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Lindros deal changed how NHL trades are made

by Adam Kimelman

When Russ Farwell was hired as general manager by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1990, the world he entered was a far different one than what exists today in many aspects.

One of them was as simple as how a trade is made.

"Trades were still done just on your word," Farwell told "You talk about it, you'd agree and the deal was made."

That all changed in June 1992, when the Quebec Nordiques famously traded the rights to Eric Lindros twice on the same day.

Farwell and the Flyers believed they had a deal worked out with the Nordiques for Lindros' rights, sending a package of five players, two draft picks and $15 million to Quebec. However, the Nordiques used that package as a bargaining chip to get what they believed was a better deal from the New York Rangers.


Part 1: Trade shakes the foundations

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor
Just prior to the start of the 1992 NHL Draft, the Nordiques twice traded Eric Lindros' rights -- first to the Flyers then to the Rangers. After a week-long arbitration process, the result was the biggest trade in NHL history. READ MORE ›

The Flyers filed a grievance and the matter was settled by an arbitrator after a six-day hearing in Montreal.

"This was the genesis of all the [current] trade processes and procedures," Larry Bertuzzi, who served as the League-appointed arbitrator, told

Prior to the Lindros trade, however, things were a bit looser.

"It wasn't nearly as formal," said Neil Smith, the GM of the Rangers from 1989-2000. "I'd say, 'Would you trade me John for Joe?' and you'd say, 'OK.' I'd say, 'OK, I'll call the League and tell them.' And then I think the other side had to call in, too, and they both confirmed it and the League took it down. … You just called it in."

Farwell, who worked for the Flyers from 1990-94, described similar situations for making trades.

"I remember quite big deals, when we traded for Mark Recchi with Pittsburgh, that trade happened on the phone between periods of a game," Farwell said. "We just agreed it was done and we announced it the next morning. That's how trades happened before."

Bertuzzi said defining a trade was a major part of the arbitration process.

"Among the things we heard evidence on was what made a trade," he said. "I heard from general managers who said, 'I was sitting at the press box at such and such game, got on the phone with so and so and when I hung up we had a trade.' That's the way it was done, our word is everything. We heard all sorts of stuff like that."

Bertuzzi eventually based his decision awarding Lindros' rights to the Flyers on that murky definition of when a trade is consummated.

"The case turned on the following: If New York and Quebec agree they made a deal on the basis of the conduct they engaged in, then applying that same test to the Quebec-Philly discussions, they must have made a deal an hour earlier," he said. "So you needed the context. If I just gave you the Philly facts and gave you nothing more, I wonder if that's a deal or not. Once it was contextual, you said if New York had a deal, Philly had a deal on the same analysis and they had it an hour earlier."

To make sure that situation never occurred again, the League implemented far more stringent guidelines before a trade becomes official.

"It became formal because of this very trade," Smith said. "Now there's no handshake deal. 'You want to trade John for Joe?' 'Yes.' 'Will you write up the paperwork?' 'Yes.' 'Then I'll sign it and we'll send it in to the League, and then we'll do a conference call.' I don't think there were any conference calls back then."

Farwell said, "It was on that Lindros deal that things were more standardized and that was the start of the system they have today. No deal is final until they [the League] have gone through it. … It seemed to me that was the start of it and there were no more handshake deals."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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