Every NHL season begins with optimism for all 30 general managers. They all believe that this could be their year to win the Stanley Cup. By mid-season some teams have established themselves as clear favourites while others are already looking forward to the draft lottery. As we head towards the March 2nd trade deadline, the contenders will all be looking to add that final piece necessary to get them to hockey's ultimate prize. Meanwhile, the teams in the NHL's basement will be selling off all the assets they view as expendable in an effort to help build for the future.
The Winnipeg Jets got a jump start on the trading season by shipping controversial forward Evander Kane to the Buffalo Sabres along with defenseman Zach Bogosian for forward Drew Stafford, defenseman Tyler Myers, a pair of prospects and a first round draft pick. There are varying opinions on who is the early winner, but only time will tell which team made the better trade. Over the next couple of weeks many players, prospects, and draft picks will change hands. Teams could sacrifice the future all for a chance to win in the present. When all is said and done, only one team will be crowned champion and many of those trades will look bad in hindsight.
Often times teams look back at the NHL trade deadline with regret. Usually it's just the loss of a depth defenseman, third line winger, backup goaltender, mid-tier prospect, or extra draft pick that comes back to hurt a team. However, every once in a while a deal is made that forever changes the face of a franchise.
Here is a look at the top 10 most lopsided deadline deals in NHL history.
Marian Hossa was in the final year of his contract back in the 2007-08 season and was unlikely to re-sign with the Atlanta Thrashers. The best the Thrashers could hope for in return was a package of prospects and picks. Hossa turned out to be a near perfect rental for the Penguins putting up 26 points in 20 playoff games en route to a Stanley Cup Final appearance.
6 Martin Erat and Michael Latta for Filip Forsberg - 2013
It's a testament to just how bad this trade was (at least from Washington's perspective) that we're able to call it larceny just two years later. Looking to add some offense for a playoff run the Capitals were willing to trade their top prospect for Erat and Latta. Washington would go on to get knocked out in the first round with Erat being held pointless in four playoff games. In 62 regular season games Erat managed just two goals before he was traded again, this time to the Coyotes. Michael Latta has yet to make an impact at the NHL level with just nine points in 54 games.
Daniel Briere was a young player who already had a 30-goal season under his belt, but the Coyotes were looking for some more size up the middle and so they parted with the undersized centre. In Buffalo, Briere continued to emerge as an offensive threat, culminating in a 95 point season in 2006-07. He captained perhaps the most talented Sabres team in their history, who went to two consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearances before eventually leaving via free agency. Gratton played just one full season in Phoenix and put up 29 points in 68 games before being traded again to the Colorado Avalanche.
5 Miroslav Satan for Barrie Moore and Craig Millar - 1997
Miroslav Satan was traded part way through his second NHL season with the Oilers. Two years later he scored 40 goals with the Sabres - the same number of total combined games Moore and Millar played for the Oilers. Satan reached the 30 goal mark three times and was the Sabres' leading scorer for six of the eight seasons he played in Buffalo. Other than impatience with a young player who had yet to meet their expectations, the Oilers didn't seem to have much reason for making this trade.
The Dallas Stars were a team with a glut of forward prospects and in need of a puck moving defenseman, so they were willing to trade their young power forward for a defenceman who had more points that season than anyone on their back end. Neal struggled initially after the trade, but scored 40 goals in his first full season as a Penguin and continued to be a productive winger alongside Evgeni Malkin before he was traded to Nashville this past offseason. Matt Niskanen also eventually emerged as an offensive threat in Pittsburgh and finished the 2013-14 season with a career high 10 goals and 46 points before leaving via free agency. On the flip side, Goligoski has yet to establish himself as the elite point producing defenseman the Dallas Stars were hoping they were getting.
This trade isn't one that hurt the Calgary Flames initially. They won the Stanley Cup a year later with Wamsley as the backup goaltender and Ramage providing depth on defense. Still, in Brett Hull's ten full seasons as a St. Louis Blue, he reached the 40-goal plateau eight times, the 70-goal plateau three times, and finished the 1990-91 season with a whopping 86 goals. In St. Louis, Hull established himself as one of the game's all time elite goal scorers.
The Gilmour trade as Toronto's GM may be Cliff Fletcher's claim to fame, but this trade is proof that even the best GMs make mistakes.
4 Larry Murphy for future considerations - 1997
3 Markus Naslund for Alek Stojanov - 1996
Markus Naslund produced 52 points in 66 games prior to trade, but with several other scoring threats, the Penguins opted to trade him for some toughness. They probably didn't foresee that he would go on to play parts of 12 NHL seasons with the Canucks, eight of them as captain, and retire as the franchise leader in both goals and points. Naslund also became the third player in franchise history to have his number raised to the rafters.
2 Ron Francis, Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings for John Cullen, Jeff Parker and Zarley Zalapski - 1991
Ron Francis had already established himself as an elite NHL centre prior to the trade. He was the Whalers number one centre and in 10 seasons had set many franchise records. However, he was in the final year of his contract and had already been stripped of his captaincy earlier that season. The trade provided the Penguins with the perfect number two centre to complement Mario Lemieux. Francis's elite playmaking, as well as the defense provided by Samuelsson and Jennings helped the Penguins win two Stanley Cups.
1 Butch Goring for Billy Harris and Dave Lewis -1980
Butch Goring was loved by Kings fans and was shocked when he was traded in the second year of a six-year contract. The Islanders believed he could be the missing piece to their Stanley Cup puzzle and they were right. Goring would help the Islanders to four consecutive Stanley Cup championships and won the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP in 1981. Lewis was a solid contributor to the Kings defense for three full seasons and Harris had 20 goals and 49 points in 80 games in one full season before he was traded again, but the fact that this trade led to a New York Islanders dynasty makes it the most lopsided deadline deal in NHL history.
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