For someone who’s been called crusty on more than one occasion, Lou Lamoriello can sure be considerate.
Just when the hockey world was unsuccessfully trying to appease its endless appetite for puck talk with half-hearted debates about arbitration asks, Lamoriello dropped an atom bomb on the news cycle by becoming the 16th general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
It’s far from the first time he’s blown us all away.
Since joining the New Jersey Devils as team president in April of 1987 and becoming the general manager about four months later, Lamoriello has been involved in some watershed hockey moments. From huge trades to rule-bending contracts to impersonating Donald Trump—“You’re fired!”—shockingly late in the season, Lamoriello has been nothing if not bold.
Here are the moves that have defined the 72-year-old during nearly three decades in the NHL.
* In 1987-88, his first year on the job, Lamoriello installed Jim Schoenfeld as the Devils coach with 30 games remaining in the season. New Jersey went 17-12-1 down the stretch and scraped into the playoffs for the first time since moving to the swamp from Colorado in 1982. The Devils then made a shocking playoff run, coming within a single victory of advancing to the Stanley Cup final.
* After working tirelessly behind the scenes to make it happen, Lamoriello brought legendary Red Army defenceman Slava Fetisov to North America, where he made his NHL debut with the Devils on Oct. 5, 1989.
* Just after the start of the 1989-90 campaign, Lamoriello traded defenceman Tom Kurvers to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the latter’s first pick in the 1991 draft. New Jersey used that selection to take defenceman Scott Niedermayer third overall.
* Lamoriello and his staff picked goalie Martin Brodeur 20th overall at the 1990 draft.
* In the summer of 1991, the St. Louis Blues signed a hotshot young restricted free agent named Brendan Shanahan to an eye-popping contract. NHL rules dictated the Devils—Shanahan’s former team—would receive compensation and Lamoriello asked for hard-rock defenceman Scott Stevens.
The Blues—who offered goalie Curtis Joseph, young centre Rod Brind’Amour and some conditional picks—were incensed, but an arbitrator ultimately sided with Lamoriello and New Jersey. Stevens captained the Devils to three championships in the next 12 years and claimed the 2000 Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
* About a month into the lockout-shortened 1995 season, Lamoriello dealt slight centre Corey Millen to the Dallas Stars for veteran pivot Neal Broten, who seemed very much on the downswing.
After posting just four assists in 17 games with Dallas, Broten potted 28 points in 30 games with the Devils, then added 19 more in 20 post-season contests to finish second in team scoring behind Stephane Richer as New Jersey won its first Cup. Claude Lemieux—acquired from the Montreal Canadiens by Lamoriello five years prior—was named post-season MVP.
* A generation of American hockey players came of age by winning the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. Lamoriello was GM of the squad.
* With eight games remaining in the 1999-2000 season, Lamoriello fired coach Robbie Ftorek despite the fact the Devils led the Eastern Conference with 95 points. Replacement Larry Robinson went 4-4-0 to finish the year, then guided New Jersey to the Stanley Cup with a six-game win over the Dallas Stars in the final.
* Less than two years after watching Jason Arnott score an iconic overtime goal to win the 2000 title, Lamoriello traded the big centre along with grinder Randy McKay to the Dallas Stars in return for Joe Nieuwendyk and Jamie Langenbrunner before the 2002 trade deadline. The move paid huge dividends the following season when Langenbrunner led the 2003 post-season with 11 goals and New Jersey won its third championship.
* Perhaps drawing on the success the team had in 2000 when he fired Robbie Ftorek at the season’s 11th hour, Lamoriello dropped the axe on Claude Julien with just three games remaining in the 2006-07 campaign and the Devils sitting tied for second in the East with 102 points. This time, Lamoriello put himself behind the bench and the Devils bowed out in the second round.
* Looking to invigorate a team in decline, Lamoriello acquired superstar Ilya Kovalchuk from the Atlanta Thrashers in February of 2010. That summer, Lamoriello belied his reputation as a salary hardliner and inked Kovalchuk to a 17-year, $102-million contract.
The league later ruled the agreement circumvented the collective bargaining agreement and, as a result, nullified the deal and docked New Jersey first-round and third-round draft picks. The Devils then signed Kovalchuk to a 15-year, $100-million pact and ultimately had the first-round selection returned to them before the 2014 draft after Kovalchuk retired from the NHL to play in Russia.
* Proving he still had a flair for the dramatic, Lamoriello found a new franchise goalie at the 2013 draft—hosted in New Jersey—when he obtained Cory Schneider from the Vancouver Canucks for the ninth overall pick.
* In May of 2015, Lamoriello made an out-of-the-blue announcement that Ray Shero would replace him as GM of the Devils. A surprise run to the 2012 final notwithstanding, New Jersey had fallen on hard times, winning just five playoff rounds in 11 seasons since its last Cup and missing the playoffs four of the past five seasons.