Every calendar year brings about dozens of trades in the NHL, with the bulk of them occurring in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline or at the draft table in June. With the trade deadline looming (or already past, depending if you’re reading this beyond March 1), we thought it would be fun to look back through recent history and pick out the most lopsided deals from each of the past 15 years.
To do so, I reviewed every trade that’s happened in the league since 2002. That’s a lot of trades, most of which were inconsequential, but there were certainly a handful each year that stuck out as a raw deal for one club involved.
Sometimes the deal was obviously one-sided from the get go, and in other cases it took a few years for the smoke to clear and the winner of the trade to emerge. This is especially true when a player is traded for picks and those picks turn into something far more valuable than the player who the picks were traded for.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the 15 most one-sided deals in the NHL from each calendar year since 2002. Enjoy:
15 2002: ATL acquires Marc Savard from CAL for Ruslan Zainullin
This trade is so lopsided that I can’t even find a general internet consensus on how Ruslan spells his last name. Some sources have it as Zaynullin, while others have it as Zainullin. Either way, Marc Savard was traded from the Calgary Flames to the Atlanta Thrashers on Nov. 15, 2002, for Ruslan Zainullin. This is obviously a very lopsided deal, even taking into consideration the fact that Savard’s career was cut short due to concussions.
Savard of course became one of the league’s most lethal playmakers almost immediately after the trade (if he wasn’t already considered that), and he truly exploded after the 2004-05 lockout, when he returned to the NHL after a season in Switzerland and put up consecutive seasons of 97, 96, 78, and 88 points, all with the Bruins. Zainullin never played a game in the NHL.
14 2003: BUF acquires Daniel Briere and a 3rd round pick from ARI for Chris Gratton and a 4th
This one is a real head-scratcher, as it’s difficult to know just what the Coyotes organization was thinking with this trade. Chris Gratton was a few years older at the time and sure, he’d played a handful of more games than Daniel Briere had at the time, but Briere recently broke out as an offensive stud, notching 60 points in the 2001-02 season, his first full one in the NHL.
After the lockout season, Briere took a huge step and became an elite point producer, scoring 58 in just 48 games in 2005-06 and following that effort up with a 95 point campaign in 2006-07. Gratton, on the other hand never scored 40 points in a single season after the trade, and he only played 82 games with the Coyotes franchise in total. Adding insult to injury is that the Sabres actually moved up in the draft pick swaps in this deal. Hmm.
13 2004: NYR acquire Jaromir Jagr from WAS for Anson Carter
Jaromir Jagr is a legend who will go down in history as one of the greatest players of all time. Anson Carter is not that at all, which is crazy because on Jan.23, 2004, the Capitals sent Jagr to the Rangers in exchange for the dreadlocked winger, straight up. No disrespect to Carter here, who was a solid NHL winger for many years, but Jagr finished second in league scoring the following season (after the lockout that ensued) with 123 points.
Carter, conversely, didn’t even finish that season with Washington, as he was dealt to L.A. after just 19 games with the Caps in exchange for someone named Jared Aulin. If you look at it one way, the Capitals really traded Jaromir Jagr for Jared Aulin, who played a total of 17 games in the NHL, exactly zero of which occurred after these trades.
12 2005: SJS acquires Joe Thornton from BOS for Wayne Primeau, Brad Stuart, and Marco Sturm
This one is perhaps the most lopsided trade in league history, let alone of 2005. On. Nov. 30, the Bruins sent Joe Thornton to San Jose in exchange for a trifecta of what (in comparison) amounts to trash. The players who came back the other way were Wayne Primeau, Marco Sturm, and Brad Stuart. Thornton won the Hart Trophy as league MVP that season, and the Bruins missed the playoffs by a lot.
At the time of the trade Thornton had 33 points in 23 games for the B’s, while the other three players had combined for 36, so perhaps this is why GM Mike O’Connell thought it might have been a good idea. That logic is obviously flawed, as all three players had moved on from Boston by 2010 while Thornton is still one of the best players on the Sharks and is one of the best playmakers in the NHL.
11 2006: BOS acquires Tuukka Rask from TOR for Andrew Raycroft
Toronto fans likely expected this trade to show up on this list, so here you go. At the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs sent the rights to former first-round draft pick Tuukka Rask to Boston in exchange for Andrew Raycroft. At the time of the trade, Rask was still toiling away in Finland and Raycroft had won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year a few years prior.
If you assess this trade today, it’s so lopsided that it’s sort of sad for the Leafs. Raycroft never had another season nearly as good as the campaign that won him rookie-of-the-year, and Rask has already won a Stanley Cup (albeit as a backup), and more importantly a Vezina Trophy in 2014 as the NHL’s best netminder.
10 2007: BOS acquires Carl Soderberg from STL for Hannu Toivonen
Carl Soderberg has been involved in two trades during his NHL career, and in both cases the team that got him won the deal. Most recently, he was traded from Boston to Colorado at the 2015 draft table in exchange for a 6th round pick, but since the Bruins were basically just dealing away his negotiating rights that doesn’t really count. However, when the Bruins got him from St. Louis on July 23, 2007, in exchange for backup goalie Hannu Toivonen, they made off like bandits.
Toivonen spent the bulk of his time in the Blues system in Peoria (AHL), seeing action in just 23 games for St. Louis, recording just six wins. Soderberg never even made his NHL debut until 2012-13, and even then he only played six games. He became a regular in 2013-14, and has been a reliable 2nd/3rd line center option in the NHL ever since.
9 2008: STL acquires Alexander Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo from TOR for Lee Stempniak
The Toronto Maple Leafs factor in on this list a few times, coming up on the wrong side of some pretty lopsided deals over the past 15 years. On Nov. 24, 2008, the Leafs sent Alexander Steen and Carlo Calaiacovo to the Blues in exchange for Lee Stempniak. Now, no disrespect to Stempniak, who is a legitimate veteran of nearly 850 games, but Steen has developed into a star in this league.
For a few years immediately following this trade, it didn’t seem so lopsided. It was in 2013 or so when Stempniak’s production (and health) took a nosedive, whereas Steen took another step forward and became an elite second-line player (or a solid first liner). Steen set a career high with 64 points in 74 games in 2014-15, and although he too has struggled to stay healthy, his production remains high when he is in.
8 2009: LAK acquires Justin Williams from CAR for Patrick O’Sullivan and a 2nd round pick
This deal was actually a smaller part of a larger, three-way deal that saw the Oilers send Erik Cole to Carolina. However, this is the official deal that is on the books, so it makes the cut. Justin Williams is a clutch player, and since this trade went down on March 4, 2009, Williams has won his second and third Stanley Cups, capturing the Conn Smythe in 2014.
Patrick O’Sullivan, who ended up in Edmonton after the dust from this trade settled, fizzled out of the league in a hurry. After one-and-a-half wildly unsuccessful seasons in Northern Alberta, O’Sullivan made quick stops in Carolina, Minnesota, and Phoenix before playing one season in Finland and calling it a career. Williams, meanwhile, is getting ready to challenge for the fourth Stanley Cup of his career in Washington.
7 2010: OTT acquires David Rundblad from STL for a 1st round pick
Now, if this was just David Rundblad for a 1st round pick, that would be a one-sided deal no matter who was picked with that 1st rounder. The 1st round pick that went to St. Louis in this case was a 15th overall selection, and the Blues decided to grab Russian Vladimir Tarasenko with the pick. Tarasenko is currently one of the best wingers in the NHL, and Rundblad is playing for Zurich SC.
This trade, which occurred on June 25 at the 2010 draft table, is a bit of a head scratcher. Rundblad himself was a Blues first round selection from the previous year (17th overall), so I guess the Sens decided they would rather have a player who was further along in his development. Hindsight is always 20/20, but I‘m pretty sure the Senators would take this one back if given the chance.
6 2011: ATL acquires Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart from BOS for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik
Blake Wheeler has developed into a great NHL player, but his development did not take the form of a straight line. Wheeler started his NHL career in Boston but he fell out of favor there, often accused of taking shifts off and avoiding the hard areas. They traded him to Atlanta on Feb. 18, 2011, along with Mark Stuart, in exchange for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik.
Both Wheeler and Stuart are still with the franchise they were dealt to that day, whereas neither Peverley nor Valabik are still in the league today (Peverley was of course part of the Tyler Seguin trade that almost made this list). Wheeler notched 78 points last season, finishing in the top-10 in scoring, and he’s the Jets captain. Needless to say, perhaps the Bruins should have been a little more patient with Blake.
5 2012: CBJ acquires Sergei Bobrovsky from PHI for two 4th round picks and a 2nd
The Philadelphia Flyers traded Sergei Bobrovsky to the Columbus Blue Jackets on June 22, 2012, in exchange for three draft picks (a 2nd round pick and two 4th round picks). The Flyers had acquired the services of Ilya Bryzgalov the year before, and decided that they were all set in the crease and they had no use for the prospect Bobrovsky moving forward.
This was an extremely poor judgment call on the Flyers part, and it didn’t take long for the whole world to see this. It was actually less than one year after the trade that Bobrovsky was accepting the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender in June 2013. Bryzgalov, meanwhile, was one of the Flyers’ compliance buyouts after the 2013 lockout, so it’s easy to see why this was so one-sided.
4 2013: NAS acquires Filip Forsberg from WAS for Martin Erat and Michael Latta
Sometimes a team will roll the dice and trade a prospect for a veteran at the deadline. These deals will often come back to bite the team who trades the prospects, and that is just the case with the Washington Capitals in this situation. On April 3, 2013, they sent 2012 1st round pick (11th overall) Filip Forsberg to Nashville for Martin Erat and Michael Latta.
Erat was the cornerstone of that deal for the Caps, and usually when you give up a prospect of Forsberg’s ilk you at least get a reliable vet who will for sure help in a playoff run. The thing is, Erat completely disappeared off the face of the Earth as soon as he arrived in Washington. In 62 games with the Capitals (he was under contract for an additional season), Erat managed two measly goals.
3 2014: MON acquires Devan Dubnyk from NAS for Future Considerations
Devan Dubnyk had a rollercoaster of a 2014, as he was dealt a few times within the span of three months. He was first sent to Nashville from Edmonton for Matt Hendricks, which in hindsight is a pretty bad deal for the Oilers. Nashville, however, wasn’t happy with Dubnyk either, so they traded the netminder to Montreal for futures.
Those future considerations have amounted to nothing, and Devan Dubnyk has already been nominated for a Vezina (albeit as a member of the Minnesota Wild and not the Montreal Canadiens), and he is on track to get another nomination this season. In fact, with 32 wins already and league leading numbers, Dubnyk might well win the Vezina this year.
2 2015: EDM acquires Griffin Reinhart from NYI for the 16th and 33rd overall picks
While the Edmonton Oilers are the beneficiaries of the 2016 trade on our list (you'll see next), they were the suckers of the 2015 trade that made the cut. At the draft on June 26, 2015, the Oilers sent a 1st round pick and a 2nd round pick to the New York Islanders in exchange for Griffin Reinhart. The Oilers badly needed help on defense and decided to take a chance on the former Edmonton Oil King.
In any draft year it’s pretty risky to give up the 16th and 33rd overall picks, but in a year that was touted as the deepest since the legendary 2003 draft it was especially ill-advised. The Islanders used the 16th overall pick to select Mathew Barzal, who you may remember was Canada’s best forward at the World Junior tournament a few months ago. Meanwhile, Reinhart isn’t one of the Oilers top-9 defensemen in the system today.
1 2016: EDM acquires Patrick Maroon from ANA for Martin Gernat and a 4th
On Feb. 29, 2016, the Edmonton Oilers fleeced the Anaheim Ducks in a trade by sending Martin Gernat and a 4th round pick to Orange County in exchange for the services of Patrick Maroon. Maroon has found success playing on Connor McDavid’s wing in 2016-17, already having scored 20 goals on the year. Gernat is not projected to ever become a regular NHLer (and he wasn’t at the time of the trade).
Adding insult to injury is the fact that the Ducks are paying a quarter of Maroon’s salary through 2017-18. The fourth round pick they acquired in the deal was used to draft winger Jack Kopacka, who is playing his third year of junior with the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Perhaps Kopacka will change things in the future, but today this is looking like a real steal for GM Peter Chiarelli and the Oilers.