NHL goalies have a reputation for being head cases and it’s kind of no wonder, given the amount of pressure and stress that they face on a nightly basis. As one of the great goalies of all time, Jacques Plante once said, “How would you like it if at your job, every time you made the slightest mistake a little red light went on over your head and 18,000 people stood up and screamed at you?”
In hockey, the goalie has a disproportionally important role. There are twelve players to share the duties of a forward, and six defensemen. When it comes to protecting the net itself, however, it’s one man’s job. It’s nearly impossible to win the Stanley Cup without a goalie who is playing at a very high level, and a lapse in play by the goalie at a pivotal moment can end a team’s playoff hopes.
Because of the profound importance of having a good goalie in the NHL, trades for goaltenders always have the highest of stakes. Accidentally trading away a goalie with great potential without getting a good return is one of the worst mistakes a franchise can make. Likewise, holding onto a goalie for too long, putting faith in their future when none is warranted, is a similarly costly mistake. As it turns out, many of the teams with long Stanley Cup droughts have made terrible trades involving goalies, whereas the teams who benefited from those trades were often able to capitalize and turn their good fortune into Stanley Cup success. Let’s look at some of the NHL’s worst goalie trades ever.
15. Florida Trades Roberto Luongo To Vancouver
There’s something about Roberto Luongo that makes general managers make bad decisions about his value as a goaltender. Sure, he has been the subject of some weird moments, like when he had to go to the dressing room during an elimination game in the playoffs because he had diarrhoea. But he has also been one of the best goalies in the world for the past decade, and so it was pretty ridiculous when Mike Keenan traded him to Vancouver for Alex Auld, Bryan Allen, and a washed-up Todd Bertuzzi, who only played a handful of games for them. Luongo, on the other hand, finally solved Vancouver’s goaltending problems, leading them to within one game of a Stanley Cup. When Florida eventually reacquired Luongo, his best years were behind him.
14. Montreal Trades Patrick Roy To Colorado
Patrick Roy is, of course, one of the greatest goalies in the history of the NHL. He was the quintessential crazy goalie, full of superstitious behaviour and often frazzled in interviews. And he was a complete hot head, which is partially what lead to the Montreal Canadiens getting ripped off when they traded him. After years of incredible play for the Habs, winning two Stanley Cups with the team, Roy got shelled 11-1 in a game against the Detroit Red Wings, and got extremely mad when he wasn’t taken out of the game after his poor play. Roy asked to leave, believing that the coach had deliberately left him in net to humiliate him. He was quickly traded to the Colorado Avalanche for Jocelyn Thibault, Martin Ručinský and Andrei Kovalenko, in what was seen at the time and now as one of the most uneven trades in NHL history. He went on to have a great career with the Avalanche, winning two Stanley Cups. The lesson from the Roy trade is that it’s better to deal with conflict and try to come to a resolution than it is to get swept up by emotion and trade your best player for peanuts.
13. Calgary Trades J.S. Giguere To Anaheim
Like both Rask and Luongo, J.S. Giguere was a very high draft pick, so there is no real reason why the Calgary Flames shouldn’t have valued him more and not been more willing to hold onto him for the future instead of dealing him for practically nothing. The Flames traded Giguere to the Ducks for a second round draft pick, and then traded away that draft pick too, to the Washington Capitals. After a couple of strong early seasons, Giguere had one of the best seasons in NHL history in 2003-04, taking the Ducks on an incredible playoff run, making 63 saves in a single game, sweeping the high powered Detroit Red Wings, holding the Minnesota Wild to a single goal in an entire series, and leading the Ducks over the favoured New Jersey Devils in the final. He didn’t allow a single goal in overtime for the entire playoffs. He was the playoff MVP. His play eventually dropped off, but there’s no doubt that the Flames got fleeced in losing Giguere for essentially nothing.
12. New York Islanders Trade Roberto Luongo And Olli Jokinen to Florida
Here he is again. Though the Florida Panthers definitely got ripped off when they traded Luongo to the Canucks, the blow is softened by the fact that they similarly ripped off the New York Islanders when they acquired Luongo in the first place. It’s widely agreed that Mike Millbury is the worst general manager in NHL history. The worst deal of his life came when he drafted Rick DiPietro 1st overall, making Bobby Lou redundant, leading to him trading Luongo and Olli Jokinen to Florida in return for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha. Jokinen is one of the ugliest guys I have ever seen, but he ended up being a very good player, while Luongo may be Hall of Fame bound. On the other hand, Mark Parrish was a very average player and Kvasha was a huge bust who showed potential but never really did anything in the NHL. I’m not sure that Mike Millbury could have possibly made a worse trade than this.
11. Florida Trades Rhett Warrener And A Draft Pick (Ryan Miller) To Buffalo
The Buffalo Sabres have obviously not been all that successful as an NHL franchise overall, but one area that they’ve really excelled in is spotting young goalies who have great promise. After all, they were able to pick up Hasek from the Chicago Blackhawks for practically nothing, and he ended up becoming perhaps the best NHL goalie ever. They also made a great pick selecting Ryan Miller 138th overall, as he went on to win a Vezina Trophy and to lead the US to a silver medal in the 2010 Olympics. However, the draft pick used to draft Miller actually came from Florida, as they traded Rhett Warrener and the draft pick to Buffalo in exchange for Mike Wilson. It’s lucky that the Panthers picked up Luongo soon after, making it so it didn’t matter to much that they traded away the draft pick that ended up being Ryan Miller.
10. Buffalo Trades Dave Andreychuk, Daren Puppa And 1st Rounder To Toronto For Grant Fuhr
There’s no doubt that Grant Fuhr is one of the great goalies in NHL history. Some of that history has to do with that he has played on very good teams, especially the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s, one of the great teams in NHL history. With the Oilers, he won five Stanley Cups and made the All-Star team seven times. However, in 1993, well after Fuhr’s best years in the league were behind him, the Sabres decided to make a big push for him, trading Daren Puppa, Dave Andreychuk, and a first round draft pick to get him. Fuhr hardly played any games for the Sabres, moving again the next season, while Andreychuck was able to be pretty successful for the Leafs, playing four seasons for them and scoring fifty goals once. The Fuhr trade proves that you shouldn’t overvalue players based on past accomplishments, no matter how impressive they may seem.
9. Toronto Trades Tuukka Rask To Boston
The Toronto Maple Leafs knew that Tuukka Rask was going to be a great NHL goaltender. After all, they drafted him in the first round in 2005, which is kind of a rare move in itself, as teams usually don’t like to select goalies with their first round picks, and doing so has often backfired. Their rationale for doing so was well understood. They had two good backups in Rask and Justin Pogge, and figured that Pogge was the better of the two, which is laughable in hindsight, as Pogge only ever played 7 NHL games. In the trade, the Leafs got Andrew Raycroft, who had just won the Calder Trophy, but ended up being a very disappointing player. On the other hand, Rask has won the Vezina Trophy, as well as a Stanley Cup, and has been one of the best goalies in the league year after year. For a team like the Leafs who have had endless goalie problems, trading away a goalie as good as Rask was a nightmare in hindsight.
8. Calgary Trades Brett Hull To to St. Louis For Rob Ramage And Rick Wamsley
Most of the entries for this article consist of teams trading away great goalies, either not realizing their potential or overvaluing the return they were getting. However, in this case, the Calgary Flames traded away one of the greatest goal scorers in the history of the NHL because they wanted to add a goalie for their playoff run. It ended up paying off, as the Flames won their first (and only) Stanley cup that year, but I’ve never even heard of Rick Wamsley, and they could have used Hull’s scoring in the coming years, so the Calgary Flames definitely grossly overpaid in order to get a disappointing backup goalie. The kind of scoring that Brett Hull provided to each team he played for made him a generational-type player, and it’s strange to consider why the Flames would have thought it was a good idea to sacrifice all of Hull’s goals just to add a couple respectable players.
7. Arizona Trades Mike Smith To Calgary
Though the Calgary Flames have undeniably made some pretty bad trades when it comes to goalies over the years, they have also made some great ones, including the Mike Smith deal. Mike Smith has been a very solid goaltender for the Calgary Flames. Though he is getting up there in years at this point, he has been playing well again this season, and is a big part of the reason that they’re only three points out of a wildcard playoff spot despite a pretty disappointing season so far. They picked him up off the Coyotes for essentially nothing, too: the similarly boringly-named Chad Johnson—who is a pretty bad backup goalie—as well as a conditional draft pick and a prospect who has never played in the NHL. Meanwhile, the Coyotes are the worst team in the league and Antti Raanta isn’t having a great season, so the Coyotes end up looking pretty dumb in the deal.
6. Vancouver Trades Cory Schneider To New Jersey
When you really get down to it, the Vancouver Canucks may have the worst record with goalies of any team in the league. A few years back now, they found themselves in a situation of incredible riches. They had Roberto Luongo, one of the best goalies in the league and also their team’s captain. They also had Cory Schneider, who many could tell was a future franchise player. It was one of the greatest goalie tandems ever; if Luongo faltered, Schneider could be counted on to step in and deliver a great performance, although it also lead to a goalie controversy, of course, as the media endlessly speculated about who was the true number one. After a year of trying to get rid of Luongo, the Canucks surprised everyone by trading Schneider instead, to the New Jersey Devils for a draft pick. Then they traded Luongo too, so they were left with two unproven backup goalies instead of their two all stars. It was a baffling move, but luckily for the Canucks, the draft pick they got for Schneider ended up being Bo Horvat, who has been playing great in recent years.
5. St. Louis Trades Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, William Carrier, And Draft Picks To Buffalo For Ryan Miller
As referenced earlier in the case of Luongo, there are certain goalies whose abilities are frequently misjudged by general managers and fans alike, and one of these goalies is Ryan Miller, who here finds his second appearance in this article. Miller was, at a time, one of the best goalies in the league, and the St. Louis Blues figured that they had found the perfect piece to make themselves a cup contender when they offered a whole lot for the goalie. However, Miller only played fewer than twenty games for the Blues, signing with the Canucks the next season, while Chris Stewart has gone on to be a good NHL player, and Halak is still a serviceable goalie as well. It was mostly bad luck that Miller didn’t work out for the Blues, and they are still a lot better of as a team than the Sabres after losing this trade, but there’s no doubt that they got robbed while trying to bolster their roster between the pipes.
4. Buffalo Trades Dominik Hasek To Detroit
As mentioned earlier, Dominik Hasek may hold the distinction of being the greatest goalie to ever play in the NHL, and if he wasn’t the greatest, he was surely at least the most interesting, as he thrilled fans with his acrobatic diving saves and wild plays, as well as his generally strange manner of being. A case could be made that it was one of the worst goalie trades in history when he was traded to the Sabres for Stephane Beauregard—who was soon traded himself—by the Blackhawks, but at least that that time Hasek’s powers weren’t fully known. When the Sabres traded him to the Detroit Red Wings for Slava Kozlov and a draft pick, they knew he was the best goalie in the world, but that was the best return they could get for him. Kozlov played only one season for the Sabres, while Hasek when on to win two Stanley Cups for the Wings, so it’s clear who won that deal.
3. Vancouver Trades Roberto Luongo To Florida
Here he is again, for the third and final time on this list. It’s truly remarkable the number of bad deals that Roberto Luongo has been involved in. All of these crazy deals are probably what has lead him to have such a good sense of humour about his career, as he frequently tweets about mistakes he’s made and bad goals he has let in. In 2014, right before the trade deadline, the Canucks traded Luongo, the best goalie in franchise history, back to the Panthers in exchange for Jakob Markstrom and Shawn Matthias. Markstrom is currently a pretty bad goalie for the Canucks and Matthias is on his third new team since the Canucks, the Winnipeg Jets. Luongo’s public falling-out with the Canucks definitely impacted his trade value but still, you’ve got to do better than that. Lately, he has proven that he still has the goods, as he has been responsible for leading the Panthers to the playoffs in recent years.
2. Ottawa Trades Ben Bishop To Tampa Bay
Big Ben Bishop is the tallest goalie to ever play in the NHL, which gives him a big advantage in net, because as long as he stays in decent position, he takes up more of the net than anyone in the league. Bishop has bounced around the league after this trade that saw him go from Ottawa to Tampa Bay, but if definitely seems like Ottawa should have held on to Bishop while they had him. Instead they traded him for a draft pick and Cory Conacher, who is not a good hockey player by any metric. Bishop went on to be the all time leader in various categories for the Lightning and was named to an All-Star game, meaning that Ottawa certainly lost out on this trade.
1. Arizona Trades Devan Dubnyk To Minnesota
If there’s one takeaway from this article, it’s that the teams that have won multiple Stanley Cups don’t really mess up their trades for goalies very often, while teams that struggle for years on end are always accidentally trading away solid goalies who they didn’t give a proper shot to. You don’t see the Pittsburg Penguins making bad goalie trades, for example. In the middle of the 2015 NHL season, the Coyotes traded Dubnyk to the Minnesota Wild for a third round draft pick. Right away, Dubnyk started racking up wins for the Wild, was a finalist for the Vezina, and was rewarded with a big contract. It’s hard to say whether he would have developed in the same way in Arizona and how much of his improved performance was circumstantial, but the Coyotes management have got to be kicking themselves now either way.
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