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These 15 trades were difference makers

by Phil Coffey
Over the course of its history, there have been thousands of trades in the NHL. Many have been insignificant, others have been blockbusters that dominated headlines. As the March 4, 2009 trade deadline approaches (3 p.m. ET), looks at 15 trades from 1980 to the present that made a difference for one or both of the clubs involved in the swap.

Goring to the Islanders (1980) – Coming off consecutive first-round failures with a star-studded team, New York Islanders GM Bill Torrey made the first of his many savvy deals by acquiring veteran center Butch Goring from the Los Angeles Kings for forward Billy Harris and defenseman Dave Lewis.

Goring not only went on to win a Conn Smythe Trophy during the Islanders' four-straight Stanley Cup triumphs, but he provided the immediate impact of convincing a young Islanders team that it was ready to win immediately. In many respects this is the prototypical trade at the deadline as it put a very good team over the top in its quest for the Cup.

Langway helps save the Caps (1982) – The Washington Capitals had missed the playoffs for eight-straight seasons and something had to be done. With new GM David Poile on the job for less than two weeks, he made a huge trade with the Montreal Canadiens that brought back four players who stabilized the franchise.

Defenseman Rod Langway became the "Secretary of Defense" for the Caps and forwards Doug Jarvis and Craig Laughlin were solid performers, as was defenseman Brian Engblom, who was traded to Los Angeles the next season for veteran defenseman Larry Murphy. Combined with former first-round pick Scott Stevens, the Capitals had a defense to build a successful team around.

Because the new Capitals had such a dramatic impact in Washington, it's often overlooked that the Canadiens got two very good players in the deal in forward Ryan Walter and defenseman Rick Green. But this deal is remembered primarily for putting Washington on the hockey map and establishing Poile's reputation as a smart GM.

Neely comes to Boston (1986) – The trade is remembered in infamy in Vancouver and the name Cam Neely remains venerated in Boston. But in the context of the time, it certainly didn't appear as lopsided as it became.

Neely, a former first-round pick of the Canucks, was slow in developing and the Canucks opted to move him to the East Coast. They swapped Neely and a 1987 first-round pick to the Bruins for center Barry Pederson.

That's when it gets ugly for the Canucks. The draft pick turned into defenseman Glen Wesley and Neely became, well, Neely, one of the most productive loved/feared power forwards in NHL history.

Pederson, a strong player in Boston, did score 60 goals and 137 assists in 233 games with the Canucks, but that production paled in comparison to the rampage Neely went on in becoming the textbook definition of the power forward and one of the most popular Bruins ever. Neely scored 344 goals and 246 assists in 525 regular-season games and another 55 goals and 32 assists in 86 playoff games. Wesley appeared in over 500 regular-season games and 100 more playoff games for Boston before he was swapped to Hartford in 1994 for first-round picks in the 1995, '96 and '97 drafts.

Coffey joins Lemieux (1987) –
The Pittsburgh Penguins already had Mario Lemieux, but the big fella needed a little help and the Penguins acquired it in a big trade with the Edmonton Oilers that saw star defenseman Paul Coffey join the Pens and join the core that would produce back-to-back Stanley Cup championship teams a couple years down the road.

This was an old-fashioned blockbuster that saw eight players change teams. Coffey was joined by forwards Dave Hunter and Wayne Van Dorp from Edmonton, while forwards Craig Simpson and Dave Hannan became Oilers along with defensemen Moe Mantha and Chris Joseph.

Coffey scored 15 goals and 52 assists in just 46 games that season and went on to be a member of both Pittsburgh Stanley Cup teams.

Hull moves into the spotlight (1988) – Back in 1987-88, NHL observers were getting the inkling that Brett Hull was going to follow in his father's footsteps as he scored 26 goals and 24 assists in just 53 games for the Flames. Calgary, building toward a Stanley Cup, needed some veteran help on defense and in goal, so the Flames parted with Hull and forward Steve Bozek, sending them to the St. Louis Blues for defenseman Rob Ramage and goaltender Rick Wamsley on March 7, 1988.

Hull, of course, went on to become a superstar with the Blues and won Stanley Cups with the Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings.

The deal may look terribly lopsided for the Blues, but keep in mind both Ramage and Wamsley went on to play with the Flames' lone Stanley Cup championship team the following season, providing the veteran know-how the club sought in the deal.
But there is no doubt this was a Hull of a deal for the Blues.

The Great One in the Big One (1988) – As chronicled extensively in's trade section, Wayne Gretzky proved that anybody can be traded. Hockey's greatest star was on the move after helping the Oilers win the Stanley Cup in a mega-deal with the Los Angeles Kings that had a far-reaching impact on all of hockey.

Gretzky, center Mike Krushelnyski and defenseman Marty McSorley went to the Kings in exchange for center Jimmy Carson, left wing Martin Gelinas, three first round draft picks and cash.

The Oilers rebounded without "The Great One" and won another Stanley Cup in 1990, but Gretzky's presence in Los Angeles re-energized the Kings and put the NHL on the map in the American Sun Belt, paving the way for the League to move into markets like Dallas, Phoenix, Anaheim and San Jose.

Francis adds finishing touch (1991) –  GM Craig Patrick was a busy man in 1990-91, naming Bob Johnson as head coach and then supplementing Mario Lemieux and Paul Coffey with Joe Mullen and Larry Murphy in earlier deals before pulling off the trade that put the Penguins over the top.

Patrick acquired center Ron Francis and defensemen Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings from the Hartford Whalers for forwards John Cullen and Jeff Parker and defenseman Zarley Zalapski.

The classy Francis was a huge success for the Pens, scoring 164 goals and 449 assists in 533 regular-season games, while adding 32 goals and 68 assists in 97 playoff games.

Messier in New York (1991) – In the four seasons leading up to this blockbuster, the New York Rangers were a decent club, finishing over .500, but never able to get over the hump.

With their Stanley Cup drought having stretched from 1940 and with the rival Islanders having owned the 1980s, the Rangers needed a bold statement that things were going to be different.

GM Neil Smith made sure of that after acquiring "The Captain" from the Edmonton Oilers for center Bernie Nicholls and prospects Steven Rice and Louie DeBrusk. It was a huge move for the Rangers' fortunes. Messier and Manhattan were an instant fit and the Rangers became a team worth watching as Messier raised the bar for his teammates in terms of what was going to be considered acceptable from them on.

With Messier as captain, the Rangers raced to a 50-win season and after a disappointing playoff-less season in 1992-93. The Rangers, fueled by Messier, won the Stanley Cup in 1994, creating the moment many Rangers fans never expected to see in their lifetimes.

Lindros comes to Philadelphia (1992) – Eric Lindros warned the Nordiques he wasn't going to sign with them prior to the 1991 Entry Draft, but Quebec selected him anyway, setting up one of the most bizarre situations in NHL history as it took an arbitrator to settle Lindros' eventual destination.

At the 1992 Entry Draft, word spread that Nordiques owner Marcel Abut had traded Lindros to the New York Rangers for a hefty package of players, prospects, draft picks and future considerations. But Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider insisted he also had a similar deal in place for the big center.

An arbitrator finally ruled that the deal with the Flyers stood and an impressive package was headed to Quebec: forwards Peter Forsberg, Mike Ricci and Chris Simon, defensemen Steve Duchesne and Kerry Huffman, goalie Ron Hextall, as well as two first-round picks and future considerations.

The Lindros-Flyers marriage ended badly and he, somewhat ironically, ended up with the Rangers. But the initial trade helped the Flyers emerge from a down period and propel them back into the NHL's elite ranks as Lindros scored 290 goals and 369 assists in 486 regular-season games. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Lindros scored an additional 24 goals and 33 assists in 50 games.

Sundin takes root in Toronto (1994) – Mats Sundin was originally the lynchpin of the Quebec Nordiques after being selected No. 1 in the 1989 Entry Draft.

So imagine the shock waves on June 28, 1994 when the Maple Leafs and Nordiques announced a huge trade. Sundin was headed to Toronto with defenseman Garth Butcher, prospect Todd Warriner and a 1994 first round draft pick for the hugely popular Wendel Clark, defenseman Sylvain Lefebvre, winger Landon Wilson and a 1994 first rounder.

Adding another tower of power (1995) – When Eric Lindros first joined the Flyers, he formed the "Crazy Eights" line with Mark Recchi and Brent Fedyk. Following the trade of Recchi to the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 9, 1995, the "Legion of Doom" was born as John LeClair joined with Lindros and Mikael Renberg to form another monstrous offensive line in Philadelphia.

In addition to LeClair, the Flyers also received solid defenseman Eric Desjardins and forward Gilbert Dionne from the Habs in exchange for Recchi and a 1995 third-round pick.

LeClair really found his stride with the Flyers and, with Lindros, gave the Flyers two of the biggest, most talented forwards in the game.

Cup follows Claude around (1995) – Claude Lemieux won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the 1995 Stanley Cup Playoffs after he scored 13 goals and three assists to help the New Jersey Devils win their first championship. He was on the move to Colorado months later after a contract dispute soured things in New Jersey.

Lemieux was first traded to the Islanders for winger Steve Thomas and then on to Colorado for Wendel Clark in a three-way deal. Success followed Lemieux to Colorado, where he scored 39 regular-season goals and five more in the playoffs as the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in 1996.

Ironically, Lemieux was back in New Jersey in 2000, having been dealt for forward Brian Rolston and an exchange of draft picks. Lemieux was once again productive for the Devils and played a mentoring role with a number of the team's young players as the Devils captured the 2000 Stanley Cup.

Roy rumbles in the Rockies (1995) –
Colorado GM Pierre Lacroix made a habit of picking up disgruntled players in 1995-96 and it paid huge dividends.

After acquiring Claude Lemieux, Lacroix also traded for goaltender Patrick Roy after the goaltender's celebrated blowup in Montreal ended his distinguished career with the Canadiens.

Left in goal during a lopsided loss to the Red Wings by coach Mario Tremblay, Roy vowed never to play for the Canadiens again. He didn't, having been traded to the Avalanche along with veteran forward Mike Keane for goalie Jocelyn Thibault and forwards Andrei Kovalenko and Martin Rucinsky.

Roy went 22-15-1 for Colorado in the regular season and then 16-6 with three shutouts as the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup.

Fitting finale for Bourque (2000) – Chomping at the bit to win a Stanley Cup in what many believed to be his final season, Ray Bourque reluctantly leaves Boston to join the Colorado Avalanche. Heading to Boston are forward Brian Rolston, prospects Martin Grenier and Sami Pahlsson, plus a first-round pick in 2000. Joining Bourque in Colorado is veteran forward Dave Andreychuk.

The Avs lose in the Western Conference Finals to Dallas in seven games, but Bourque opts for one more season and is rewarded in 2001 when Colorado dethrones New Jersey in a seven-game Final series. Bourque skates into retirement with the Cup held high.

Blake bolsters blue line (2001) – Notice the trend here as Pierre Lacroix shows no hesitation to make bold moves for his team. With Patrick Roy and Ray Bourque added to an already talented roster, the Colorado GM doesn't sit back and hope.

Faced with the loss of All-Star defenseman Rob Blake to unrestricted free agency, the Los Angeles Kings opt to trade the talented Blake and Lacroix is there to get the deal done.

On March 22, 2001, Blake and forward Steven Reinprecht were sent to the Avalanche for forwards Adam Deadmarsh and Jared Aulin, defenseman Adam Miller, a 2001 first-round pick and futures.

This trade benefited both clubs and came sooooo close to being in the Kings' favor. In both the 2001 and 2002 playoffs, Los Angeles has taken the Avalanche to seven-game marathons before succumbing.
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