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NHL Draft

Lindros was subject of controversy at NHL Draft

Junior star wouldn't play for Nordiques, who took him with No. 1 pick in 1991

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Twenty-five years have passed since Eric Lindros was selected with the No. 1 in the 1991 NHL Draft by the Quebec Nordiques, who chose him despite being warned he would never play for them.

Lindros, dubbed by many as "The Next One," a generational-type player along the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, had 149 points (71 goals, 78 assists) in 57 games for Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League during the 1990-91 season. He was a "can't-miss" prospect, one that could reverse the fortunes of a franchise such as Quebec, which went 16-50-14 that season.

Pierre Page, general manager and coach of the Nordiques at the time, was set on drafting Lindros anyway.

"I think it was easy, because he was by far the best player available," Page told NHL.com. "He was like a 6-foot-5 Wayne Gretzky."

Page drafted Lindros on June 22, 1991, and offered him a 10-year contract worth $50 million.

But Lindros kept his word that he wouldn't play for the Nordiques. Instead of beginning his NHL career, he spent most of the 1991-92 with the Canadian Olympic team. With no sign of a break in the impasse, two teams -- the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers -- stepped to the forefront.

"We thought there were maybe three or four teams that were even in the running," former Flyers general manager Russ Farwell told NHL.com in 2012. "We just didn't feel there were very many teams that would have both the motivation and the assets to do that trade. That was our own debate there. That's how we went into it."

The Flyers and Rangers each made a proposal that was accepted by Nordiques president Marcel Aubut, and an arbitrator had to decide which franchise would get Lindros. Philadelphia offered Steve Duchesne, Ron Hextall, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci, Peter Forsberg, two first-round draft picks and $15 million. The Rangers were willing to part with Tony Amonte, Alexei Kovalev, John Vanbiesbrouck, Doug Weight, three first-round picks and $12 million.

"The team that had everything we wanted was the Flyers," Page said.

On June 30, 1992, Lindros was awarded to the Flyers. 

"What happened was, and I didn't know this at the time, but this came out in the arbitration, was that Philadelphia had been talking to Quebec and at some point had been told that 'We've got a deal once I give you Eric Lindros' number to call him,'" former Rangers GM Neil Smith told NHL.com "They did give Philadelphia Eric Lindros' number. And then, subsequent to that, Pierre [Page, Nordiques GM] met with me, liked our hockey deal and said, 'OK, you've got to do this certain [money] number,' which is when I turned it over to [Rangers owner] Stanley Jaffe. And Stanley and Marcel talked.

"I don't know if that was the night before or the morning of [the draft], but we had no idea what was going on other than we were trying to make the deal. They had not confirmed to us that the deal was done. I was at the draft not knowing if the deal was done."

Lindros agreed to play for Philadelphia and signed a six-year contract worth $21 million. In 1992-93, his rookie season, he had 41 goals, 34 assists, 147 penalty minutes and a plus-28 rating in 61 games. 

"I remember our staff a week or two after saying we announced that signing, we sold more season tickets than they did after they won the Stanley Cup," Farwell said.

Injuries limited Lindros to 760 NHL games during his career, but he finished with 372 goals, 493 assists and 1,398 penalty minutes with the Flyers, Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars. He retired in 2007.

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