The busiest trade deadlines in NHL history

The Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Bill Guerin from the New York Islanders at the 2009 trade deadline. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

For hockey fans, it’s very important to manage one’s sick days to ensure there’s enough in the tank to carefully plot the sudden, mysterious illness that will take hold just in time to spend eight hours on the couch in early March for the NHL trade deadline.

Trade deadline day has become more of a week-long event in the salary cap era, with sellers looking to unload salary and expiring contracts to the highest bidder well in advance of the 11th hour. Deadline day itself is a date marked on every hockey fan’s calendar as an unofficial holiday.

Here is a look at the busiest trade deadlines in NHL history.

1994: 21 Trades*

The 1994 trade deadline (with help from three transactions two days prior) stands as one of the busiest of the era. Several high profile names were on the move, including Tony Amonte, Mike Gartner, Joe Juneau, and Craig Janney.

Janney was re-acquired by the St. Louis Blues a week after refusing to report to the Vancouver Canucks as compensation for the Blues signing Petr Nedved. The Canucks and Blues worked out a deal that sent defencemen Jeff Brown, Bret Hedican and Nathan LaFayette, who all went on to contribute to the Canucks’ march to the Stanley Cup Final that spring.

Highlight: The Rangers cutting ties with skilled players Gartner (to Toronto), Amonte (to Chicago), and speedy prospect Todd Marchant (to Edmonton) in favour of players more suited to head coach Mike Keenan’s style. Glenn Anderson arrived from the Maple Leafs, Stephan Matteau and Brian Noonan from the Blackhawks, and Craig MacTavish from the Oilers.

The Rangers went on to snap a 54-year Stanley Cup drought, with general manager Neil Smith’s deadline acquisitions playing major roles along the way. Veteran presence? More like veteran presents.

1999: 21 Trades

March 23, 1999 saw 21 trades go down, with veterans Chris Chelios, Ulf Samuelsson, Steve Duschene, Vincent Damphousse, Dale Hunter, and Peter Zezel all finding new homes.

Eventual Stanley Cup winners the Dallas Stars made one move, acquiring Derek Plante from the Buffalo Sabres, whom they would defeat in the Final, in exchange for a second round draft pick.

Highlight: The Buffalo Sabres grabbed defenceman Rhett Warrener and a seemingly harmless fifth round pick from the Florida Panthers for Mike Wilson. That draft choice would become future franchise goaltender Ryan Miller.

2009: 22 Trades

Patrick O’Sullivan wasn’t the biggest name moved at the 2009 deadline, but he was its most traded player. The Kings first traded O’Sullivan to Carolina for the man who would later become “Mr. Game 7,” Justin Williams. O’Sullivan was then shipped to Edmonton for Erik Cole, with picks swapped as well.

Highlight: The Pittsburgh Penguins stocked up for another run at the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final by adding veteran Bill Guerin from the New York Islanders for a conditional pick. Guerin totalled seven goals and 15 points in 23 playoff games, helping the Penguins capture their first Cup since 1992.

2003: 24 Trades

The 2003 deadline saw a whopping 24 transactions take place. Players moved included Rob Niedermayer, Radek Dvorak, Anson Carter, Mathieu Schneider, Steve Thomas, Bryan Smolinski, and Chris Osgood.

Before he was entering deadline days as the Montreal Canadiens GM, former NHL defenceman Marc Bergevin was a trade chip himself. Bergevin was moved from Pittsburgh to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Brian Holzinger on March 11, 2003.

Highlight: The Toronto Maple Leafs attempted to turn back the clock in 2003 by acquiring 39-year-old Doug Gilmour and 38-year-old Phil Housley on deadline day, with veterans Glen Wesley and Owen Nolan landing in Toronto days earlier. Injuries felled Gilmour and Housley immediately, and only Nolan remained in Maple Leafs blue and white the following season.

2013: 27 Trades**

So maybe we’re cheating here a little by including the week leading up to the 2013 deadline, but it was one of the more notable ones.

The Columbus Blue Jackets nabbed Marian Gaborik (and prospects) from the Rangers for Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett, John Moore and a 2014 sixth round draft pick. The Lightning acquired future Vezina Trophy candidate Ben Bishop from the Ottawa Senators for Cory Conacher and fourth round pick. And the Washington Capitals would live to regret shipping Filip Forsberg to the Nashville Predators for Martin Erat and Michael Latta.

Highlight: Five days prior to the deadline saw many Boston Bruins fans go to sleep under the impression that general manager Peter Chiarelli had landed Jarome Iginla from the Calgary Flames. Of course, Iginla was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a last-minute turn of events. Iginla would eventually join the Bruins as a free agent later that summer.

2014: 30 Trades***

The 2014 deadline was a star-studded affair.

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Martin St. Louis asked to be traded to the New York Rangers in the fallout of his initial exclusion from Steve Yzerman’s 2014 Team Canada Olympic squad. The Lightning and Rangers swapped captains (the Lightning also received two picks), with Ryan Callahan going the other way. Matt Moulson, Thomas Vanek, Roberto Luongo, Jaroslav Halak, Tim Thomas, and Ales Hemsky were all involved in trades.

The Los Angeles Kings plucked Marian Gaborik away from the Blue Jackets at the cost of Matt Frattin.

Highlight: It’s a coin toss between Martin St. Louis having his trade wish granted and Dean Lombardi’s heist of Gaborik.

2010: 31 Trades

A record-setting trade deadline must have saw a marquee name or two switch cities…right? Unless you consider one of Clarke MacArthur, Lubomir Visnovsky, Teddy Purcell, Lee Stempniak, or the mummified body of Mathieu Schneider a marquee name, then 2010 wasn’t the year of big names moving at the deadline.

Highlight: Not a trade of discernible significance in sight.

*Three trades on March 19

**/***Includes trades in the week prior

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