Only one team ever truly “wins” trade deadline day, and it’s the team that goes on to capture the Stanley Cup.
That’s what they say, anyway. It seems like a pretty simplistic way of looking at things, if we’re being honest, since all a GM can ever be realistically asked to do is to put his team in the best possible position to win. Nothing is ever guaranteed in life, and the idea that you’re retroactively wrong to have even tried unless everything works out perfectly seems a little fatalistic.
But either way, there is something special to be said for the GM who swings for the fences at the deadline and then sees it all pay off in a Stanley Cup parade a few months later. So today, let’s give the spotlight over to the few who’ve managed to pull it off. Here are the five best trade deadline week hauls by teams that went on to win the Stanley Cup that same season.
#5: Detroit Red Wings, 1997
The Red Wings have a fascinating trade deadline history. They’ve been good for so long that no team has had more opportunity to load up for deep playoff runs. And since GM Ken Holland virtually never makes deals during the first four months of the season, that leaves the Wings with lots of work to do most years at the deadline.
And they’ve had some big ones, although with mixed results. They landed Matthieu Schneider in 2003 and Robert Lang in 2004, plus Todd Bertuzzi in 2007 and Brad Stuart in 2008. In more recent years they’ve gone after guys like Kyle Quincey, David Legwand, Eric Cole and Marek Zidlicky. And they had one of the greatest “load up and go for it” deadlines of all-time back in 1999, when they pulled off the Chris Chelios blockbuster while also adding a who’s who of grizzled veterans, including Bill Ranford, Ulf Samuelsson and Wendel Clark. But that team didn’t win it all.
Instead, we’ll point back to far simpler deadline. Back in 1997, the Wings (then under the guidance of co-GMs Jimmy Devellano and Scotty Bowman) acquired future Hall of Famer Larry Murphy from the Maple Leafs. That’s it. That was the whole trade. The Leafs were embarking on a youth movement and wanted to unload the 36-year-old Murphy’s hefty salary, so they didn’t bother to ask for anything in return.
They say you can’t get something for nothing, but the Wings proved that wrong. In this case, that “something” turned out to be five more seasons of solid play from Murphy, including back-to-back Stanley Cup runs. It’s hard to do much better than that.