Follow that bouncing pick!
Back when making the playoffs was a thing the Maple Leafs regularly accomplished, they would often make rental deals at the trade deadline. This usually consisted of the Leafs packaging a mix of draft picks and prospects for a few games of action from established veterans.
For Leafs fans, the following trade is a happy example of the Leafs having their cake and eating it too.
On Mar. 9, 2004 the Leafs acquired Ron Francis from the Carolina Hurricanes. At 40-years-old, Francis somehow managed to be the oldest player on a team that also featured Ed Belfour, Gary Roberts, Joe Nieuwendyk, Calle Johansson, Brian Leetch and Tom Fitzgerald.
That’s pretty impressive.
Here’s a fun little hockey trivia tidbit: Francis is fifth all-time in NHL scoring with 1,798 points. Everyone knows Wayne Gretzky is first.Mark Messier is second, Jaromir Jagr recently took over third, and Gordie Howe sits fourth. Most don’t seem to know Ron Francis is fifth (EDIT: I’ll include me because I originally wrote fourth. Thanks a lot, Jaromir!)
Francis mustered just 30 points in 68 games with the Hurricanes in 2003-04, so all the Leafs had to give Carolina in return was a fourth-round pick in 2005. Not bad for a guy who ended up scoring 10 points in 12 games with the Leafs down the stretch.
Now you’re probably wondering what NHL superstar that fourth-round pick turned out to be.
Well, not so fast.
At the 2005 NHL draft, one year after the Francis trade, the Hurricanes made a minor deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Carolina sent Toronto’s 2005 fourth-rounder to Columbus. The Blue Jackets then used that pick to select tough guy Jared Boll.
In return, Carolina received a 2006 fourth-rounder from Columbus along with defender Derrick Walser.
Follow that bouncing pick.
In January 2006, Carolina swapped defenders and picks with the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hurricanes received former first-round defender Anton Babchuk from Chicago along with a 2007 fourth-round pick. The Blackhawks received former second-round defender Danny Richmond along with the 2006 fourth-round pick Carolina had received from Columbus.
Keep following that pick.
The Blackhawks wanted to move up in the middle rounds at the 2006 NHL draft. Their trade partner: The Toronto Maple Leafs.
Chicago acquired a 2006 third-rounder from the Leafs in exchange for two 2006 fourth-rounders, one of those fourth-round picks being the pick that Columbus had originally dealt to Carolina at the previous draft in 2005.
The third-rounder the Blackhawks selected was Swedish centre Tony Lagerstrom. He had a good showing at the 2008 World Juniors on the Swedish team that lost the gold medal game to Canada 3-2 in overtime, but never made it over to North America professionally.
One of the fourth-round picks the Blackhawks gave to the Leafs was 111th overall. Toronto used that pick to select German defender Korbinian Holzer. The other fourth-round pick the Blackhawks gave the Leafs, which originally belonged to the Blue Jackets, was used to select James Reimer.
Here’s the “Too long, didn’t read” version of this post:
- Leafs give Hurricanes pick for Ron Francis
- Carolina gives that pick to the Blue Jackets in exchange for another pick
- The Hurricanes take the Blue Jackets’ pick and give it to the Blackhawks
- The Blackhawks give that pick to the Leafs
- That pick is James Reimer.
After all of that, the Leafs essentially traded a 2006 third-rounder for a few weeks of Ron Francis in 2004, Korbinian Holzer, and James Reimer. That’s shoehorning it but whatever, let’s have some fun.
It might also be noteworthy that Derrick Walser, the defender from the Carolina-Columbus deal, eventually signed with the Leafs as a free agent. Similarly, Danny Richmond, the defender that Chicago received from Carolina, also eventually signed with the Leafs as a free agent.
The Leafs continue converting on this deal.
In 2015, Toronto traded Korbinian Holzer to Anaheim for Eric Brewer and a fifth-rounder. The Leafs eventually traded this fifth-rounder to Washington in the Daniel Winnik deal that helped bring the Leafs Connor Carrick, a second-rounder and Brooks Laich.
Last season in 2016, the Leafs dealt Reimer and Jeremy Morin to the San Jose Sharks for Alex Stalock, Ben Smith, and a conditional fourth-rounder in 2018. The Leafs quickly cut ties with Stalock. The Leafs lost Ben Smith to free agency but managed to get him back by snagging him off of waivers. The conditional fourth? The condition was if the Sharks made it to the Stanley Cup Final then the pick becomes a 2018 third-rounder.
Well, the Sharks made the Final so the Leafs now get a 2018 third-rounder from San Jose.
It should also be noted that the Carolina Hurricanes eventually got Ron Francis back and he’s now their general manager and executive vice president.
People often look at acquiring rental players at the trade deadline as mortgaging a team’s future. This is one of the rare times a “buying” team got extra lucky.