals before his NHL career ended in 1993. His No. 5 was retired by the Capitals in 1997, and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002.

"I got the credit for a lot of things," he said. "Bryan Murray had a defensive theory and it played right into my hands: to win the game 2-1 or 3-1 and be satisfied."

Now 60, Langway is a fixture at Capitals games and in the Washington area as a team ambassador and president of its alumni association.

"Eighty percent of the players I played with in Montreal were Hall of Famers," Langway said. "They made my career, but to make a name, David Poile and the Washington Capitals did that."

Poile has made 289 trades as a general manager (106 with the Capitals, 183 with the Predators).

The Langway trade might be the best-known, but here are five others that had a major impact:

Oct. 18, 1983 -- Washington acquired defenseman Larry Murphy from the Los Angeles Kings for defenseman Brian Engblom and forward Ken Houston.

For the second time in 13 months, Poile acquired a future Hall of Fame defenseman. Murphy was an offensive force throughout his time in Washington, scoring 86 goals and finishing with 345 points in 453 games.

Feb. 10, 2011 -- Nashville acquired center Mike Fisher from the Ottawa Senators for Nashville's first-round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft and a third-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft.

Fisher gave the Predators an all-purpose center capable of playing up and down the lineup. He was named captain for the 2016-17 season and helped Nashville advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

April 3, 2013 -- Nashville acquired forward Filip Forsberg from Washington for forwards Martin Erat and Michael Latta.

Erat, a seventh-round pick (No. 191) in the 1999 NHL Draft, scored between 49 and 58 points in eight straight seasons (2003-12). Poile packaged him with Latta to get Forsberg, Washington's first pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. Forsberg entered 2017-18 with back-to-back 30-goal seasons -- and he doesn't turn 24 until Aug. 13.

Jan. 6, 2016 -- Nashville acquired center Ryan Johansen from the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenseman Seth Jones.

Poile used Nashville's depth on defense by trading Jones to bring in a top center.

June 29, 2016 -- Nashville acquired defenseman P.K. Subban from the Montreal Canadiens for defenseman Shea Weber.

Poile rolled the dice after the Predators were eliminated in the Western Conference Second Round in 2016 by sending Weber, Nashville's captain since 2010, to the Canadiens for Subban. One year later, the Predators were in the Final for the first time since entering the NHL in 1998.

Poile has also had great success in the NHL Draft. Seven of the 335 players he's selected have played at least 1,000 NHL games, and he's had success finding gems in later rounds. Here are five of them:

Peter Bondra (Eighth round, No. 156, by Washington in 1990 NHL Draft) -- Bondra was the Capitals' all-time goal-scoring leader (472) until Alex Ovechkin came along. He led the NHL in goals twice (1994-95 and 1997-98), scored 52 goals twice, and had 45 or more in two other seasons.

Andrew Brunette (Seventh round, No. 174, by Washington in 1993 NHL Draft) -- Poile selected Brunette during his time in Washington and claimed him from the Capitals in the 1998 NHL Expansion Draft, though he spent just one season with the Predators. Brunette spent 16 seasons in the NHL with six teams, scoring 20 or more goals six times and finishing with 50 or more points eight times before retiring after the 2011-12 season.

Martin Erat (Seventh round, No. 191, by Nashville in 1999 NHL Draft) -- The unheralded forward from the Czech Republic joined the Predators in 2001 and was one of the NHL's most consistent mid-level point producers for more than a decade. He had 481 points (163 goals, 318 assists) in 723 games with Nashville before Poile traded him to Washington on April 3, 2013.

Patric Hornqvist (Seventh round, No. 230, by Nashville in 2005 NHL Draft) -- The last pick in the 2005 NHL Draft has gone on to a career in which he's outscored all but a handful of the 229 players taken ahead of him. Hornqvist scored 30 goals for Nashville in his second season, in 2009-10, and had 20 or more in each of the next three full seasons before being traded to Pittsburgh. He scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Penguins against the Predators in Game 6 of the 2017 Final.

Pekka Rinne (Eighth round, No. 258, by Nashville in 2004 NHL Draft) -- Rinne became Nashville's starting goaltender in 2008-09 and has been among the NHL's most consistent winners for the past decade. He became the 34th goaltender in NHL history to reach 300 wins when the Predators defeated the San Jose Sharks 7-1 on Feb. 22.

Though none of Poile's teams has won the Stanley Cup, he has an impressive array of accomplishments.

He's the only general manager in NHL history to lead two different teams for 1,000 or more games and 500 or more victories. The Capitals were 594-454-132 (ties) in 1,180 games under Poile; the Predators are 726-574-145 (60 ties) in 1,505 games. Overall, in 2,685 games, his record in 1,320-1,028-145 (192 ties).

The Capitals made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of Poile's first 14 seasons as GM after failing to qualify in their first eight seasons in the NHL. The expansion Predators failed to make the playoffs in their first five seasons, but have qualified for the postseason in 10 of their past 13, and they are on track to set a single-season record for victories.

In 36 seasons, Poile has hired a total of four coaches: Terry Murray and Jim Schoenfeld in Washington; Barry Trotz and Peter Laviolette in Nashville. All have winning records during their time with Poile's teams.

A total of 449 players have skated for a Poile-led team. Five (Andrew Brunette, Bill Houlder, Jeff Nelson, John Slaney, Brendan Witt) did so with the Capitals and Predators. Poile traded for two players who are now NHL coaches: Joel Quenneville (Chicago Blackhawks) and Rick Tocchet (Arizona Coyotes). He also signed Phil Housley (Buffalo Sabres) as a free agent.

Poile was named NHL general manager of the year in 2017. He had been a finalist in each of the award's first three seasons (2010, 2011 and 2012).

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