Some understand it better than others: Pro hockey is a business. And with any good business, management is going to do what’s best for the team and ultimately the bottom line. That means most NHL players, regardless of who they are or what their contracts might say, will end up suiting up for at least a couple of different teams over the course of their careers.
That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re poor players or can’t hold down a consistent roster spot. On the contrary; some of the greatest players to ever strap on skates have played for a handful of different teams. Usually, it comes down to timing, numbers, a team’s place in the standings in any given season or even contractual issues that are never resolved.
Whatever the situation might be, this list is full of 15 of those guys who, no matter where they ended up, remained just as consistently good or bad.
But, since many NHL players do inevitably end up on more than just one team’s roster, I’ve included on this list guys who donned the uniform of at least four different teams over the course of at least four seasons – the ones who had a true playing tour of NHL cities during their career.
So, with those ground rules set, here are the eight best and seven worst NHL players who have played for multiple teams.
15. BEST: Jari Kurri
One half of the single greatest one-two punch the NHL has ever seen, Jari Kurri became one of league’s all-time greatest players when he suited up alongside Wayne Gretzky with the Edmonton Oilers all throughout the 1980s.
He was the original “Finnish Flash” who came to Edmonton undrafted in 1980. During his ten seasons with the Oilers, he won five Stanley Cup championships, scored over 1,000 points, led the league in goals in 1985-86, appeared in six All-Star games and had an astronomical +367 plus/minus rating.
His contract with the Oilers expired in 1990, but the team still owned his NHL rights. Foregoing a new deal in Edmonton, Kurri spent a season playing in Italy before his rights were traded to the Philadelphia Flyers and then the Los Angeles Kings in 1991, which reignited the dynamic Kurri-Gretzky duo for the first time since Gretzky was traded to L.A. from the Oilers in 1988.
After five fairly productive seasons in L.A., Kurri was on the move again, this time to New York in 1996, where he joined the Rangers in a late-season trade. After just 14 games there, Kurri returned to Southern California in the offseason, where he signed with the Anaheim Ducks, joining the “new” Finnish Flash, Teemu Selanne.
One disappointing season with Anaheim later, Kurri finished off his NHL tour with a single season in Denver with the Colorado Avalanche for the 1997-98 season, during which he scored his 600th career goal. Kurri is now 20th on the all-time NHL scoring list with 1,398 points over 17 seasons.
14. WORST: Scott Gomez
Don’t get me wrong, Alaska native Scott Gomez had a phenomenal start to his NHL days back in the early 2000s. But the combination of his heavily front-loaded career and equally disastrous final five seasons qualify his appearance on the wrong side of this list.
He earned a trip to the All-Star Game and won Rookie of the Year in 2000 after scoring 70 points and helping the New Jersey Devils win their second Stanley Cup. That productive clip continued for the better part of the next nine seasons as he signed with the New York Rangers in 2007 before being traded to the Montreal Canadiens in the summer of 2009.
The 2009-10 season was a decent one for Gomez. He had 59 points and led the Habs with 47 assists, but whichever hockey gods he managed to piss off during the 2010 offseason apparently never forgave him.
He scored a career-low seven goals in 2010-11 and that season began a now infamous goal drought of more than an entire calendar year and a whopping 60 NHL games. From that, he would never recover. His once prolific playmaking ability was lost, never to be found again. He ended up signing very short-term contracts for peanuts with both San Jose and Florida in 2013, New Jersey in 2014, St. Louis in 2015 and Ottawa in 2016 before finally bowing out in March of 2016 after a disappointing end to a once high-flying career.
13. BEST: Doug Gilmour
Better known as “Killer” for his brute physicality despite his smallish frame, Doug Gilmour played for seven different teams during his 20-year NHL career, perhaps most notably for six seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1992 to 1997. By the end, Gilmour had nearly a point-per-game average and currently sits 18th on the NHL’s all-time scoring list with 1,414 points.
After he was drafted 134th overall by St. Louis in 1982, Gilmour spent five seasons in St. Louis between 1983 and 1988 before being traded to the Calgary Flames. He won a Stanley Cup with Calgary in 1989, but after a nasty arbitration process to extend his contract with the Flames went up in smoke, he was ultimately traded on New Year’s Day 1992 to Toronto in the largest trade in NHL history.
He had a career year with the Leafs in 1992-93, in which broke Toronto franchise records for assists (95) and points (127) and finished seventh in league scoring.
From there, he was traded to the New Jersey Devils in 1997 but then signed with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1998. But once again, Gilmour was traded, this time to the Buffalo Sabres in the spring of 2000. Finally – believe it or not – he was traded back to the Maple Leafs at the 2003 trade deadline. He played in one more game in Toronto before an injury ended his season and ultimately his career. His No. 93 is now retired by the Leafs.
12. WORST: Jason Doig
Jason who? Exactly. Jason Doig – interestingly of Jamaican descent – is another one of those career minor leaguers who popped up in the NHL with a number of different teams over his 11 pro seasons but never did anything worth noticing.
He debuted in the NHL in 15 games with the Winnipeg Jets during the 1995-96 season following the conclusion of his QMJHL career. He would then move with the franchise to Phoenix, where he appeared in four more NHL games in a Coyotes uniform in 1997-98 before being traded to the New York Rangers in 1999. There, he saw all of 10 NHL games over two seasons and had one solitary assists to show for it.
He was then traded to the Ottawa Senators organization the following year and then the Washington Capitals the year after that, where he played in 120 games over the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons, racking up 19 of his 24 total NHL points.
11. BEST: Adam Oates
Adam Oates is not only one of the greatest hockey players to play for multiple NHL teams, he’s probably the smartest guy on this list. Before his 19 NHL seasons, Oates attended the prestigious Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he was a standout forward for the RPI Engineers.
He went pro in 1985 and spent four seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, before various spats with team management saw him traded to the St. Louis Blues in 1989, the Boston Bruins in 1992, the Washington Capitals in 1997 and then the Philadelphia Flyers in 2002.
With his contract expiring in 2002, the Flyers declined to re-sign him, so Oates joined the Anaheim Ducks for the 2002-03 season, his third team in less than two years. His final NHL campaign came during 2003-04, when the Edmonton Oilers signed him six weeks into the season.
He retired in 2004 after nearly two decades in the league. Along the way, he became one of the NHL’s greatest playmakers and led the league in assists three separate times. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012 and is currently ranked 7th among all-time NHL assist leaders.
10. WORST: Stu Grimson
Stu Grimson is best known for three things: fighting, that cute commercial for The Foundation for a Better Life in which he sings “Itsy Bitsy Spider” to his young daughter over the phone in the dressing room, and finally, his hockey skills. In that order.
Yes, Grimson was one of the all-time greatest enforcers who at various times took down the likes of Tie Domi, Marty McSorley and Bob Probert, but his 12 seasons in the league saw him zig and zag across the continent, appearing with eight different teams, not one time breaking into double-digit scoring.
He topped out in 1997-98 with seven points while skating with the Carolina Hurricanes, but even for a guy who wasn’t supposed to score much, he wasn’t very good. His 2,113 career penalty minutes and dismal -41 plus/minus rating are what will define Grimson’s playing career, definitely not his laughable 39 points. Oh, and the touching – if not hilarious – commercial.
9. BEST: Teemu Selanne
Call him the “other” Finnish Flash, Teemu Selanne took his talents many places throughout his 21 NHL seasons, but he will always be synonymous with Anaheim.
He burst onto the NHL scene in 1992 with the Winnipeg Jets, scoring an NHL rookie record 76 goals. After two and a half more seasons in The ‘Peg, Selanne was surprisingly traded to Anaheim midway through the 1995-96 season.
In Anaheim, he was paired with Paul Kariya, and the duo led the Ducks to their first postseason berth in 1997. In parts of six seasons there, Selanne experienced the prime of his career, notching five seasons of 80 points or better and five consecutive All-Star Game appearances.
He was traded in 2001 to San Jose and ultimately spent parts of four less-than-stellar years with the Sharks and Colorado Avalanche before returning to Anaheim following the lockout in 2005.
Like a prodigal son, Selanne was welcomed back with open arms, and he spent his final nine NHL seasons helping the Ducks make seven playoff appearances and win its only Stanley Cup championship in 2007.
8. WORST: John Scott
Look, I enjoyed the John Scott joke-turned-feel-good-story All-Star Game saga of 2016 just as much as the next guy, but let’s be real here. John Scott was a decent fighter, and that’s pretty much the extent of his rink resume.
He even said so himself that he’s not an All-Star-caliber player and that his winning the All-Star fan vote was the product of nothing more than an internet ploy that grew legs. It’s on the same level as the whole British government’s Boaty McBoatface ship-naming debacle.
To prove my point, consider this. Between 2008 and 2016, the hulking Scott suited up for seven different clubs but never played in more than 56 games in a single season. In total, he managed to fight his way through 544 games, in which he averaged nearly two penalty minutes per contest, but he never scored more than four points in a season. In fact, his 34 games for Buffalo in 2012-13 rendered zero score-sheet appearances and a -1 plus/minus rating while only averaging 5.5 minutes on the ice per game. That’s low time even for a designated fighter.
7. Best: Paul Coffey
For a defenseman, Paul Coffey was one of the better scorers in the league for many years, and by the time he retired in 2001, had graced the rosters of nine different teams, nearly one-third of the entire NHL.
He got his NHL start in Edmonton in 1980 after the Oilers took him sixth overall in that year’s draft. While there, he won three Stanley Cup championships and built the foundation for what would be one of the greatest careers ever for a defenseman.
After seven years with the Oilers, Coffey was traded to Pittsburgh in 1987 and won his fourth cup there in 1991. After that, he was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings in 1992, before yet another swap a year later sent him to the Detroit Red Wings.
In his final six seasons, Coffey appeared on six different teams, going from Detroit to Hartford to Philadelphia to Chicago to Carolina and finally to his final destination in Boston in 2000.
After it was all said and done, Coffey was the second-highest-scoring defenseman in NHL history, made 14 All-Star Game appearances, and won the James Norris Memorial Trophy three separate times. He’s now No. 13 on the all-time NHL scoring list.
6. WORST: Dallas Eakins
Florida native Dallas Eakins was a career minor-league defenseman who bounced around from one spot to another for 16 years but somehow managed to appear in 120 NHL games with eight different teams.
Eakins was an astounding player in junior, serving as team captain of the Peterborough Petes during his third and final season in the Ontario Hockey League. He was drafted 208th overall by the Washington Capitals in 1985 as a promising stay-at-home D-man, but his skills game never did adapt to the game’s top level.
He made his NHL debut in 1993 with the Winnipeg Jets and saw his last minutes in the league as a member of the Calgary Flames in 2001. During that time, he had short stints with the Florida Panthers (twice), St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets (again), Phoenix Coyotes, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders.
5. BEST: Mark Recchi
Mark Recchi won three Stanley Cup championships with three different teams. That should pretty much tell you all you need to know about one of the best players to play for multiple teams, but let me lay it all out for you anyways.
Recchi was a relentlessly energetic point-scoring machine no matter which team he played for. After making his NHL debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1988, several different trades sent him to NHL cities like Philadelphia, Montreal, Carolina, Atlanta, Tampa and Boston.
He won his cups with the Penguins in 1991, the Hurricanes in 2006 and the Bruins in 2011, putting him in rare company with just 10 other players who have won championships with three or more teams.
In his 22 NHL years, Recchi was a seven-time All-Star and became the oldest player ever to score a goal in a Stanley Cup Final when he did it with the Bruins in 2011 as a 43-year-old. He’s now 12th all-time in scoring with 1,531 points.
4. WORST: Jim Cummins
Winger Jim Cummins was a classic 1990s NHL tough guy. He directed more haymakers into opponents’ faces than pucks into opponents’ nets. He made his way around the league for 12 seasons, serving as nothing more than a serviceable fighter for the Red Wings, Blackhawks, Coyotes, Canadiens, Ducks and finally the Avalanche.
In 511 NHL games, he managed just 60 points. That’s one point every eight or nine games – hardly enough to maintain a consistent roster spot, yet he was rarely ever sent down to the minor league ranks.
If there wasn’t the potential for a useful brawl on any given night, Cummins was usually just a healthy scratch; he was too much of a liability otherwise. His career -44 plus/minus rating despite only playing an average of about seven minutes per game is your main clue there.
3. BEST: Jaromir Jagr
He just keeps on keepin’ on, doesn’t he? The still-playing NHL legend, Jaromir Jagr, rose to fame during his first 11 seasons in the league with the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1990 to 2001. During that time, he won two Stanley Cup championships, made six All-Star Game appearances, won five league scoring titles, and was the 1999 NHL MVP.
Since then, all he has done is solidify his place as one of the game’s all-time greatest and most durable players. He has spent time with the Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils and is now one of the top scorers for the Florida Panthers.
Currently, Jagr is the leading all-time point-scorer among active NHL players and is second overall, having just surpassed Mark Messier. And that’s even after he skipped three seasons late last decade to go play in Russia.
Consider this. In 1990, Jagr was the youngest player in the NHL at just 18 years old. Now, at 44, he’s the oldest, and he’s still in amazing shape. Currently, he holds 20 NHL scoring records, 31 Pittsburgh Penguins scoring records and six New York Rangers scoring records. And one last thing: earlier this season, Jagr became just the third player in NHL history to score 750 goals.
2. WORST: Jim McKenzie
Much like Jim Cummins, Jim McKenzie added a lot of muscle and physicality to the teams he played for, but his offensive contributions were less negligible. He played for the Whalers, Penguins, Jets, Coyotes, Ducks, Devils and Predators but never spent more than four full seasons with any one team.
He was consistently inconsistent throughout all of his 14 NHL seasons. He never did play a full 82-game season, and even his penalty minutes per game were an up-and-down crapshoot. He broke the 10-point barrier his one and only time in 2002-03 while playing for the New Jersey Devils. It was his second-to-last season in the league and the only time he finished with a positive plus/minus rating.
1. BEST: Wayne Gretzky
A lot of people forget this, but even The Great One, the best player ever to step foot on an ice rink, played for four separate teams over his 20-year NHL career.
I could spend 100 paragraphs detailing Gretzky’s countless accolades, but I’ll spare you the time. You’re welcome. Basically, after establishing himself for who – and what – he was in Edmonton, “The Trade” happened in 1988, sending him heartbroken to the lights of Hollywood to play for the Los Angeles Kings. (Apparently Oilers owner Peter Pocklington needed money to cover the shortcomings of his other business ventures).
After most of eight seasons in a Kings jersey – and after breaking Gordie Howe’s record for most ever NHL goals – Gretzky was traded to St. Louis in 1996 as a rental player for the playoff-bound Blues after requesting a trade, citing a strained relationship with the Kings’ new ownership.
The much anticipated chemistry between Gretzky and his longtime buddy, Brett Hull, never materialized in St. Louis, so The Great One signed a contract with the New York Rangers as a free agent during the 1996 offseason after just 18 regular season games with the Blues.
Three seasons later, in the spring of 1999, Gretzky ended his historic NHL career in Madison Square Garden as a New York Ranger and as the best player ever, let alone the best player to play for multiple teams.
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