Friday, February 16, 2024

The Billy Harris all-stars: Players traded right before their team won a Cup

As we approach the trade deadline, everyone’s looking for the next Butch Goring. Every fan knows that story, even if you’re young enough to be fuzzy on the actual player. When the Islanders traded for Gording at the 1980 deadline, he turned out to be the final piece of a championship puzzle, the ultimate midseason addition. In years since, we’ve seen it happen with names like Patrick Roy, Ron Francis and Jeff Carter, stars who arrived just in time to push their new teams to a title.

Great. But what about the other side of the coin? To get a Butch Goring, sometimes you have to give up a Billy Harris or Dave Lewis. Those were the two veterans the Islanders sent the other way in the Goring trade. Both had been with the team for their whole NHL careers. And then, just before the Cup was ready to arrive in New York, they were sent packing. Both guys stuck around the league for years, but neither ever won a ring of their own. They just got to watch their former teammates win them, over and over again.

That’s always kind of fascinated me. And I know I’m not alone, because today’s column topic is one of the most-requested on my list. OK, let’s do this – a full roster made up of players who were traded away right before their team won it all.

To be clear, we’re looking for players who:

  • Were traded away during a season where the old team would go on to win the Cup. Note the “during the season” here. We want a guy who was wearing the uniform that season, only to be sent away before the final chapter was written, meaning offseason moves don’t count. You’re safe for today, Tage Thompson fans.
  • The player had to have been contributing to the team enough that we can assume they’d have been part of the Cup run. No minor league prospects, obviously.
  • The player couldn’t have already won a Cup with that team. Bonus points for players who never ended up winning a Cup at all. We’re looking for maximum pathos here.

We’ll start the clock after that 1980 Goring trade, the one the that basically created the modern trade deadline dynamic. Let’s see what kind of a roster we can build out of guys who had strong skills on the ice, but unfortunately didn’t have great timing on the open market.

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