Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Who was the worst player to ever be traded one-for-one for a future Hall of Famer?

While there hasn’t been a ton of big news over the last few weeks, we have seen a handful of trades. The Hawks made two of them, sending Artem Anisimov to Ottawa for Zack Smith and Henri Jokiharju to Buffalo for Alexander Nylander. And then there was the big one, last week’s Milan Lucic for James Neal swap.

That one led to Bob McKenzie getting a little bit cheeky on Twitter.

That’s a callback to this all-timer about the Taylor Hall deal, but it highlights something neat about the last few weeks of deals: They were all classic one-for-ones.

I’ve always loved the humble one-for-one trade. I can appreciate the occasional nine-player blockbuster as much as the next guy, but there’s just something about the simplicity of one player going each way in a deal. It’s the sports equivalent of buying something with exact change. No draft picks, no prospects, no list of depth guys or fringe minor leaguers to balance out the ledger. Just two players switching teams, and two GMs betting that their new guy will be better than their old one.

The Lucic-for-Neal trade might not stay a one-for-one, thanks to the inclusion of a truly spectacular conditional third-round pick. But for now, it can be included in a category with a rich if uneven history. Crack open the NHL record books, and you’ll find one-for-one trades that include multiple Hall of Famers (Pronger-for-Shanahan, Sawchuk-for-Bucyk), very good players (Middleton-for-Hodge) and current-day stars (Weber-for-Subban). Some of them worked out great for both teams (Jones-for-Johansen). Some of them very much did not (Hall-for-Larsson, Rask-for-Raycroft, Naslund-for-Stojanov).

But today, I want to go in a slightly different direction, with what might seem like a weird question: Who’s the least successful player to ever be traded straight up in a one-for-one deal for a future Hall of Famer?

At first glance, you’d think the list would be a pretty short one. After all, future Hall of Famers tend to be pretty good. You’d figure that if you were going to be traded for one, you’d have to be pretty good too. And usually, yeah, that turns out to be the case. But not always, because this is the NHL. Sometimes circumstances get weird and stuff happens.

So, let’s look at five players who it might surprise you to learn can claim to have been traded one-for-one for a future Hall of Famer. (All trade details are from

Jim Montgomery

Technically, Guy Carbonneau isn’t a Hall of Famer yet; that will have to wait for the induction ceremony in November. But he’s now officially a future Hall of Famer, so we can use him to build our list. And as it turns out, he offers us two possibilities. Carbonneau was traded twice in his career, and both were underwhelming one-for-one deals. In 1995, he went from St. Louis to Dallas for Paul Broten, who wasn’t a superstar but at least put together a solid career. So instead, let’s use Carbonneau’s other trade, which came in 1994 and saw him dealt from Montreal to St. Louis for 25-year-old sophomore (and Montreal native) Jim Montgomery.

The trade was a big deal in Montreal, where Carbonneau had played 13 seasons, winning three Selkes and two Cups, including one in 1993 as captain. One year after that championship, and just days after the team was eliminated from the playoffs, a Montreal newspaper ran a front-page cover of Carbonneau giving the finger to a photographer at a golf course. The team claimed that the trade had nothing to do with the controversy, although it’s fair to say that not everyone believed them. Either way, Carbonneau was himself stunned by the trade, as were many fans.

In exchange, the Canadiens received a young center who’d been a college star and was coming off a 20-point rookie season. He made the Habs to start the lockout-shortened season, appearing in five games without recording a point. That would spell the end of his career as a Canadien; just two weeks into the season, the Flyers claimed him on waivers, leaving Montreal with nothing to show for trading away their captain.

Montgomery would spend parts of two seasons in Philadelphia and several more in the minors before resurfacing in the NHL with the Sharks and later Stars. In all, from the day he was traded straight up for Carbonneau he’d play just 55 NHL games, scoring three goals and 14 points.

So no, Jim Montgomery didn’t end up being much of an NHL player, despite once being traded for a Hall of Famer. But if the name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s back in the league now, having slightly more success as the head coach of the Dallas Stars.

Yan Golubovsky

Golubovsky was a Russian defenseman who’d been a first-round pick by the Red Wings in 1994. He didn’t debut until 1997, playing a dozen games for the Wings over a one-month stretch before being sent back down. He bounced up and down for three seasons, playing a total of 50 games and scoring one goal while mostly holding down AHL duties.

When he didn’t make the NHL roster out of camp in 2000, the team finally cut bait. And they did it by reacquiring a recent Wing. Igor Larionov had spent five years in Detroit before heading to Florida as a free agent in the 2000 offseason, presumably to center countryman Pavel Bure. That move had been a bust for everyone involved, with Larionov playing poorly, feuding with the coaching and staff and generally making a nuisance of himself. When the Wings came calling and Larionov agreed to waive his no-trade clause, the Panthers jumped at the chance to fold a bad hand, and a Larionov-for-Golubovsky trade was born.

Larionov played three more solid seasons for the Wings, including a 2002 Cup run in which he scored a massive goal. As for Florida, the deal was overshadowed by bigger news, as the Panthers fired GM Bryan Murray and coach Terry Murray on the same day. But they promised their fans that Golubovsky would play for the Panthers one day. He did – six games, to be exact. They’d be the last of his NHL career, as he’d head back to Russia after the season.

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