Let’s be honest – the majority of trades made right before the NHL trade deadline don’t really register in the annals of hockey history. What we usually remember most is sitting around for hours waiting for something to happen, followed by a couple hours of role players and draft picks switching hands.
Occasionally, though, a deal is made that alters the course of a franchise’s trajectory, or does indeed result in that much-needed bump in the quest for a Stanley Cup.
Here are nine of the most impactful trade deadline deals, in no particular order:
1. Canucks land whale of a player (1996)
The details: March 20, 1996 – Vancouver Canucks trade Alek Stojanov to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Markus Naslund.
The result: If this trade were to be announced in the Twitter era, a prominent hockey insider would add “trade is one-for-one” and we would all have a good chuckle.
Naslund was 22 at the time and went on to finish his career as the club’s all-time leader in goals (346) and points (756). Stojanov scored two goals in 45 games for the Penguins.
2. How the Lightning landed Lecavalier (1998)
The details: March 24, 1998 – Tampa Bay Lightning deal Jason Wiemer to the Calgary Flames and Bryan Marchment plus David Shaw to the San Jose Sharks for packages that included a first- and third-round draft pick.
The result: Sometimes the sellers come out on top in a big way. The first-round pick that came via San Jose and later became Nashville Predators property came with a condition that allowed Tampa Bay to swap their second-overall pick for the first-overall pick, with which they selected Vincent Lecavalier.
The third-round pick from the Flames deal was used to call the name of Brad Richards. That wicked combo down the middle helped the team win its only Cup to date six years later.
3. Hull of a trade for St. Louis (1988)
The details: March 7, 1988 – Flames trade Brett Hull and Steve Bozek to the St. Louis Blues for Rob Ramage and Rick Wamsley.
The result: Fine, this one came a day before the deadline, but the ramifications were major both ways. The Flames went on to with the Cup that season, while Hull became the third-highest goal scorer in league history, recording an “NHL19 on rookie mode” 86 goals in 1990-91.
Call this a win-win, although the Blues have sadly yet to win a championship of their own.
4. Pens and Whalers complete 6-player blockbuster (1991)
The details: March 4, 1991 – Hartford Whalers trade Ron Francis, Grant Jennings and Ulf Samuelsson to the Penguins for John Cullen, Jeff Parker, and Zarley Zalapski.
The result: Please forgive another “day before the deadline” deal, but come on. The Penguins already boasted the likes of Mario Lemieux, Paul Coffey, Larry Murphy, Joe Mullen, Bryan Trottier, Mark Recchi, and a rookie named Jaromir Jagr, and they went out and added a player literally nicknamed “Franchise.”
Pittsburgh won back-to-back Cups, while the reaction in Hartford was mixed, to say the least.
5. Final piece of the Islanders dynasty (1980)
The details: March 10, 1980 – New York Islanders trade Dave Lewis and Bill Harris to the Los Angeles Kings for Butch Goring.
The result: Did you know the New York Islanders used to win stuff? He may not be the sexiest trade deadline acquisition, but Goring was a significant piece of a puzzle that amounted to four straight Cups back in the 1980s. Imagine being the guys who missed out on that…
6. Atlanta thrashed (2008)
The details: Penguins trade Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, prospect Angelo Esposito and a first-round pick to the Atlanta Thrashers for Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis.
The result: Remember when Hossa got traded to the Penguins, was excellent in the playoffs, fell short of winning a Cup, then signed with Detroit and lost in the Final to Pittsburgh the next year? That was crazy, and it all started with this deal Atlanta so very lost.
Losing a player like Hossa was another nail in the coffin for the NHL in Atlanta, as the Thashers moved to Winnipeg three years later.
Dupuis remained for a while and became beloved by the Penguins faithful, by the way.
7. Predators fleece Capitals (2013)
The details: April 3, 2013 – Predators trade Martin Erat and Michael Latta to the Washington Capitals for Filip Forsberg.
The result: The impact of this trade is of the cautionary tale variety. Then-Capitals general manager George McPhee (now in Vegas) took a big swing in an attempt to add proven, veteran scoring in advance of the postseason, and he struck out in a huge way. Erat and Latta are long gone, while Forsberg is a cornerstone player for the Predators.
8. Chelios not even close to done (1999)
The details: March 23, 1999 – Chicago Blackhawks trade Chris Chelios to the Detroit Red Wings for Anders Eriksson and two first-round draft picks.
The result: Detroit appeared to be receiving a 37-year-old Chicago legend who was nearing the end of his career. He remained in Hockeytown for a decade and helped the Red Wings win a pair of Cups in that time.
9. Leafs give away a Hall of Famer (1997)
The details: March 18, 1997 – Toronto Maple Leafs trade Larry Murphy to the Red Wings for future considerations that were never cashed in.
The result: It’s not every day you can add a future Hall of Fame defenceman for literally nothing, but that’s exactly what Detroit was able to do back in 1997 after Murphy had worn out his welcome in Toronto.
Like Chelios, Murphy was able to help the Wings win a pair of Cups, giving the Leafs something to consider far into the future.