We’re down to eight days until the deadline, and so far the market has been… a little slow. Just a bit sluggish. Did you bet the under? You’re probably going to win.
Maybe GMs around the league are just saving up for the big finale. Or maybe they’re all big wimpy babies. But there’s another possible explanation. Maybe they just need a little extra motivation.
Let’s provide some. Today, let’s put together a full roster of the best trade deadline–week acquisitions in league history. We’re only looking at what each player did with his new team here, and we’re not counting draft picks that turned into stars (we covered a few of those last week). But that still gives us plenty of big names to choose from. Consider it a reminder that every now and then, a smart and/or lucky GM can land a major difference-maker with the right deadline move.
Will this year’s deadline add anyone to the team? Time will tell. But for now, let’s meet our roster.
Ron Francis, Pittsburgh Penguins (March 4, 1991)
The 1990–91 Penguins were already stacked, boasting future Hall of Famers like Mario Lemieux, Paul Coffey, Larry Murphy, Joe Mullen and Bryan Trottier, not to mention a team-leading 113-point season from Mark Recchi and a rookie with funny hair named Jaromir Jagr. But with his team hovering just two games over .500 and coming off a four-game losing streak, GM Craig Patrick apparently decided that they needed something more.
And so, a week before the 1991 deadline, Patrick swung one of the biggest trades of the era, sending John Cullen, Jeff Parker and Zarley Zalapski to Hartford for Francis, Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings. It was, to put it mildly, a questionable move for the Whalers. Francis was the franchise, and seeing him dealt away devastated the fanbase.
Francis would go on to have some of the best years of his career in Pittsburgh, and his arrival was a key to the team winning back-to-back Cups.
Brett Hull, St. Louis Blues (March 7, 1988)
The trade that sent Brett Hull from Calgary to St. Louis might hold the distinction of being the most lopsided trade in sports history that neither team is all that unhappy with.
From the Blues' side, it was a heist. Hull would go on to record three straight 70-plus goal seasons and win an MVP in St. Louis, and they got him and Steve Bozek for a pair of solid-but-unspectacular veterans in Rick Wamsley and Rob Ramage. It's the best trade in franchise history, and it's not close.
But while the Flames got robbed in terms of long-term value, they made the deal with a purpose: Load up on experience to win a Stanley Cup. In 1989, they did, taking home the franchise's first and only championship. Would you trade that banner to get Hull back? Probably not, but Hull still gets a spot on our first line.
Markus Naslund, Vancouver Canucks (March 20, 1996)
Naslund reunites with Francis on our top line. The two were teammates in Pittsburgh in the mid-’90s; Naslund had actually put up 52 points in 66 games in his first full NHL season in 1995–96. But the Pens already had plenty of skill and wanted some toughness, so they sent the young Swede to Vancouver in exchange for bruiser Alek Stojanov.
That move worked out OK for Vancouver; Naslund would go on to become the franchise leader in goals and points.