Monday, July 16, 2018

Six teams that were forced into trading a star, but still won the deal

We’re still waiting on an Erik Karlsson deal. We’re still told that the Lightning and Stars are the frontrunners, but the rumour mill has largely gone cold and a deal no longer seems imminent. Some reports now suggest that Pierre Dorion could even end up holding on to Karlsson until training camp, if not beyond.

As far as the Senators and their fans go, no news may feel like good news. After all, conventional wisdom says that this is a trade they just can’t win.

For one, there’s the old adage about the team that gets the best player winning the deal, and that will be Karlsson. But more importantly, it’s always been clear that the Senators are dealing from a position of weakness. They don’t want to trade their captain, but they might have no choice. And as the old saying goes, when the league knows you’re drowning, other teams start throwing anchors instead of lifejackets.

We’ve seen it plenty of times in NHL history, and the team that’s forced into dealing a star typically gets taken to the cleaners. Think of Montreal trading Patrick Roy to Colorado, or the Oilers sending Mark Messier to New York, or the Flames all but giving Doug Gilmour to Toronto. Those ended up being some of the most lopsided deals in NHL history, but the teams making them didn’t have much choice. That’s the sort of situation the Senators may be headed towards, and it always ends in misery.

Well, almost always. Because while it’s rare, there have been some cases in NHL history where a team was forced into trading away a superstar and actually ended up doing well on the deal. So today, let’s offer up some optimism for Ottawa fans by looking back at six times that a team was backed into a corner and still found a way to come out even, or even ahead – and what the Senators could learn from them.

Eric Lindros to Philadelphia, 1992

The setup: We’ll start with the most obvious example, and a blockbuster that reminds us that sometimes the best player in a trade doesn’t end up being who you might think.

When the Nordiques drafted Lindros in 1991, they thought they’d landed their franchise player. Lindros was the most hyped prospect to enter the league since Mario Lemieux, and was viewed as a sure-thing superstar. But he didn’t want to play in Quebec and went back to junior rather than sign a contract with the Nordiques. The team tried to play hardball, but after a full year had passed it became evident they’d have to make a trade.

The trade: This gets a little complicated, since the Nordiques actually ended up trading Lindros twice. They agreed to separate deals with both the Rangers and the Flyers, and it took a hearing in front of an NHL arbitrator to figure out which deal would stand. After five days and 11 witnesses, the ruling came down: Lindros was headed to Philadelphia, in exchange for Ron Hextall, Steve Duchesne, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci, the rights to Peter Forsberg, two first-round picks and cash.

The result: While he wasn’t the next Lemieux, Lindros came reasonably close to living up to the hype. He won a Hart Trophy in his third season, and eventually made the Hall of Fame despite an injury-riddled career. But the Nordiques may have got the best player in the deal in Forsberg, and the rest of the haul helped them make a quick transition from laughingstock to Cup contender.

(For what it’s worth, the Flyers would end up being backed into an unwanted trade of their own in 2001, when Lindros sat out an entire season to force his way out of town. That deal ended up being a bust.)

The lesson: With all due respect to Karlsson, it’s hard to imagine a player ever having as much trade value as the 19-year-old Lindros did, so the Sens won’t be getting anywhere close to that sort of windfall. But they do seem to be following one key page from the Nordiques’ playbook by working to create a bidding war between two teams. If Dorion can maneuver the Stars and Lightning into an auction, he may be able to extract enough value to make the move work out. Just, uh, don’t pull the trigger on both deals at the same time.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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