Nothing sparks good debate amongst NHL fans like a big time trade. Whether they be at deadline day or in free agency, blockbuster deals always pique fan interest in a mix of excitement and anxiety. Just this past summer, we witnessed the Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson and the P.K. Subban for Shea Weber deals make huge waves in the NHL.
Some of the biggest trades in NHL history, such as Gretzky to L.A., Naslund to Vancouver, and Thornton to San Jose, have changed the fortunes of entire franchises. Trades are made for any number of reasons. Some GMs shore up weaknesses, while others fortify strengths. Cellar-dwelling teams sell off their veteran players for a package of draft picks and prospects, hoping to start anew the following season.
Yet, if there is one thing we love more than predicting which team will win out on a trade, it’s speculating on deals that could’ve been made, but weren’t. We’re talking about the rumors, the nixed trades, and the deals that fell apart at the last second.
These rumored trades were fairly ludicrous, so it’s no surprise they were never consummated. However, it never hurts to explore what might’ve been.
Here are 15 of the most ridiculous trade rumors in NHL history.
15 Chris Pronger to the Los Angeles Kings
This rumor arose around the 2009 draft, when the Anaheim Ducks reportedly considered dealing defenseman Chris Pronger to Los Angeles for Jack Johnson and the Kings' first-round pick (5th overall). Hell, even some news outlets confirmed the deal on Twitter!
What a lopsided deal that would've been though, given the stud defenseman Johnson turned out to be and the concussion issues that plagued Pronger soon after.
In fact, Pronger hasn't played in the NHL since the 2011-2012 season due to post-concussion symptoms. Johnson went on to score 36 points during the 2009-2010 season and 42 points the season after. He was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets midway through the 2011-2012 season. He continued to contribute, putting up 3 goals and 7 points for the Jackets in their brief six-game playoff run in 2014.
14 Corey Schneider for Gilbert Brule
This trade sounds ridiculous now, but, back in 2008, it didn’t seem so far-fetched. Canucks GM Dave Nonis inquired about trading promising young goaltending prospect Cory Schneider to the Columbus Blue Jackets for 2005 sixth overall pick, Gilbert Brule. Brule struggled mightily to live up to his pre-draft hype, as he scored just 32 points in 146 games up to that point. But Nonis, however, still saw potential in him.
One could argue Brule’s development was stunted somewhat by poor coaching, Nonis thought that Brule could flourish in the Canucks’ up-tempo offence. Meanwhile, Schneider hadn’t yet proven himself as a reliable NHL-level goalie at that point. He had just come off a strong 21-win rookie year in the AHL.
Vancouver was wise to nix this deal, as Schneider went on to set Canucks’ team records for Goals-Against Average and Save Percentage during the 2011-2012 season and is now the starting goalie for the New Jersey Devils.
13 Five Rangers for Steven Stamkos
As a Rangers fan, I remember being ecstatic about this possible deal back in 2008. At the time, Brandon Dubinsky, Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan were entrenched as fan-favorite team leaders on Broadway, and Evgeny Grachev and Michael Del Zotto were considered blue chip prospects, but they would've gladly given up all five for Steven Stamkos.
Steven Stamkos hadn’t become the Steven Stamkos that we know today. He had scored just seven points through his first 21 games and Lightning co-owner Len Barrie shopped him around the league for a brief spell.
Rangers general manager Glen Sather claimed the two sides were so close, that they actually shook hands on the deal. Sather and Barrie had an agreement, but Tampa Bay GM Brian Lawton nixed the deal before it materialized.
12 Tomas Vanek for Tyler Seguin
It’s not uncommon for star players to be traded during their contract years. Many NHL general managers want to get something in return for a player instead of letting him walk away for nothing in free agency. Such was the case with Buffalo Sabres’ sniper Thomas Vanek in the summer of 2013.
The Sabres were unsure as to whether they could re-sign their former 40-goal scorer and heard that Boston was also disappointed with fellow star forward, Tyler Seguin.
For unknown reasons, the trade fell through and Vanek was instead dealt to the New York Islanders that October in a deal that included Matt Moulson.
Seguin was dealt to the Dallas Stars for a package that included Loui Ericsson and other small part. Boston is still fuming over that trade, given the player Seguin has blossomed into, coupled with the fact that Ericsson is no longer playing for the Bruins.
11 P.K. Subban to the Flyers
Surprisingly, a P.K. Subban trade to the Flyers nearly went through in 2014. Contract talks were getting a bit ugly and, Subban, like any young free agent, was considering arbitration. Montreal GM Marc Bergevin wanted to avoid that at all costs, so he cast out a line on Subban to see if he could get a bite in trade talks.
The Flyers (almost) took the bait when they reportedly offered an absurd package of a 2015 first round pick, top prospect Samuel Morin, and a “significant” roster player.
As talented as Subban is, he isn’t worth a team’s first round pick, their best prospect, AND a big-time roster player.
10 Corey Perry and a First-round Pick for Mike Comrie
The Oilers have invested in a solid young core of players in recent seasons. That investment has yet to pay off, but perhaps they’d be contenders if former league MVP Corey Perry was on the team.
It almost happened back in 2003. Oilers GM Kevin Lowe was having difficulty signing young forward Mike Comrie, who was just 23 at the time. Lowe started taking trade calls. One of those calls came from the Ducks, who offered a first-round pick along with Perry (their top prospect at the time).
Lowe asked Comrie to contribute some of his own cash, an IOU of sorts, in order to consummate the trade. Of course, Comrie declined, and the trade fell through.
The Oilers still moved Comrie a week later, sending him to Philadelphia for Jeff Woywitka, a first round pick and a third round pick. Comrie never lived up to his potential and was out of the NHL by age 31.
9 Jeff Carter and a First-round Pick for Tomas Kaberle
Maple Leafs fans probably know about this rumored blockbuster from 2008. For those unfamiliar, let me fill you in.
The Leafs were starting their seemingly-annual trade deadline selloff and Toronto needed a young number one center for the rebuild. Stud defenseman Thomas Kaberle was on the block. Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher had a deal in place that would send Kaberle to Philadelphia for Jeff Carter and a first-round pick.
The deal didn’t seem so one-sided at the time, as Carter was just 23 years old and hadn’t yet broken out as a top-six talent. Kaberle was a consistent 50-60 point defenseman who could anchor the powerplay. The deal was all but done, but Kaberle refused to waive his no-trade clause. The deal collapsed and the Leafs’ rebuild was again on hiatus.
8 Claude Giroux for Paul Ranger
The Flyers almost caught themselves in another ridiculous trade the year after they nearly dealt Jeff Carter. It was 2009 and future team captain Claude Giroux was in the midst of his rookie season. He scored 27 points in 42 games, but Flyers’ GM Paul Holmgren worried that Giroux’s small stature would limit his productivity at the NHL level.
The Flyers were also in desperate need of defensive help and Tampa Bay blueliner Paul Ranger piqued Holmgren’s interest.
7 Vincent Lecavalier/Montreal Canadians Trade Rumors
Are you picking up a pattern in the cases on this list? Star player enters his contract year and wants a record contract extension. Current team might not be able to meet his demands and thus he requests a trade out of town. Sound familiar? Well, the 2009 case of Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier fits this mold.
Tampa Bay was a small-market team and feared they couldn’t afford Lecavalier’s asking price, so they put his name out to a bigger market: Montreal. Many rumored deals floated around, most notably Tomas Plekanec, Chris Higgins, Josh Gorges, and a prospect….named P.K. Subban.
What a return that would’ve been. Another possible deal included Carey Price, Max Pacioretty, Subban, and a first rounder!
6 New York Rangers Trading For Eric Lindros in 1992
Any knowledgeable hockey fan knows the drama surrounding Eric Lindros and the Quebec Nordiques at the 1991 Draft. The power forward refused to play for the team after they drafted him with the top pick.
Nonetheless, the Nordiques wanted to sign Lindros to a massive ten-year, $50 million deal. Lindros wouldn’t budge, so the Nordiques took offers from other teams during the 1992 offseason.
Rangers GM Neil Smith offered a lucrative package of goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck, star rookie Tony Amonte, young forward Doug Weight, top prospect Alexei Kovalev, cash considerations, and three first round picks.
The deal never went through and Lindros was instead shipped to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Rangers were fortunate not to make that deal, given the importance of Amonte, Weight, and Vanbiesbrouck to those early-90s teams.
5 Pavel Datsyuk for Scott Gomez
Pavel Datsyuk was nearly traded to the New Jersey Devils for Scott Gomez. If it sounds crazy, that’s because it is. Datsyuk was performing at an elite level in 2007 and was on his way to a second straight 25+ goal, 85+ point season. However, Datsyuk’s contract was set to expire and the Wings feared they’d lose him for nothing in free agency.
They attempted to shop him for another free-wheeling center, New Jersey’s Scott Gomez. Gomez put up 84 points in 2005-2006 and the Wings felt they could re-sign Gomez for a cheaper price than Datsyuk.
Fortunately for Detroit, they were able to sign Datsyuk to a seven-year, $47 million extension in April of 2007. Datsyuk rewarded the team by posting back-to-back 30 goal, 97-point seasons, and winning three straight Selke Trophies.
4 Joe Thornton for Roberto Luongo
We all know how one-sided the 2005 Joe Thornton trade turned out to be for San Jose. Thornton went on to win the 05-06 Art Ross trophy and has since become one of the NHL’s elite centermen.
Yet, before the San Jose Sharks jumped in on that trade, the Florida Panthers were in talks to acquire Thornton, who grew disgruntled with Bruins’ management.
According to Mike Keenan, (Florida’s GM at the time), the Panthers offered up star goaltender Roberto Luongo. The genesis of the talks stemmed from a contract dispute, where Luongo wanted $35 million deal compared to the $30 million the team offered.
Boston was keen on adding a goalie and Luongo fit the bill. However, when Keenan went to ownership, they didn’t want to take on Thornton’s contract. That simple one-for-one trade would’ve been almost as ridiculous as the actual deal Boston made: Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau, and Brad Stuart for Thornton. Wow.
3 Rangers Consider Signing Joe Sakic to Offer Sheet in 1997
Let me start by saying the Rangers never should’ve let Mark Messier leave New York as a free agent in 1997. However, when the team captain bolted for Vancouver that summer, the Rangers needed to fill a hole on their top line with a productive center.
Who did GM Neil Smith want? None other than young Avalanche captain Joe Sakic. In August of 1997, the Rangers signed Sakic to a $21 million offer sheet over three seasons. Given the 28-year-old’s restricted free agent status, the Avalanche had one week to match the offer and keep him.
The Avs, of course, matched the offer and kept Sakic. If they didn’t, the would’ve received FIVE first round draft picks from the Rangers as compensation. Talk about ridiculous.
Yet, in hindsight, the Rangers may have still lost out on that deal. The team’s first-round picks over the next five years never amounted to much and Sakic went on to lead Colorado to their second Stanley Cup title in 2001 and forged a Hall-of-Fame career.
2 Steve Yzerman for Alexei Yashin
Steve Yzerman is one of the most beloved players in Red Wings history, so it’s almost unfathomable to imagine him on another team. However, in 1995, the Wings nearly parted with their longtime captain. By that point, Yzerman had been in the NHL for ten seasons and had yet to lead his team to a Stanley Cup.
Detroit management found a possible trade partner in the Ottawa Senators, who were willing to offer up star forward Alexei Yashin. The Russian center was a point-per-game player at the time and many Red Wings fans may have welcomed him to the Motor City. Team ownership stepped in and nixed the deal at the last second in one of the smartest moves in franchise history.
Yzerman went on to lead the Red Wings to three Stanley Cup Championships, while Yashin’s clashes with management and contract holdouts drove him out of Ottawa in the early 2000’s.
1 Wayne Gretzky to the Vancouver Canucks
At the time of the colossal Gretzky-to-Los Angeles deal in 1988, Edmonton fans were apoplectic. Many called for team owner Peter Pocklington’s head, unable to comprehend how the Oilers could part with their star player and face of the league.
However, it’s almost more difficult to comprehend the deal that almost sent The Great One to the Canucks before the 1988 draft. Pocklington reached a tentative agreement with Canucks’ management on a deal that would send Gretzky to Vancouver for $22 million and five straight first round picks.
For whatever reason, the trade collapsed and Gretzky was instead dealt to the Kings in a move that altered the course of the NHL forever.
Hockey’s popularity in the United States grew exponentially after Gretzky’s arrival in the City of Angels. The Kings sold out home games almost immediately. Gretzky would guide the team to the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost to the Montreal Canadiens.
If Gretzky had gone to Vancouver, perhaps the NHL would’ve never enjoyed a resurgence in the United States.
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