NHL teams trade players with each other all the time. General managers must constantly balance team needs against the amount of money that they are able to pay individual players. Oftentimes GMs are motivated to trade for players to fill specific roles on the team, but other times, GMs are looking to dump specific players for either performance, personal conduct, or monetary reasons. On occasion, it is the players themselves requesting a trade.
Players get traded for all kinds of different reasons, but if a general manager must trade a player, they do have to make sure that they get the most bang for their buck. In an ideal world, all trades would be perfectly equal, and both teams would immediately notice improvement due to their new acquisition, but unfortunately, in most cases, both a clear trade winner and trade loser emerge over time. In the NHL, being on the receiving end of a bad trade can put your team back years, or even decades.
We’ve broken down 15 of the most lopsided trades that have happened in recent years. Although all of the trades on this list took place in 2015 or later, the fallout from these trades is already well underway, and its already clear which team got the better end of the deal. Because all of these trades happened recently, in most cases, the divide between the trade winner and the trade loser will only grow with time. One day in the future, we will look back on some of these trades and wonder, “what the heck were they thinking?”
15 P.K. Subban For Shea Weber (2016)
The blockbuster trade of the decade happened in the summer of 2016 when the Nashville Predators and the Montreal Canadiens got together to trade Olympians. Shea Weber was coming off his 11th NHL season with a 20 goal, 51-point performance in Nashville, and Subban, his 6th, posting the same 51-point total as Weber. The trade was so evenly valued at the time that critics in both cities were divided as to which team was better off. The numbers were almost equal; over their careers, both players had averaged around .60 points per game. It was their ages that separated them the most: Weber, 4 years older than PK, had seen his production numbers flatline over his last few seasons, while Subban’s were getting better.
At the end of the 2016-17 season, the trade was considered a draw: both players recorded around 40 points, and both teams made it back to the post-season.
During the 2017-18 season, it was coming clear that Nashville had won the trade, and moving forward, the scales will only continue to tip in Nashville’s favor. Weber’s injuries held him to just 26 games, and the Canadiens finished near the bottom of the league overall. Subban, who played in every game, had a 59-point season and is a Norris Trophy nominee for the most outstanding defenseman in the league. Subban still has the best years of his career ahead of him, while Weber’s best day are behind him.
14 Martin Jones For Sean Kuraly & 2016 1st Round Pick (Trent Frederic) (2015)
Since he was traded to the San Jose Sharks three seasons ago, Martin Jones has posted 30+ wins and started in 60+ games each season. Jones has been the undisputed number one goalie for the Sharks, and led them to the Stanley Cup finals his first season with the team. Martin Jones was a Boston Bruin for only 4 days, after being acquired earlier in the week from the LA Kings in exchange for Milan Lucic. The Bruins had acquired Colin Miller and a first round pick in that deal as well. The trade worked well for both sides, and it was considered that fair value went both ways. However, the Bruins already had Tuukka Rask as their starting goalie, and were looking to move Jones immediately. The Sharks were coming off a 2014-15 season that had seen them miss playoffs for the first time in years.
Jones was one of the most sought-after backup goalies who had a legitimate shot at becoming a starter in the NHL, but it was highly unlikely that the Kings, as division rivals, would exchange Jones with Sharks. When Jones went to Boston, the Sharks initiated the conversation. Boston sent Jones to San Jose in exchange for forward Sean Kuraly and a 2016 first round pick. We have talked about Jones’ three terrific season with the Sharks, but Kuraly has had much less success to speak of with the Bruins. Kuraly has played a total of 83 games and amassed a pathetic 15 points. The first rounder, who turned out to be Trent Frederic, has yet to make an NHL appearance. Very clear who won this trade.
13 Jordan Eberle For Ryan Strome (2017)
It was the 2017 off-season, and the Edmonton Oilers were coming off of their first playoff berth in 10 years. The team had one of the most explosive offenses in the league, but with all that talent, there was not enough salary to go around. The Oilers had Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Milan Lucic and Jordan Eberle all signed to multi-year deals worth $6M per season, Leon Draisatl was a pending restricted free agent and Connor McDavid one year away from his restricted free agency. The team needed to move one of their star players to make room on their salary cap to sign both Draisatl and McDavid. The Islanders, who had missed the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, were looking to add some prime talent to play with John Tavares.
The two teams got together and agreed to trade two players, Eberle and Ryan Strome, in a one-for-one deal. The Oilers opened up cap space, like they wanted, and the Islanders got a more established point producer. The Oilers hoped that Strome would post good production playing alongside McDavid; that experiment lasted a month before Strome was demoted to the third line for the rest of the season. Eberle, on the other hand, had a solid season with the Islanders, recording 25 goals and 59 points. The Islanders clearly got the better player and effectively won this trade. Although the Oilers freed up cap space, like they wanted to do, the loss of Eberle had a dire effect on their 2017-18 season.
12 Dion Phaneuf & Nate Thompson for Marian Gaborik & Nick Shore (2017)
At the 2017-18 trade deadline, the Senators found themselves out of the playoff race and were looking to dump some player off their roster. Ottawa traded Dion Phaneuf and Nate Thompson to the Los Angeles Kings for Marion Gaborik and Nick Shore, a clear salary swap that left many Ottawa fans scratching their heads. Gaborik, a 36-year-old forward who has not completed a full NHL season since 2011-12 with the New York Rangers, has 3 more years left on his contract. As part of the trade, the Senators retained $1.75M of Phaneuf’s contract in addition to Gaborik’s $4.875M per season.
In other words, Ottawa didn’t save any money and now has a 36-year-old injury-prone forward rather than a 33-year-old number-3 or -4 defenseman.
The secondary pieces to this trade are more or less even, as neither secondary player will affect the success of the teams to which they were traded. Nick Shore has already been traded to the Calgary Flames in exchange for an almost-certainly-useless seventh-round pick. If history is any judge, it is doubtful that Gaborik will suit up for more than 41 games during the upcoming season with the Senators. When he does play, don’t expect much impact from the aging forward; during the past three seasons, he has averaged only .3 points per game. Phaneuf, on the other hand, will be a solid addition to one of the best defensive units in the league, and he may even rejuvenate his career in California.
11 Sven Andrighetto For Andreas Martinsen (2017)
At the 2017 NHL Trade deadline, the Montreal Canadiens were trying to prepare their team for a long playoff run, and traded underachieving forward Sven Andrighetto to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Andreas Martinsen. Martinsen had trouble breaking into the Canadiens lineup, and finished the season pointless as a Canadien. He played in only 9 of the final 20 regular season games for the team, and just two of the six playoff games that season. Martinsen was later traded in the 2017 off-season to the Blackhawks. Andrighetto was moved up and down from the minor leagues several times in his stay with the Canadiens.
His time in the AHL saw him produce at a pace of more than a point per game, but when playing with the big club, his production reduced significantly to 28 points in 83 total games. Getting traded out of Montreal was the best thing that could have happened to the young forward. When he got to Colorado, his exploded with 16 points in the final 19 games of the regular season. His production slowed during the 2017-18 season, and he missed several games due to injuries, but he still produced a solid 22 points in just 50 games. Although this trade doesn’t have big names, it is very clear that one team got a solid forward, and the other team got dead weight.
10 Artemi Panarin, Tyler Motte & 2017 6th Round Pick (Jonathan Davidsson) For Brandon Saad, Anton Forsberg & 2018 5th Round Pick (2017)
The trade history between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks isn’t that long, but it seems to always revolve around the same player. During the 2015 off-season, the teams got together to complete a 7-player, one-draft-pick deal; the main piece of that trade was Brandon Saad, who was moving to Columbus. After two productive seasons in Columbus, recording back-to-back 53-point seasons, the two teams got together again to complete a four-player, two-draft-pick trade, but this time, it was not so even. The second trade, made during the 2017 off-season, saw Saad going back to Chicago, and Artemi Panarin heading to Columbus.
While Saad was a 50-point player in Columbus, Panarin had a couple of 70+ point seasons during his two years with Chicago, which makes this trade a little strange considering that they both made the same salary per season, and that the secondary pieces to this trade were virtually even. In Brandon Saad’s return to Chicago, his point production nose-dived to 35 points and 18 goals, his fewest in the past 4 years. On the other hand, Panarin set a career high in points with 82, and contributed 7 more points during the Blue Jackets’ disappointing first round exit from the playoffs. Saad’s NHL career is on the decline, and it doesn’t look like he will be able to produce at the same level he did early on in his career. As for Panarin, he is coming off of a career season.
9 Griffin Reinhart For 2015 1st Round Pick (Mathew Barzal) & 2015 Second Round Pick (2015)
Griffin Reinhart was the New York Islander’s 4th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. When a player is drafted top 5, they’re expected to enter the NHL immediately or, at most, the following season. The Islanders assigned Reinhart to the WHL for the next two seasons, even though he was eligible to play in the NHL. During the 2014-15 season, Reinhart made the Islanders’ roster out of training camp, but was assigned to the AHL after playing only 3 games. He stayed there until mid-December when he was recalled to the NHL, but 5 games later, he was back in the AHL, where he finished the season.
Clearly, the Islanders were not impressed with the young defenseman, and sought a trade during the 2015 off-season. Garth Snow suckered the Edmonton Oilers into thinking that Reinhart still had the potential to be an elite defenseman in the NHL, and that Reinhart was worth a first- and a second- round pick in the 2015 entry draft. With their acquired first round pick, the Islanders selected Mathew Barzal 16th overall. It took Barzal two years to make the Islanders roster, but, once there, recorded 85 points during his Calder-worthy rookie year. Meanwhile, Reinhart played only 29 games for the Oilers and produced a single point before he was eventually taken off their hands during the 2017 Golden Knights Expansion Draft. I can’t think of a more lopsided trade than a top line forward for a minor league defenseman.
8 Dougie Hamilton For 2015 1st Round Pick (Zachary Senyshyn), 2015 Second Round Pick (Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson) & 2015 Second Round Pick (Jeremy Lauzon) (2015)
During the 2015 off-season, the Boston Bruins cleaned house and loaded up on draft picks for the upcoming season. The Bruins traded three roster players in three separate trades to acquire two players and five draft picks. They acquired the most draft picks in a trade with the Calgary Flames, who sent three picks (One First and Two Seconds) in exchange for Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton was the 9th overall selection in the 2011 draft, and when he got to the NHL, he did not disappoint. He showed great offensive and defensive talent for the Bruins during his first three full seasons, but apparently the Bruins couldn’t turn away the bundle of draft pick offered for their young, aspiring defenseman.
Since the trade, Hamilton has played in all games but one for the Flames, and produced between 43 and 50 points a season.
Hamilton has unanimously becoming on of the Flames top defensemen, and will likely be considered one of the top defensemen in the NHL in the near future. In theory, draft picks are a great acquisition provided you draft the right players. The Bruins used their three 2015 picks to draft Zachary Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson & Jeremy Lauzon. Although eligible for the NHL the past three seasons, the trio have posted a collective one game in the NHL. Last year, all three played for the Bruins AHL affiliate in Providence, but with 26, 32 and 7 points respectively, aren’t exactly standing out. It’s already clear that this trade was ridiculously one-sided.
7 Calvin Pickard For Tobias Lindberg & 2018 6th Round Pick (2017)
Although this trade primarily involves minor league names, it is enormously lopsided, and that divide will only get worse as the off-season progresses. The Colorado Avalanche ex-goalie, Calvin Pickard, was selected by the Golden Knights during the 2017 Expansion draft. The season before, the Avalanche had recorded one of the worst season records in NHL history. Although not entirely his fault, Pickard was thrown to the wolves and was made to take much of the blame. During the expansion draft, the Golden Knights had selected 3 goalies in total. They claimed another off waivers, thus leaving the team with more goalies than they needed.
The Toronto Maple Leafs made an offer for Pickard in exchange for forward Tobias Lindberg and a 2018 sixth-round pick. Lindberg is a mediocre minor league player who is not under consideration for NHL playing time, and it is highly unlikely that a sixth-round pick will be impactful in the NHL. When Pickard landed in Toronto, he was assigned to the Maple Leaf’s AHL team, and teams took notice of his 21-9-1 record that helped advance the team to the Calder Cup finals. With such great play, Pickard will land another NHL contract shortly, and the Maple Leafs will subsequently trade Pickard for something more substantial than Lindberg and a sixth-round pick.
6 Brayden Schenn For Jori Lehtera, 2017 1st Round Pick (Morgan Frost) & 2018 First Round Pick (2017)
Prior to the 2017-18 season, the Philadelphia Flyers were looking to get rid of centreman Brayden Schenn and his $5.125M a season contract. Philadelphia traded Schenn to St. Louis in exchange for Jori Lehtera and two first round draft picks; Philadelphia figured they were replacing Schenn with an equally talented, cheaper center, and that they were getting two free draft picks out of the exchange. A season into the trade, it is clear that the players are definitely not equal; Brayden Schenn just set career highs in goals (28) and points (70), whereas Lehtera set a career low with just 8 points.
Lehtera was once a promising centreman; during his rookie season, he played in 75 games and recorded 44 points. He followed that up with a solid 2015-16 season, playing in 79 games and posting 34 points. During the 2016 off-season, the Blues signed Lehtera to a 3-year deal worth $4.7M a season, whichis now a deal that the Flyers will have to honor for one more season. It is too early to tell what type of impact Morgan Frost and the other draft pick will have once they reach the NHL, but no draft pick is automatically named an All-Star or automatically produces All-Star stats. If neither of them can produce in the NHL, that means that the St. Louis Blues stole Brayden Schenn from the Flyers, giving them absolutely nothing in return.
5 Reilly Smith For 2018 Fourth Round Pick (2017)
Reilly Smith has been involved in three different NHL trades over his short, six-year career. First, during the Tyler Seguin trade to the Dallas Stars, Smith was thrown in with Loui Eriksson and others who were shipped off to the Boston Bruins. While in Boston, Smith had two good seasons, recording 51 and 40 points, respectively. Almost two years to the day of the first trade, Smith was moved to Florida in exchange for Jimmy Hayes. Smith lasted two seasons with the Panthers, again providing the Panthers with consistent point production throughout his time there.
As the 2017 Golden Knight Expansion Draft approached, teams were deciding which players on their rosters to protect.
While most teams elected to protect 7 forwards and 3 defensemen, the Florida Panthers chose to protect 4 defensemen, which meant that they could only protect 4 forwards. To direct the Golden Knights’ selection towards Marchessault, who had recorded 30 goals and 51 points during the previous season, Florida offered up Smith in exchange for a fourth round pick. During their first season with the Golden Knights, a season that culminated with a trip to the Stanley Cup finals, both Smith and Marchessault earned career highs in points. If the Panthers could have a redo, they would unprotect one of their defensemen and keep both Smith and Marchessault on their roster.
4 T.J. Oshie For Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley & 2016 3rd Round Pick (2015)
During the 2015 off-season, the St. Louis Blues needed to make a decision on forward T.J. Oshie. Would they extend his contract and keep him for future seasons, would they let him play out the season and possibly lose him in Free Agency, or would they trade him and get something back in exchange? You can look at this trade, and say “hey, something is better than nothing”, but the something that St. Louis got in return was pretty much nothing. If the reason the Blues traded Oshie was because of his expiring contract, then why trade for Troy Brouwer, whose contract was also expiring? During the 2015 season, Brouwer had decent numbers (39 points), but Oshie significantly topped that with the Capitals, recording 51 points.
This trade got really interesting during the 2016 off-season, when the Capitals re-signed Oshie to an 8-year, $46M deal, which was a $1.5M pay increase per season. Brouwer decided to forgo Free Agency and signed with the Calgary Flames for $4.5M per season. If the Blues were always going to let Brouwer walk, why not keep the better player of the two and just let Oshie go to free agency as well? The St. Louis Blues must have thought that Phoenix Copley and that third-round pick would tip the scales. Now, with T.J. Oshie playing a huge role in the success of the Washington Capitals, and helping deliver a Stanley Cup Championship, the St. Louis Blues were the clear losers of this trade, and for what? Absolutely nothing.
3 Vincent Lecavalier & Luke Schenn For Jordan Weal & 2016 3rd Round Pick (Carsen Twarynski) (2016)
When analyzing a trade, people tend to focus on how well a team won the trade, based on the performances of the traded players. Not so for this trade, here we look at just how badly the Los Angeles Kings lost. Mid-way through the 2015-16 season, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Los Angeles Kings were both sitting in playoff spots, but Kings were searching for two missing parts. They needed a forward to fill out their bottom two lines, and a defenseman to fill in for Matt Greene, who was out for the remainder of the season. The Kings reached out to the Flyers and inquired about Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn. Philadelphia was more than happy to get rid of the two deadbeats on the team, who were doing nothing but eating up roster space and, more importantly, cap space.
Lecavalier and Schenn would play in 42 games that season for the Kings, recording only 17 and 11 points, respectively, as the Kings exited from the playoffs in the first round. Lecavalier would retire at the end of the season, and Schenn would not be offered a contract by the Kings before entering Free Agency. On the flip side of the deal, Jordan Weal averaged .3 points per game. The other part to the trade, Carsen Twarynski, recently finished his junior career at Kelowna with 72 points in 68 games. The Flyers are hoping that he will make an appearance with the big club sometime in the near future. No matter how you look at it, the Lecavalier and Schenn trade was a package deal that should have never happened. No matter what went the other way, the Flyers were going to win this trade.
2 David Clarkson, 2017 1st Round Pick (Nick Suzuki) & 2019 Second Round Pick for Expansion Draft Considerations (Selecting William Karlsson) (2017)
While the headline makes it look like there is a lot to dissect for this particular trade, it’s really quite simple. The Columbus Blue Jackets gave the Vegas Golden Knights William Karlsson, David Clarkson, a first-round pick and a second-round pick. Columbus was able to keep exposed players from being selected during the expansion draft, notably Josh Anderson, Matt Calvert, Lauri Korpikoski, Jack Johnson and Joonas Korpisalo. First, David Clarkson is simply a cap hit that was moved to Long Term Injured Reserve when the season started. He is not really a factor for Vegas, but it was good for Columbus to not have to pay that contract anymore.
Second, did the Blue Jackets look at all of their unprotected players and think that William Karlsson was the player that they didn’t want? During 2017-18, Karlsson recorded 43 goals and 78 points for the expansion Golden Knights whereas none of the Columbus players mentioned above had more than 30 points. Finally, the Golden Knight get to look forward to developing Nick Suzuki and another draft pick next year, who will both potentially make it the NHL. The Blue Jackets should have let the Golden Knight select whomever they wanted. No matter who it had been, it would have been better than the disaster that they created.
1 Taylor Hall For Adam Larsson (2016)
After missing the playoffs for the 10th year in a row, the 2015-16 Edmonton Oilers were desperate for a change of identity. During the 2016 off-season, the Oilers traded their one-time “franchise player”, Taylor Hall, to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for the right-handed, 6’3’’, 215lb defenseman Adam Larsson. The 2016-17 season passed. The Oilers made the playoffs for the first time in 11 years, while the New Jersey Devils tumbled down to 27th in the NHL. Although only recording 4 goals and 19 points, Larsson recorded 253 hits, the 6th most in the NHL. Hall scored 20 goals and 53 points, and was named to the 2017 NHL All-Star Game. At this point in time, the trade looks even; both teams acquired something that they needed.
Fast forward again to the 2017-18 season. The Oilers nose-dive to 23rd in the league, missing the playoffs for the 12th time in 14 years.
The Devils climb to 15th, and qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Hall finished the regular season with a career best 39 goals and 93 points, and was nominated for both the Ted Lindsay Award as the NHL’s Most Outstanding Player, and the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s MVP. Hall is flourishing in New Jersey, and may one day earn the title of “franchise player” permanently. Larsson, on the other hand, scored 4 goals and 13 points, and posted a +10 rating. While Larsson may have filled a gaping hole in the Oilers’ defensive core, he is still only a 2nd pairing defenseman at best.