After a 6-14-8 start to the 2002-03 season, Predators General Manager David Poile pulled the trigger on the most high-profile trade in franchise history at that point. Goaltender Mike Dunham, who had played 217 games in net for Nashville over four-plus seasons, was dealt to the New York Rangers for a promising young defenseman (Tomas Kloucek), a versatile veteran forward (Rem Murray) and a European prospect (Marek Zidlicky).
As important as the new players that entered the Predators’ fold, the deal cleared the way for a new era in Predators history. Tomas Vokoun, who had served as the “1B” option to Dunham’s “1A” up until that point, had earned the No. 1 role. Vokoun went on to play in 57 of Nashville’s final 58 games in 2002-03, starting a franchise-record 38 in a row to finish the season. Meanwhile, with a win on March 7 of that season, the Predators had rebounded to a record of 27-25-15, the team’s best ever that late in the season.
Vokoun became one of the league’s elite netminders in the Predators’ starting role. Upon his departure following the 2007-08 season, he had broken all of Dunham’s career franchise records in addition to leading Nashville to its first three playoff berths. Dunham ended his playing career last season with the New York Islanders, and now serves as the Isles’ goaltending coach.
Zidlicky, one of the NHL’s premier skilled defensemen, continues to serve as a weapon on the Nashville blue line. Kloucek did not remain in Nashville long, and he returned to Europe this season after stretches in the Atlanta and Columbus organizations.
Meanwhile, Murray, whose versatility, work ethic and affable personality made him popular during his 92-game run in Nashville, was challenged with a rare, career-threatening neck condition (cervical dystonia) in his second season in Nashville. After a year and a half away from the game, Murray returned in 2005-06 with the AHL’s Houston Aeros. He was signed near the 2006 trade deadline by the Edmonton Oilers, and he triumphantly returned to the NHL and helped the Oilers advance to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals. He currently plays for HIFK Helsinki in Finland.