Back in November, we took a look through the history books at five mostly forgotten transactions that inadvertently helped shape the NHL we know today. It was a fun post, and I’d like to think we all learned something. Like how the Vancouver Canucks scammed the whole league to draft Pavel Bure one year early, or how the Flames once traded up in the draft just so they could pass on Martin Brodeur.
And, most importantly of all, we learned that you should never, under any circumstances, trade for Viktor Kozlov. Seriously, that guy ruins everything.
Well, now seems like a good time to dive back into the pile of forgotten transactions. So here are five more strange moves from over the years, all of which probably seemed like a good idea at the time.
The Ballad of Not Mike Craig
Craig was a winger who played seven full NHL seasons in the 1990s. Here’s everything you need to know about him: good junior player; second-round pick; interesting hair; marginal NHL bust; irrationally hated by Maple Leaf fans for costing them Peter Zezel; the end.
Oh, and he’d also end up being personally responsible for a ridiculous number of star players winding up in San Jose. And all because — more than two decades ago — the Sharks agreed to not have him play for them. Strap in, this one gets kind of convoluted.
In 1991, the Sharks came into existence as a quasi-expansion team that was partially split off from the Minnesota North Stars because of a complicated ownership dispute. That led to a dispersal draft in which the Sharks stocked their roster with North Stars players, followed by an expansion draft in which both teams got to pick players from around the league. Absolutely nobody understood how any of this worked at the time, but we didn’t have the Internet so we just went with it.
The North Stars had drafted Craig two years earlier, and he’d played 39 games for them in 1990-91. He wasn’t protected, but Minnesota still wanted to keep him. So they worked out an arrangement with San Jose: In exchange for a 1992 first-round pick and a 1991 second-rounder, the Sharks agreed that they would not draft Craig.
It would end up being one of the greatest deals the team ever made. Those two draft picks ended up being Sandis Ozolinsh and Andrei Nazarov, both of whom were productive players for San Jose who had long NHL careers. But it was the chain reaction of deals that flows from both guys that is still being felt in San Jose today.
Ozolinsh was eventually traded for Owen Nolan, who scored more than 200 goals for the Sharks before being dealt to Toronto in a lopsided 2003 deal. Meanwhile, Nazarov was dealt to the Lightning as part of the Vincent Lecavalier deal we talked about last time. That deal got the Sharks Bryan Marchment, who begat Matt Carle, who begat Dan Boyle and also landed San Jose with two more picks, who became Brad Stuart and Jonathan Cheechoo. Cheechoo scored 56 goals and won the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2006, before being traded as part of a package for Dany Heatley, who was traded for Martin Havlat. And Stuart was a key part of the 2005 trade that brought Joe Thornton to San Jose, where he won that season’s MVP.
So 200 goals from Nolan, a Rocket Richard, a Hart Trophy, and a roster that to this day still features Havlat, Boyle, and Thornton … all in exchange for not taking Craig in a dispersal draft more than 20 years ago. It’s no surprise that, even to this day, San Jose Sharks fans still sing the praises of one of the most beloved and influential players in franchise history: Not Mike Craig.