Handling a young potential star in the NHL is a very tricky situation. Every player is different as to what approach works for them. Some need to be thrown in the fire right away, while others need some seasoning in the minors. Forwards tend to develop a lot quicker than defencemen and goalies are usually take the longest to develop. Some teams don’t seem to realize this and give up on a player way too soon. Sometimes, it’s a case of departing with a top prospect to get NHL talent to contend for a Stanley Cup. Just look at the Rangers and Coyotes. The Rangers paid a hefty price to get Keith Yandle from Arizona, giving up Anthony Duclair, who now looks like he’ll be one of the better young forwards in the league, while Yandle is a UFA in the summer.
Sometimes what will frustrate a team about a young player is their lack of consistency. Consistency is arguably the biggest separating factor when evaluating good players and great players. Sure, a good player may have a big night every once in a while, but the great ones find a way to produce every night and play their best in the biggest moments.
These players were oozing potential early in their careers but be it through some shortcomings as a young player or just a lack of vision by management, they were traded as young players. These guys went on to have amazing careers with a new team, leaving their old team scratching their heads, wondering where they went wrong. Here are 15 players whose teams gave up on them too soon.
15. Ryan McDonagh
Had the Canadiens kept Ryan McDonagh, their 2007 draft would have been one of the team’s greatest drafts in franchise’s history. The team drafted Ryan McDonagh, Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban with picks no.12, 22 and 43. Subban and Pacioretty are cornerstone players for the Habs and McDonagh would have been right there with them. The only problem is the Habs decided to trade McDonagh in a package for Scott Gomez, a declining playmaker with a terrible contract. McDonagh is now the Rangers’ captain and one of the league’s best defencemen. Could you imagine had he and Subban been paired together?
14. Kris Draper
Kris Draper isn’t as flashy as the other names you’ll see here, but there’s no doubt the Jets/Coyotes franchise could have used a guy like Draper. Perhaps it was a case of Draper being misused in Winnipeg, but after three points in 20 games, the Jets ran out of patience. They infamously traded Draper to the Red Wings for one dollar. Yes, one dollar. How’s that for a chip on your shoulder? Draper would go on to help the Wings to four Stanley Cups as one of the best checking centers in the NHL.
13. Markus Naslund
Let’s see, you have a guy with the potential to be an elite offensive talent and you trade him for a bruiser? Markus Naslund and Alek Stojanov were both struggling to catch on with their respective teams, with Naslund struggling with consistency in Pittsburgh, while Stojanov couldn’t crack the starting lineup in Vancouver. Following the deal, Naslund would take further time to develop, but eventually became an elite offensive force, finishing in the top five in scoring from 2002-04. Stojanov finished his career with a grand total of two goals.
12. Larry Murphy
There was nothing wrong with Larry Murphy when the Kings decided to trade him. They had picked him fourth overall in 1980 and he began his career on a tear, scoring 76 points as a rookie and over 60 in the two subsequent seasons. Murphy would go on to have a stellar career in Washington, who only had to give up Ken Houston and Brian Engblom. Murphy would play for six teams in his career, winning the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh and Detroit.
11. Tyler Seguin
This only happened two years ago but the effects are already so drastic that it had to be included. Tyler Seguin ended up in Boston because the Leafs decided to give up two first rounders for Phil Kessel and the Bruins took him 2nd overall in 2010. Seguin showed some promise in Boston, but often times couldn’t crack the top six. By the end of their run to the 2013 Final, the Bruins cut ties with Seguin, who was known as being a bit of a partyer in Boston. They got a solid player in Loui Eriksson in return, but Seguin has quickly turned into the elite player he was projected to be. The Bruins might like this one back.
10. Roberto Luongo
The Islanders had a ton of great prospects back in the late 90s, but they quickly threw them all away. One of them was Roberto Luongo, who had been chosen fourth overall in 1997. Goalies take longest to develop, but by 2000 the Islanders had run out of patience and were convinced they had the answer with the first overall pick. Luongo and Olli Jokinen were traded to the Florida Panthers for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha. That made room for Rick DiPietro to be the Islanders’ new goalie of the future. Nice one, Milbury.
9. Rick Middleton
The Rangers ran out of patience with their former first round pick who had played just two seasons for them without cracking the 50-point mark. Rick Middleton would be traded to the Bruins straight up for… Ken Hodge. Hodge proved to be near the end of his career while Middleton would play 12 years in Boston, recording nearly 900 points and growing into one of the game’s best two way players. Deals like this could be a reason why the Rangers went through a 54-year Cup drought.
8. Zdeno Chara
Wow, the Islanders really did have a Stanley Cup team in the making. Zdeno Chara was once an Islander. Chara hadn’t yet developed into the no.1 he’d turn out to be – there it is again, defencemen take longer. What’s worse is that not only was Chara sent to Ottawa, but also New York’s second overall pick, which the Sens would use to draft Jason Spezza. Who did the Islanders get in return? Alexei Yashin. You can’t make this stuff up.
7. Bernie Parent
Bernie Parent could have been the difference for the powerhouse Bruins of the early 70s. He could have turned them from Stanley Cup champions to an outright dynasty. Unfortunately, the Bruins left him unprotected in the 1967 expansion draft and the Flyers took him on. He quickly developed into an All-Star goalie. By the mid 70s, he had backstopped the Flyers to two consecutive Stanley Cups while winning the Conn Smythe trophies on both occasions. The Bruins didn’t outright trade him, but clearly didn’t think enough of Parent to protect him from the expansion draft.
6. Chris Pronger
Much like Tyler Seguin, Chris Pronger was a second overall pick who battled inconsistency and maturity issues early in his career. The Whalers didn’t know it, but they had struck gold by ending up with Pronger instead of first overall pick Alexandre Daigle. Unfortunately Hartford would give up on Pronger after just two seasons before dealing him to St. Louis. Under the guidance of Al MacInnis, Pronger would grow into one of the best defencemen of his generation.
The Whalers did get Brendan Shanahan in return, which would seem like a fair trade, but Shanahan didn’t want to play in Hartford and eventually forced a trade to Detroit. The Whalers should have stuck with the homegrown talent.
5. Cam Neely
Why can’t the Canucks have nice things? The Canucks had a hometown boy on their hands, someone who would turn into one of the NHL’s greatest power forwards of all time. After a few years in which his development wasn’t coming along as quickly as the Canucks had hoped from a top-1o pick, he was traded to Boston for Barry Pederson who had recently posted a 116-point season. The trade immediately helped the Bruins, scoring over 200 goals in his first five years in Boston. Pederson’s best days proved to be behind him.
4. Peter Forsberg
Peter Forsberg was the biggest piece in the monster deal the Flyers gave to the Quebec Nordiques to land Eric Lindros, who refused to play in Quebec. The deal seemed to be worth it initially, as Lindros was dubbed as ” The Next One”. Lindros held out for a year before the Flyers gave them a prospect they had drafted sixth overall the previous year. While Lindros would have some amazing years in Philly, Forsberg proved to be the more consistent player, with more longevity. That and the Flyers wouldn’t have had to give up a king’s ransom.
3. Mats Sundin
The Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche franchise may have made a great deal at that draft, but this was one that could have given them more Stanley Cups. The Nordiques would trade Sundin to Toronto in the summer of 1994, in a package to get Wendel Clark. Clark would play only one lockout shortened year for the franchise, as a contract dispute saw him traded to the Islanders a year later. Sundin would go on to be the Leafs’ franchise player for 14 years. Just imagine a Colorado Avalanche team with Sakic, Forsberg and Sundin to go along with who they already had. They could have been the dynasty of the late 90s rather than Detroit.
2. Marcel Dionne
Marcel Dionne produced for the Red Wings in a big way, but these were dark days for the franchise. Despite Dionne putting up 100-plus point seasons in the early 70s, the Wings traded him to the Kings in 1975 after not paying their star what he wanted. Dionne would finish his career with 731 goals and 1,771 points, top five all time in both categories. The Wings would continue to struggle until the mid 80s, when someone by the name of Steve Yzerman came along.
1. Brett Hull
Oh boy, no wonder Brett Hull had ill feelings towards Canada. The Flames traded the 23-year-old in 1988 to land Rob Ramage and Rick Wamsley. They would win the Cup in 1989, but they wound up giving up one of the greatest pure goal scorers in NHL history to do it. Hanging onto Hull would have given the Flames a longer window of success. Hull would score 714 goals after leaving Calgary, while the Flames have had trouble maintaining prolonged success since this trade.
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