Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Remember some trades: One underrated NHL trade deadline deal for all 32 teams

Everyone loves a good deadline trade, with the possible exceptions of players, their families, most teammates, and the GMs who get mocked and then fired for screwing them up. But sure, everyone else, which is to say sportswriters like me who need content.

That’s especially true when the trade is a genuine blockbuster featuring a big name. Those are the sort trades that get remembered forever, with fans still reciting details decades later. But most deadline deals aren’t like that, and sometimes they can even fade from our collective memory. That doesn’t mean the trade didn’t matter, but it does give us an excuse to go back and pick an underrated trade from every team’s deadline history.

The premise might be a little tricky here, since one fan’s underrated move is another’s obvious blockbuster. We’ll try to thread the needle as best we can, looking for deals that ended up being important but that might not be all that well-remembered outside a given market. We’ll even dig up some old links to send you even further down the rabbit hole. It’s deadline week, it’s not like you were going to get any work done.

Sound good? Cool, let’s remember some trades.

Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks are a fun place to start. They’ve made some memorable deals over the years, including the ones that landed Teemu Selanne in 1996 and sent him to San Jose in 2001, plus a busy deadline last year. But the trade that best fits our premise came in 2003, when the Ducks sent a young Mike Commodore and prospect Jean-Francois Damphousse to Calgary for veteran center Rob Niedermayer. That deal was a winner in more ways that one – Niedermayer helped the Ducks make a surprise run to the Cup final that year (along with fellow deadline pickup Steve Thomas), then stuck around long enough to be a key reason that his brother Scott signed as a free agent in 2005.

Arizona Coyotes

For Arizona’s deadline deal, let’s go with the Antoine Vermette trade. No, the other one, and that’s part of the beauty of it. The 2012 trade that saw the Coyotes get Vermette from Columbus for picks paid off nicely during that year’s playoff run. Vermette stuck around for three years, was dealt to the Hawks at the 2015 deadline in a more memorable deal that landed the Coyotes a first-round pick, and then even came back that summer as a UFA.

Boston Bruins

The Bruins have a long history of taking advantage of dumb teams on the trade market, but finding a deal that qualifies as underrated is a bit trickier. I don’t think Adam Oates in 1992 would qualify. Taylor Hall can’t, and neither can Hampus Lindholm. You know what, let’s go with the 2006 deadline move that sent Sergei Samsonov to Edmonton for two players and a second-round pick that turned into Milan Lucic at that summer’s draft. (Bonus fun fact: The pick that would become Brad Marchand was traded that same day, but it went from the Coyotes to the Islanders; the Bruins later acquired it on the draft floor.)

Buffalo Sabres

I don’t think we can count the 2003 Danny Briere deal, so let’s go way back for our Sabres pick. At the 1981 deadline, they sent all-star Rick Martin to the Kings for a first-round pick two years down the road. This one ended up being contentious, since Martin was hurt and was at risk of missing the playoffs, leading to the rare sight of the trades terms being renegotiated after the fact. The 1983 first stayed in the deal, though, and ended up being fifth overall, and the Sabres used it on Tom Barrasso, who immediately won the Vezina as a teenager. The deadline pick that turns into a star goalie trick works well for them; they pulled it off again in 1999 when they flipped Mike Wilson for the pick that became Ryan Miller.

Calgary Flames

Their deadline history includes trading away a young Brett Hull, plus an old Jarome Iginla to two teams on the same night. But I’m going to go with a classic hockey trade that features six great 90s names: Gary Suter, Paul Ranheim and Ted Drury to Hartford for Zarley Zalapski, Michael Nylander and James Patrick. Why yes, that would be Chris’s brother, William’s dad and Ryan’s uncle all in the same trade, because there are like nine families left making all the NHL players.

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