Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Patrick Marleau, Ray Bourque, and the ultra-rare veteran trade

The Patrick Marleau trade watch continues this week, with rumors swirling that the Sharks could be shopping the forward, possibly at his request. The story feels familiar, one that plays out multiple times every season – the veteran star on the middling team, with both sides wondering if a change of scenery wouldn’t be for the best.

But there’s a twist here that makes the Marleau situation somewhat unique. The forward has spent his entire career in San Jose, and is currently in his 18th season with the Sharks. While veterans are dealt all the time, it’s remarkably rare to see a guy spend anywhere near that much time with one franchise and then leave via trade.

How rare? According to Elias Sports Bureau, just 21 players in NHL history have played at least 15 full seasons with one franchise, then moved on to play for another team. Of those, nine left as free agents, including recent cases like Daniel Alfredsson and Martin Brodeur (as well as current Bruins’ GM Don Sweeney). Three more went to the WHA and then returned to the NHL when the league absorbed their new clubs. And one, Serge Savard, was plucked in the waiver draft.

That leaves just eight players in the history of the NHL that have done what Marleau may be on the verge of doing: Play the first fifteen years or more of their career for one franchise, and then find themselves traded out of town. So I figured I’d take a look back at each of those cases, and see if there’s anything that Marleau and the Sharks can learn from them.

Ray Bourque

The prelude: Bourque was a first round pick in 1979 and made the Bruins as a teenager that same year. He’d go on to play almost 21 full seasons in Boston, winning five Norris Trophies, earning 12 first-team all-star honors, and recording over 1,500 points. His time in Boston saw him achieve just about everything a player could ever hope to… with one exception.

The trade: With no Cup rings after two decades in Boston and the Bruins on the verge of missing the playoffs, Bourque requested a trade to a contender. On March 6, 2000, the Bruins sent him and Dave Andreychuk to the Avalanche in exchange for Brian Rolston, Samuel Pahlsson, Martin Grenier and a first round pick.

The aftermath: This deal is pretty much the sports world’s gold standard for trades involving a long-time franchise player. The Bruins didn’t get much for their superstar, but that was hardly the point. This move was all about getting Bourque his ring. And while it didn’t happen in 2000, that just set the stage for one of the most cherished moments in hockey history to play out one year later.

The lesson: Sometimes, it’s more important to find the right fit for your long-serving veteran that it is to squeeze every drop of value out of a trade. Unfortunately, that sort of sentiment seems unlikely to apply here. Marleau has his fans in San Jose, but he’s nowhere near as beloved as Bourque was in Boston – and that extends to a front office that’s seemed to want a divorce for years. They’ll move Marleau if the right deal comes along, but don’t look for the Sharks to be doing him any favors.

>> Read the full post on ESPN.com

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