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No. 4: Murphy proved a steal for Wings in '97

by Corey Masisak
NOTE: In the eight days leading up to the 2011 NHL Trade Deadline, will look back at the top eight deals that helped teams to win the Stanley Cup in the past 30 years.


As the trade deadline beckoned in 1997, the Detroit Red Wings were clearly positioned as one of the top teams in the NHL. Detroit had won four division titles in five years and won at least two playoff series in each of the previous two seasons.

The Red Wings were looking for one final move to help put them over the top, and getting defenseman Larry Murphy from the Toronto Maple Leafs proved to be such a move. Murphy had a falling out with the Maple Leafs, but the trade with Detroit helped the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup in back-to-back seasons.

"We had never discussed trades before because I had a no-trade clause in my contract," Murphy told "I got a call from [Toronto GM] Cliff Fletcher real close to 3 p.m., just a few minutes before 3 p.m., and he said, 'I have an opportunity to trade you to Detroit if you're interested.' It took me about 10 seconds to think about it. It was an opportunity to go to a team that had a chance to win the Stanley Cup and it was just down the road from Toronto. It happened so fast but it was an easy decision and of course things worked out really well after that."

Murphy had been traded at the deadline once before, going from Washington to Minnesota with Mike Gartner for Dino Ciccarelli in 1989. It was a deal that included three future members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

This trade was the opposite of that. Toronto wanted Murphy out after he had been with the Maple Leafs for two seasons and essentially traded him for nothing. The move to Detroit to play for his former coach, Scotty Bowman, helped revitalize Murphy's career.

"I had a great experience with Scotty in Pittsburgh. That was a big factor," Murphy said. "I believed the team had a great chance to win the Cup because Scotty was the coach. I knew what to expect to going into it."

Murphy had 2 goals and 6 points for the Red Wings in the regular season after the trade, but the deal really started to pay off in the postseason. He had 11 points, the most of any Detroit defenseman, and led all NHL players in the 1997 Stanley Cup playoffs with a plus-16 rating.

Bowman paired Murphy with a young Nicklas Lidstrom, and that partnership stayed together through the 1997-98 season as the Red Wings successfully defended their title. Murphy had 11 goals and 52 points for Detroit that season and was a plus-35.

"For a time there Scotty had me playing with Sergei Fedorov as my partner after he moved him back to defense," Murphy said. "When he moved Sergei back to forward he put me with Nick. At that time I had heard about what a good player Nick Lidstrom was, but at that point in his career he wasn't as well known as he is now. It didn't take very long to see what a great player he was. I was very fortunate to have him as a partner. He was probably the easiest partner I ever played with because he was so reliable and so dependable. You just knew where he was going to be and you could always count on him."

Murphy finished his career with the Red Wings and now works for the organization as a television analyst. He went into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004. His 1,216 points are the fifth-most by a defenseman in NHL history.

His name is also on the Stanley Cup four times -- twice with the Pittsburgh Penguins and twice after Toronto was willing to give him up for nothing and the Red Wings reaped the benefits.

"I was still happy in Toronto. It wasn't like I was looking to get out. It had to be a great opportunity and that's what it turned out to be," Murphy said. "It is just like when I got traded to Pittsburgh the year they won their first Cup. Timing is pretty important, that's for sure. I have to say for me that was one of better hockey decisions to waive that no-trade."

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