Iconic Wayne Gretzky trade tree is finally dead after 34 years

Sep 13 2022, 11:25 pm

Nelson Nogier has killed the Wayne Gretzky trade tree. 

Nogier, the last remaining piece from the iconic swap that sent Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings on August 9, 1988, signed with Barys Nur-Sultan of the KHL as an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday, officially ending the tree created by hockey’s most famous trade at 12,453 days. 

Nogier was acquired by the Kings in exchange for Markus Phillips in March. Phillips had previously been the last piece of the trade tree puzzle. Nogier was not qualified by the Kings before free agency this summer, making him a free agent. 

Gretzky was dealt from the Oilers to the Kings alongside Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski in exchange for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, three first-round draft picks (1988, 1991, 1993), and $15 million. 

It remains the most shocking trade in hockey history.

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The Oilers branches

Gelinas, the No. 7 pick at the 1988 NHL Draft, would eventually be moved from the Oilers to the Quebec Nordiques in exchange for Scott Pearson in 1993. Pearson was later flipped to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Ken Sutton. 

Carson was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1986 NHL Entry Draft and was one of the game’s top young players. His first two years in the NHL were more productive than almost any player ever, becoming only the second teenager in NHL history to score 50 goals in a season. He totalled 92 goals and 186 total points through two seasons at only 19.

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However, he asked for a trade out of Edmonton in November of 1989, and was accommodated with a swap to the Detroit Red Wings. The Oilers returned Adam Graves, Petr Klima, Joe Murphy, and Jeff Sharples in the flip. 

Murphy was later traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in a trade tree that brought the likes of Dan Clearly, Ethan Moreau, and Chad Kilger to Edmonton.

Moreau, who went on to play 653 games over parts of 11 seasons with the Oilers and was the team’s captain for three seasons before being claimed off waivers in the summer of 2010 by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2010-11, was the last remaining link on the Edmonton side of the trade tree. 

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The Kings branches

Gretzky went on to play 696 games and amassed 918 points (246 goals, 672 assists) over parts of nine seasons with Los Angeles, helping them to a Stanley Cup Final in 1993, before being moved to the St. Louis Blues in 1996. 

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That trade yielded an underwhelming return, including Craig Johnson, Roman Vopat (later turned into Martin Prusek), a fifth round pick in 1995 (Peter Hogan), a first round pick in 1997 (Matt Zultek), and Patrice Tardif. 

The Krushelnyski link to the trade contributed John McIntyre, which turned into Mark Hardy and a fifth round pick in 1993 (Frederick Beaubien).

McSorley, however, is what kept the trade tree alive through five decades. 

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He was first moved to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Sean McEachern, but a few months later they were focal points in a return swap. McSorley was traded again to the New York Rangers for Mattias Norstrom, Nathan Lafayette, Ian Laperriere, Ray Ferraro, and a fourth round pick in 1997 (Sean Blanchard). 

Norstrom became the focal point in that move, playing 780 games in 11 seasons with the Kings before being packaged in a trade in 2007 that returned Jaroslav Modry, Johan Fransson, a second round pick in the 2007 draft (Oscar Moller), a third round pick in 2007 (Bryan Cameron), and a first round pick in 2008 (Viktor Tikhanov). 

Tikhanov was optioned with the No. 17 pick in 2008 to move up to No. 12 in that same draft. Los Angeles then moved that No. 12 pick for the No. 13 pick and a third rounder in 2009. The No. 13 pick became Colten Teubert. 

Teubert was moved with a first round pick in 2011 and a third-round pick to the Oilers in exchange for Dustin Penner. The third rounder, No. 74, from that deal with Buffalo was traded to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a later third rounder and a fourth round pick in 2009. 

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The Kings traded the No. 84 pick in 2009, acquired from the Flames, was packaged with prospect Hudson Fasching in a deal with Buffalo that landed a second-round pick in 2014 (Alex Lintuniemi), a second round pick in 2015 (Erik Cernak), Jonathan Parker, and Brayden McNabb. 

Though McNabb was claimed in the expansion draft by the Vegas Golden Knights, Cernak was moved to the Tampa Bay Lightning in a trade that returned Ben Bishop and a fifth round pick in 2017. 

Bishop was then moved to the Dallas Stars for a fourth round pick in 2017, which was used to select Phillips. 

Phillips, of course, was moved for Nogier last spring. 

Nogier’s signing in Russia on Tuesday closed out the Gretzky trade tree after 34 years and almost 64 swaps involving the two teams and hockey’s most shocking trade to date.

Aaron VickersAaron Vickers

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