On Wednesday, the Blue Jackets traded Ryan Johansen to the Predators for Seth Jones. The move was remarkable in a few different ways. For one, it was a trade – apparently, we still have those – and a blockbuster at that. It was also a good old-fashioned hockey deal, one inspired not by the salary cap or a trade demand or a tanking team's desire to bottom out, but two GMs simply getting together and betting that they could make their teams better by swapping assets.
But there was another unusual element of the move: It was a one-for-one trade. And it turns out that those are fairly rare creatures in the NHL.
I know this, because I thought "Hey, I should write a post about some of the great one-for-one deals in NHL history", and then found out that there weren't anywhere near as many as I remembered. It turns out that lots of trades that you may recall as one-for-one actually had some spare change thrown in on one or both sides. Savard for Chelios? Nope, that one included a draft pick. Nieuwendyk for Iginla? Don't forget Corey Millen. Heatley for Hossa? Greg de Vries. Turgeon for LaFontaine? Yeah, that one actually had like 14 pieces to it. Come to think of it, I may be the only one who thought that was a one-for-one. My bad.
But the point remains: True one-for-one deals don't happen often, which is all the more reason to love Johansen-for-Jones. But there have been a few, and I came up with ten of the most memorable. Please note that this isn't meant to be a definitive list, since due to recent events my research department currently consists of a magic eight ball I made myself by dropping a 20-sided die into an empty whiskey bottle. If I missed your favorite, please know that I did my best to… wait, you already skipped the intro, scanned the list, and went to Twitter to call me an idiot, didn’t you? Cool, cool.
For the rest of you, here are ten of the more interesting one-for-one trades from NHL history.
July 27, 1995 – Hartford trades Chris Pronger to St. Louis for Brendan Shanahan
This is probably the biggest one-for-one trade in NHL history, not to mention the best comparison for Johansen-for-Jones. It's also the one that might keep David Poile awake at night for the next few year, because it's the classic example of why you never want to give up on a young stud defenseman too early, no matter how rich the return.
That's not to say the deal was a bust for the Whalers. Just like the Predators, they got a first-line forward in his prime, and this one went on to become a Hall-of-Famer. But while Shanahan was very good, Pronger developed into an absolute beast, and remains the only defenseman to win the MVP since Bobby Orr. That's probably a little too high to set our targets for Jones, but it's a vivid illustration of the worst case scenario when you move a blueliner before you really know what you have.
(And no, the fact that Shanahan lasted just one full season in Hartford before demanding a trade probably doesn't help. And the whole franchise relocation thing that followed. Listen, Predators fans, let's just forget I ever mentioned any of this.)
June 23, 2012 – Toronto trades Luke Schenn to Philadelphia for James van Riemsdyk
This may have been the last true one-for-one NHL blockbuster before this week, although it doesn't look anywhere near as big as it once did. In 2012, Schenn was still considered a solid enough young defenseman with upside, and not the borderline depth guy he looks like today. In the years since, this deal looked like an absolute steal for Toronto as van Riemsdyk developed into a solid scorer. He seems to have settled into a 25-30 goal guy, which won't get him on many all-star teams, but isn't bad.
But still – Toronto won a trade! I don't get to write those words very often. I'm in a good mood now, let's see what's next on our list.
June 24, 2006 – Toronto trades Tuukka Rask to Boston for Andrew Raycroft
You know what? No. I'm still not ready to talk about this one. Let's just move on to some other team's terrible trade to make me feel better.
March 20, 1996 – Pittsburgh trades Markus Naslund to Vancouver for Alek Stojanov
Much better. The two players had both been first round picks in the 1991 draft, and by 1996 neither had fully lived up to expectations. The bruising Stojanov had 62 NHL games under his belt and had only managed one point. Naslund had fared better, and had 52 points on the season when this deadline deal went down. That sounds pretty good, but these were the mid-90s Penguins, where even the backup goalie was expected to crack 80 points, so Naslund had to go.
At the time, this looked like an odd move for the Penguins. In hindsight, this is one of the worst deals in NHL history. Naslund went on to become a star in Vancouver, while Stojanov was out of the NHL for good just a half-season after the trade.
And yes, Canucks fans, I know some of you are nervous about being too happy about this because you're wondering if Cam Neely for Barry Pederson is about to show up. But don't worry – you can smile away, because that deal doesn't make our list since it wasn't technically a one-for-one trade.
(Because Vancouver also threw in a first round pick, you see. Uh, Canucks fans, you're not smiling.)
May 26, 1976 – New York trades Rick Middleton to Boston for Ken Hodge
This is another one that shows up on a lot of "worst deals ever" lists, and for good reason. Hodge had been a steal for the Bruins when they stole him and Phil Esposito from the Blackhawks in 1967, and they doubled down almost a decade later by flipping him to the Rangers for a 22-year-old Middleton.
That move helped the Bruins stay on top in the post-Esposito/Orr era, one that saw them nearly win the Cup in 1979 until, well, you know. Much like trades, line changes are also better when they're one-for-one.
July 10, 1957 – Boston trades Terry Sawchuk to the Red Wings for John Bucyk
One-for-one trades become a lot more common if you go back to original six era; there weren't draft picks to trade back then, and most teams were lucky if their few scouts were familiar with more than a handful of players on each team. So we won't spend too much time lingering on trades from the middle of the century.
But this one is worth a mention, since it involved two Hall-of-Famers being swapped straight up at very different stages of their careers. Sawchuk was already a seven-time all-star who was widely considered the best goalie in the game. Bucyk had just two seasons and 11 goals to his name. Both players went on to long careers, with each playing into their 40s.
If we're learning anything from this list, it's this: Don't make one-for-one trades with the Boston Bruins.
December 29, 1998 – Chicago trades Paul Coffey to Carolina for Nelson Emerson
My favorite part of this trade is that I guarantee there are at least a few readers who think I made it up. Nothing about it makes sense. Paul Coffey was a Hall of Fame defenseman; he wouldn't be traded for Nelson Emerson. Especially in a deal involving two teams that nobody has any recollection of him ever playing for.
But it happened, and according to hockey-reference.com it made Emerson the 18th different NHLer to be part of a trade involving Paul Coffey. Is that a record? I feel like that's probably a record. Other players have been traded more often than Coffey, but many of those deals were for future considerations or draft picks. With Coffey, GMs just went crazy throwing names into the pile.
But yeah, by 1998 you could get him for Nelson Emerson. What can you say, he was at the end of his career. What kind of player do you realistically think you're going to get for a third-line depth forward, a future Hall-of-Famer who's going to play another dozen years?
January 23, 2004 – Washington trades Jaromir Jagr to New York for Anson Carter
Yes, while it may come as a surprise to newer fans who know Jagr as a divisive but unstoppable force of nature in the 90s who morphed into the beloved veteran he is today, there was that whole awkward phase in the middle where he made a ton of money and everyone thought he was bad. He wasn't – even in Washington, he still averaged well over a point-per-game – but at $11 million, he wasn't worth his payc heck, and the Caps had to take what they could get.
That ended up being Carter, a solid player who was on his way to achieving the impressive feat of playing for seven different teams in his last four NHL seasons. The deal worked out fine for Washington, who just wanted to be rid of Jagr's salary. And it worked for the Rangers too; after the lockout, Jagr looked like his old self with 123 points in 2005-06, finishing second in MVP voting.
August 31, 1992 – Minnesota trades Brian Bellows to Montreal for Russ Courtnall
I'll be honest, I mainly like this one because of the NHL '93 ramifications. Still, it was a big deal at the time. And in hindsight, quite possibly the most lopsided deal ever if we're judging purely by quality of hockey hair.
It's just that... well, Russ Courtnall reminds me of the John Kordic trade, which I defend to this day but still makes every list of worst trades ever, and now I'm back to thinking about how terrible the Leafs are at trading. I didn't even have to mention Kurvers-for-Niedermayer, since that was actually for a draft pick, or Larry Murphy to Detroit, since that was technically a one-for-nothing.
This was supposed to be fun, and now I'm depressed again. This is no way to go out. Let's end this on a high note.
February 26, 2015 – Columbus trades Nathan Horton to Toronto for David Clarkson