The Vancouver Canucks have always traded better than they’ve drafted.
Their teams that went to the Stanley Cup Final in 1982, 1994 and 2011 all featured impact players acquired in trades or National Hockey League free agency to surround those who were drafted by the Canucks.
Most people can name the Canucks’ all-time best trades (Roberto Luongo from Florida, Markus Naslund from Pittsburgh) and the worst (rhymes with Cam Neely). But that doesn’t necessarily make them the most interesting or surprising trades. Both Naslund and Neely, for example, always had the pedigree to become superstars but needed a trade before flourishing.
But nobody could have predicted that a trade in 1998 would still be yielding dividends to the Canucks in 2020. Or that a month-long experiment with a Swiss journeyman could end with a transaction-wire mention that set a future Hobey Baker Award winner towards an important role in the Canucks’ future.
As subjective as they were arbitrarily chosen, here are five fascinating trades that helped shape the Canucks.
March 6, 1990
The trade: Jyrki Lumme from the Montreal Canadiens for a second-round pick
Mention a blockbuster trade between the Canucks and St. Louis Blues and those old enough to remember will immediately cite former general manager Pat Quinn’s massive haul of Cliff Ronning, Geoff Courtnall, Sergio Momesso and Robert Dirk at the deadline in 1991. But Quinn made a deal with the same team the previous year that felt, at the deadline in 1990, to be nearly as big.
The Irishman sent veterans Rich Sutter, fan-favourite Harold Snepsts and a 1990 second-round pick to the Blues in exchange for dynamic prospect Adrien Plavsic, as well as a first-round pick in 1990 and second-rounder in 1991. The swap of seconds — Vancouver was a much poorer team at the time, so its picks were more valuable — was a slight sweetener to compensate St. Louis for surrendering its first-rounder, which the Canucks used to draft Shawn Antoski.
The interesting part of the transaction was the Blues’ second-rounder in ’91, which Quinn immediately traded to the Canadiens to acquire up-and-coming defenceman Jyrki Lumme. The mobile Finn became the best player in either deal. He spent the next eight seasons as the Canucks’ top defenceman, and by the time he left as a free agent in 1998, Lumme was tied with Dennis Kearns as the franchise’s all-time scoring leader among blue-liners with 321 points in 579 games.
March 5, 2014
The trade: 2015 fifth-round pick from the New York Rangers in exchange for Raphael Diaz
Stump your friends and family with this trivia question: Who was the player acquired then traded away by the Canucks on each side of the Roberto Luongo trade in 2014? OK, we gave away the answer in Diaz, the Swiss defenceman who played on five teams in five seasons during his mid-career foray into the NHL.
Fascinating as Diaz is, that’s not why this trade makes our list. When winger Dale Weise fell out of favour with Canucks coach John Tortorella during the 2013-14 season, he was dealt on Feb. 3 to Montreal in exchange for Diaz. It took no more than 30 days for Torts to decide he didn’t much care for Diaz, either, so soon-to-be-outgoing GM Mike Gillis reduced his losses by forwarding Diaz to the Rangers for a fifth-round pick the following season.
Under new GM Jim Benning, the Canucks used that pick in 2015 to select a skinny, gangly centre out of the United States Hockey League who had 13 goals in 50 games for Cedar Rapids. His name was Adam Gaudette and he was scouted heavily by Judd Brackett. Gaudette became a scoring star and Hobey Baker Award winner at Northeastern University and Brackett became Benning’s director of amateur scouting.
Given little chance to make the Canucks this season, Gaudette forced his way on to the roster and into the lineup and became a third-line regular. He had 33 points in 59 games and, if he survives the 2021 Seattle expansion draft, could be playing right behind Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat for years.
Dec. 3, 2018
The trade: Josh Leivo from the Toronto Maple Leafs for Michael Carcone
Who is Josh Leivo? He was the consolation prize available to the 30 teams that didn’t sign William Nylander, the Maple Leafs star whose late and expensive arrival partway through the 2018-19 season forced Toronto to create a roster spot by trading Leivo, a 25-year-old fringe player who was lowly-regarded by former coach Mike Babcock. (The feeling was mutual).
Toronto GM Kyle Dubas did the honourable thing by sending Leivo, who spent five-and-a-half seasons in the Leafs organization, to a place where he would get a real opportunity: Vancouver. Leivo was immediately deployed on the Canucks’ first line and this season became a valuable and versatile middle-six forward before shattering his knee cap in December. The Canucks still need to sign Leivo after this season, but the power forward sure looks like an NHL player.
And all it cost Benning was second-tier, minor-league forward Michael Carcone, who just finished his fourth American League season by scoring 27 points in 59 games for the Ottawa Senators’ farm team.
Feb. 6, 1998
The trade: Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan McCabe and a third-round draft pick from the New York Islanders for Trevor Linden
There were a lot of tears the day Mike Keenan had his hands on the controls long enough to jettison the iconic Linden to the East Coast. But the trade turned into one of the top three in Canucks history and became even less painful four years later when Vancouver GM Brian Burke repatriated Linden in a deal with Washington.
But this trade makes our list not because Bertuzzi developed in Vancouver into, albeit briefly, one of the best power forwards in the NHL, but because the Trevor Linden Trade Tree belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
McCabe was sent to Chicago for the Blackhawks’ first pick in the 2000 NHL Draft, which gave Burke the assets he needed to select both Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Burke’s successor, Dave Nonis, built a package around Bertuzzi in 2006 to steal goalie Roberto Luongo from the Florida Panthers — and Keenan — in another epic heist. And Nonis’ successor, Mike Gillis, got eight All-Star seasons from Luongo before returning him to South Florida in 2014 in a deal that brought Jacob Markstrom to Vancouver.
Twenty-two years after the original Linden trade — and 12 since Linden retired — Markstrom remains the Canucks’ starting goalie and was having a Vezina-candidate season when it was halted in March.
There are numerous other branches to this trade tree, including Jarkko Ruutu, who agitated opponents for more than four seasons in Vancouver after the Canucks used the Islanders’ third-round pick in 1998 to draft him. And you thought Douglas Firs were big.
Jan. 16, 1991
The trade: Second-round pick from Boston in exchange for Petri Skriko
This is a smaller trade tree, but still loaded with stars.
Skriko was nearing the end of an impressive run as an NHL scorer when Quinn, who rebuilt the Canucks before someone on the internet invented that label, squeezed a 1992 second-round pick for him from the Bruins. The Canucks used it to draft a character junior centre named Michael Peca. Before he became an NHL captain and two-time Selke Trophy winner, Peca was traded by Quinn in 1995 in a package for Buffalo superstar Alex Mogilny. The winger had a 55-goal, 107-point season in Vancouver in 1995-96 before Burke traded him five years later to New Jersey for young centre Brendan Morrison.
Morrison joined Bertuzzi and Naslund to form the West Coast Express, one of the NHL’s best lines, before leaving the Canucks in 2008 — 15 years after Skriko left the NHL. In trading the 28-year-old Finn, the Canucks got 16 years from Peca/Mogilny/Morrison.