Down Goes Brown: Best trade-deadline adds in NHL history

Markus Naslund. (CP PHOTO/Richard Lam)

We’re down to eight days until the deadline, and so far the market has been… a little slow. Just a bit sluggish. Did you bet the under? You’re probably going to win.

Maybe GMs around the league are just saving up for the big finale. Or maybe they’re all big wimpy babies. But there’s another possible explanation. Maybe they just need a little extra motivation.

Let’s provide some. Today, let’s put together a full roster of the best trade deadline–week acquisitions in league history. We’re only looking at what each player did with his new team here, and we’re not counting draft picks that turned into stars (we covered a few of those last week). But that still gives us plenty of big names to choose from. Consider it a reminder that every now and then, a smart and/or lucky GM can land a major difference-maker with the right deadline move.

Will this year’s deadline add anyone to the team? Time will tell. But for now, let’s meet our roster.

FIRST LINE

Ron Francis, Pittsburgh Penguins (March 4, 1991)

The 1990–91 Penguins were already stacked, boasting future Hall of Famers like Mario Lemieux, Paul Coffey, Larry Murphy, Joe Mullen and Bryan Trottier, not to mention a team-leading 113-point season from Mark Recchi and a rookie with funny hair named Jaromir Jagr. But with his team hovering just two games over .500 and coming off a four-game losing streak, GM Craig Patrick apparently decided that they needed something more.

And so, a week before the 1991 deadline, Patrick swung one of the biggest trades of the era, sending John Cullen, Jeff Parker and Zarley Zalapski to Hartford for Francis, Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings. It was, to put it mildly, a questionable move for the Whalers. Francis was the franchise, and seeing him dealt away devastated the fanbase.

Francis would go on to have some of the best years of his career in Pittsburgh, and his arrival was a key to the team winning back-to-back Cups.

Brett Hull, St. Louis Blues (March 7, 1988)

The trade that sent Brett Hull from Calgary to St. Louis might hold the distinction of being the most lopsided trade in sports history that neither team is all that unhappy with.

From the Blues’ side, it was a heist. Hull would go on to record three straight 70-plus goal seasons and win an MVP in St. Louis, and they got him and Steve Bozek for a pair of solid-but-unspectacular veterans in Rick Wamsley and Rob Ramage. It’s the best trade in franchise history, and it’s not close.

But while the Flames got robbed in terms of long-term value, they made the deal with a purpose: Load up on experience to win a Stanley Cup. In 1989, they did, taking home the franchise’s first and only championship. Would you trade that banner to get Hull back? Probably not, but Hull still gets a spot on our first line.

Markus Naslund, Vancouver Canucks (March 20, 1996)

Naslund reunites with Francis on our top line. The two were teammates in Pittsburgh in the mid-’90s; Naslund had actually put up 52 points in 66 games in his first full NHL season in 1995–96. But the Pens already had plenty of skill and wanted some toughness, so they sent the young Swede to Vancouver in exchange for bruiser Alek Stojanov.

That move worked out OK for Vancouver; Naslund would go on to become the franchise leader in goals and points.

SECOND LINE

Jeff Carter, Los Angeles Kings (February 23, 2012)

The acquisition of Carter was the final piece in the puzzle for the Kings’ first-ever Stanley Cup, so he’d have a good case to make the team even if he were just a rental. But he’s been in L.A. ever since, and remains the Kings’ most consistent offensive threat. Not bad for a team that was on the playoff bubble at the time, and no doubt could have shrugged off the opportunity to get better.

Dino Ciccarelli, Washington Capitals (March 7, 1989)

Ciccarelli was part of one of the biggest deadline trades ever. In a four-player deal, the North Stars sent him and Bob Rouse to the Capitals for Gartner and Larry Murphy; three of those four players are in the Hall of Fame today.

Ciccarelli had an immediate impact in Washington, scoring 12 goals in 11 games to close out the season before scoring 100 more over the following three years.

Keith Tkachuk, Blues (March 13, 2001)

Tkachuk was traded twice at the deadline; he also went to the Thrashers in 2007. But it was 2001 deal to the Blues that paid off best, as he went to have three straight 30-goal seasons in St. Louis.

THIRD LINE

Butch Goring, New York Islanders (March 10, 1980)

It’s always been a little weird that the deal that sent Goring from the Kings to the Islanders for Billy Harris and Dave Lewis would come to be considered the poster child for deadline deals. Goring was a very good player, but he’s far from the biggest name ever traded at the deadline — we’ve already named three that were bigger.

Still, he showed up at exactly the right time, helping the Islanders to the first of four straight Stanley Cups, and he’d win the Conn Smythe in 1981. We can use his two-way game on our second line, so he’s on the team.

Marian Hossa, Penguins (Feb. 26, 2008)

Hossa’s career-long body of work suggests he should be higher in the lineup, but remember, we can only give him credit for what he did in Pittsburgh. Still, that includes a 26-point playoff run that ended just short of a Stanley Cup ring, so he’s on the team. And by pairing him with another top two-way player in Goring, we can use our other second-line wing spot on a pure goal-scoring threat.

Mike Gartner, New York Rangers (March 6, 1990)

You could make a solid case for a few different versions of Gartner. He was traded near the deadline three times, including that 1989 Ciccarelli deal we just mentioned as well as one to Toronto in 1994. But we’re going to go with his time with the Rangers, where he scored 40 goals in three straight seasons. That’s a pretty decent return on a trade that costs you Ulf Dahlen and a pair of draft picks.

FOURTH LINE

Doug Weight, Edmonton Oilers (March 17, 1993)

Weight was a 22-year-old sophomore when the Rangers sent him to Edmonton for Esa Tikkanen. He’d go on to play eight years with the Oilers, peaking with a 104-point season in 1995–96, and scored at least 70 points every time he played a full season. On our all-deadline team, he’ll play on a line with another young player dealt away by the Rangers a year later…

Tony Amonte, Chicago Blackhawks (March 21, 1994)

Amonte went to Chicago from the Rangers for Stephane Matteau and Brian Noonan, in a deal that stands as perhaps the classic example of a trade-deadline rental that worked out perfectly for both sides. The Rangers won the Cup, in large part thanks to Matteau’s immortal goal. And the Hawks got eight full seasons of Amonte in his prime, including three 40-goal seasons.

James Neal, Penguins (Feb. 21, 2011)

Slipping in just under our one-week cutoff is the deal that saw the Stars send Neal and Matt Niskanen to Pittsburgh in exchange for Alex Goligoski. Neal was actually a bust when he first arrived, scoring just one goal in 20 games to close out the 2010–11 season. But he had 40 the following year, and scored at the same pace during the lockout shortened 2012–13 campaign.

Late cuts: Martin St. Louis (2015), Brad Richards (2008), Cliff Ronning (1991), Marcel Dionne (1987), Peter Stastny (1990), Michel Goulet (1990), Pierre Turgeon (1995), Miroslav Satan (1997), Marian Gaborik (2014), Glenn Murray (1997), Mark Recchi (2006), Patrick Maroon (2016), Danny Briere (2003), Alexander Mogilny (2000), Filip Forsberg (2013), Craig Janney (1994, although that one was weird).

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FIRST PAIRING

Ray Bourque, Colorado Avalanche (March 6, 2000)

True, we said we were only counting what a player did on his new team, and Bourque spent one one full season in Colorado. But it was a great season – he posted 59 points, was named a first-team all-star and finished second in Norris voting. That, plus the fact that he’s Ray Freaking Bourque, is enough to get him on our team.

Plus, admit it: This still makes you choke up a little.

Chris Chelios, Detroit Red Wings (March 23, 1999)

Chelios didn’t come cheap when the Blackhawks sent him to their division rival in 1999. He cost the Wings two first-round picks, plus young defenceman Anders Eriksson. That seemed steep for a guy who was 37 and probably only had a year or two left.

Of course, that year or two turned out to be a decade, as Chelios stuck around with the Wings until 2009 before retiring. (Yeah, yeah, I know, but it’s easier to just pretend this never happened.) Neither Eriksson or the picks ever amounted to much, so this trade ended up being a steal for the Wings.

SECOND PAIRING

Larry Murphy, Minnesota North Stars (March 7, 1989)

Another member of that North Stars/Capitals blockbuster makes our list. Murphy had established himself as a star in Washington, earning second-team all-star honours and a spot as a Norris finalist in 1987. He’d only get one full season in Minnesota, but it was a good one; he racked up 68 points. That’s good enough to earn him second-pair duties on our roster. Man, I just hope we can find a partner for him that he’ll have some chemistry with.

Larry Murphy, Red Wings (March 18, 1997)

Oh. Huh. Well, this is awkward.

But really, how do you deny Murphy a second spot on the roster? Nearly a decade after the North Stars added him, he was involved in another deadline deal, this one between the Leafs and Red Wings. He’d help Detroit to two Stanley Cups, and had four solid seasons playing the role of the crafty veteran. And you can’t argue with the price, since the Red Wings literally got him for free – the Leafs dumped him for future considerations, and those futures turned out to be nothing at all.

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THIRD PAIRING

Jay Bouwmeester, Blues (April 1, 2013)

Bouwmeester had famously never appeared in a playoff game over a ten-year career when he was dealt to the Blues a few days before the 2013 deadline. Four years later, he’s played plenty, and is still eating big minutes as a key member of the St. Louis blue line.

Lubomir Visnovsky, Ducks (March 3, 2010)

Visnovsky had always racked up points with the Kings and Oilers. But the deadline-day deal that sent him to Anaheim for Ryan Whitney set him up for a career year; in 2010–11 he put up a career-high 68 points and finished fourth in Norris voting.

Late cuts: Mathieu Schneider (2003), Brian Leetch (2004), Tomas Kaberle (2011), Sergei Gonchar (2004), Alex Goligoski (2011), Adam Foote (2008)

GOALTENDERS

Bill Ranford, Oilers (March 8, 1988)

He was a 21-year-old kid when the Oilers picked him up as a throw-in in a trade for Geoff Courtnall, and only appeared in six games in Edmonton the following season. But by 1989–90 he was the starter, winning a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe. He’d hold down that job for another six years before going back to Boston in a deal that brought back Mariusz Czerkawski, Sean Brown and a first.

Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning (April 3, 2013)

Bishop was traded at back-to-back deadlines, also going from St. Louis to Ottawa in 2012. But it was this deal, sending him to Tampa for Cory Conacher, that finally gave him a chance to be a full-time starter. He’s been one of the better ones in the league ever since, and there’s a decent chance he’ll be a deadline mover again this year.

Dwayne Roloson, Oilers (March 8, 2006)

We’re going with three goalies on this roster because you never know when somebody’s going to get hurt, as Edmonton fans learned all too well when Roloson came to town.

On the surface, the 36-year-old seemed like an odd pickup for an Oilers team that was barely in the playoff race, especially at the cost of a first-round pick. But he filled their biggest weakness and led them to the playoffs, and if not for an injury probably would have won them a Stanley Cup. He’d go on to spend three more years in Edmonton as a reasonably decent starter, but that 2006 run alone is enough to put him on this team.

Late cuts: Roberto Luongo (2014), Andy Moog (1988)

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