With less than two weeks to go until the trade deadline and one blockbuster already in the books, hockey fans will spend the days until March 2 dreaming of monster deals that will shake teams to their foundation.
We probably won’t get any, but we can still hope. Trades are great fun, even though they’re largely a dying art in today’s NHL. And maybe even more fun than the completed deals are the near misses, the blockbusters that almost happened and then, for whatever reason, fell apart. We don’t always hear about those, but when we do, it can be great entertainment to look back at them years later and shake our heads at what could have been.
One big caveat: Since none of these deals were actually consummated, and NHL front-office types aren’t exactly in the habit of going on the record about this stuff, we’ll never know for sure how close any of these moves actually came to happening. All the deals below are rumors — well-reported rumors several steps above the usual message-board nonsense — but rumors nonetheless. Please have a large grain of salt or two handy before reading further.
With that out of the way, here are five huge trades1 from NHL history that (allegedly) almost happened, but didn’t.
Detroit trades Steve Yzerman to Ottawa for Alexei Yashin
Today, Steve Yzerman is a Red Wings legend, and the idea of him ever taking the ice in any other team’s uniform seems unimaginable. But as we’ve covered before, there was a time when Yzerman seemed to have worn out his welcome in Detroit. He was a great player, but he just wasn’t a winner, the thinking went, and it was time for the franchise to turn the page and move on. In 1995, the Red Wings almost did just that.
They found a willing trade partner in Yzerman’s hometown team, the Ottawa Senators. The deal would have reportedly centered around young center Alexei Yashin, and while they’d no doubt deny it now, plenty of Red Wing fans thought it sounded like a fantastic idea. One rumor at the time said the deal was actually agreed to, and fell apart only when Detroit ownership stepped in at the last minute and nixed it.
Yzerman went on to captain the Red Wings to three Stanley Cups, while Yashin’s endless holdouts eventually made him one of the most hated players in Senators history. (Luckily for Ottawa, they eventually found a sucker to take him off their hands.) Today, the idea that a team would want to address a of a winning culture by trading Steve Yzerman for Alexei Yashin seems almost too ridiculous to comprehend. But at one point, Detroit came very close to doing exactly that.
Come on, Red Wings. If you have a choice between the Russian embroiled in a contract dispute and the good North American boy, you’d be crazy to choose the Russian!
Detroit trades Pavel Datsyuk to New Jersey for Scott Gomez
Hm. OK, scratch that last thought.