The NHL Trade Deadline is almost Christmas to hockey fans. If you’re team is struggling, it’s always a thrill to unload veteran contracts in exchange for future assets that can help them in the long run. If you’re team is in the playoff/Stanley Cup race, it’s always exciting to see your team add more players to maximize its chance at a Stanley Cup.
Though we’ve seen a number of mega deals significantly impact the NHL landscape, there have been a number of deals at the trade deadline that were disastrous for one or both parties involved. Teams trade too much for a big player who doesn’t live to his usual standards. Some teams don’t get enough in return when they choose to trade away a superstar player.
Looking back on some of the biggest deadline deals, it’s safe to say NHL history could have been a lot different. Here’s a look at the 15 worst trades in NHL trade deadline history.
15. Blackhawks Bring Back Andrew Ladd
Andrew Ladd was a key part of the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2010 Stanley Cup championship team, but was traded in the offseason due to salary cap constraints. He then spent time with the Atlanta Thrashers and Winnipeg Jets franchise, becoming their captain and becoming a consistent 20-goal and 50-point scorer.
However, Winnipeg wasn’t able to work out a long-term extension to keep Ladd around during the 2015-16 season. The Jets opted to trade him back to Chicago in exchange for a couple veterans plus promising prospect Marko Dano and a first-round pick. Ladd scored 12 points in 19 games with Chicago.
But in the playoffs, he had just two points in seven games. Chicago was eliminated in the first-round by the St. Louis Blues. That made Ladd’s return worthless and he signed with the New York Islanders in the offseason. The rival Jets were then armed with two promising young assets in return.
14. Flames Take Gamble On Olli Jokinen
Olli Jokinen was a star for the Florida Panthers, notching over 30 goals and 70 points in the first three seasons after the lockout. The Coyotes acquired Jokinen for the 2008-09 season and he scored 21 goals along with 42 points. But they chose to deal him to the Calgary Flames at the 2009 trade deadline in exchange for speedster Matthew Lombardi, tough guy Brandon Prust and a 2010 first-round pick, which ended up being 13th-overall. A disaster indeed.
Jokinen did score 15 points in 19 games, but the Flames were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Blackhawks. The following year, Jokinen struggled in Calgary and was traded to the New York Rangers. Calgary then brought him back in the following offseason, shaking the heads of many.
Though the Coyotes wasted that first-round pick on Brandon Gormley, the Flames could have kept it and selected Vladimir Tarasenko or even Evgeny Kutnetsov. Lombardi was also a reliable 20-goal scorer, but they let him get away in the Jokinen trade.
13. Bruins Deal For Tomas Kaberle
Tomas Kaberle was a four-time All-Star with the Toronto Maple Leafs, consistently scoring 40-plus points a season. He even had 67 points during the 2005-06 season and was one of the league’s best puck-moving blueliners during his time in Toronto. The Leafs were rebuilding and Kaberle was set to become a free agent in 2011, so they chose to trade him to the Boston Bruins.
The Bruins would win the Stanley Cup, but Kaberle was a major disappointment and didn’t do all that much for them. He had nine points in 24 games and was unreliable in the postseason. Though Boston may not regret the trade, the Leafs sure do. In return, they got prospect Joe Colborne (who played 16 games in Toronto), and a first and second round pick — which didn’t lead to anything special for the Leafs.
12. Senators Give Away Mike Fisher To Predators
Mike Fisher was a beloved and well-respected veteran with the Ottawa Senators from 1999-2011. He was one of the league’s most underrated two-way forwards and could put up 20 goals and 40-50 points a season without a problem. Fisher helped the Senators reach the 2007 Stanley Cup Final, too.
But the Senators were a mess in 2010-11 and decided to sell off some veterans. Though the market for Fisher was fairly high, the team opted to trade him to the Nashville Predators for just a 2011 first and 2012 second-round pick. The first-rounder turned out to be Stefan Noesen who was flipped in the disappointing Bobby Ryan trade with the Anaheim Ducks. The second-round pick didn’t lead to anything.
Fisher has since been one of the top players on the Preds’, leading them to the playoffs in 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016. Ottawa’s rebuild went much faster than expected, and they could have used Fisher’s services in the 2012, 2013 and 2015 playoffs.
11. Sabres Rob Sharks In Brian Campbell Deal
The Sabres were just a season removed from winning the Presidents’ Trophy and a trip to the Eastern Conference Final. However, 2007-08 was a miserable season for Buffalo and they weren’t even close to the playoff race. San Jose was among the favourites to win the Stanley Cup, so they loaded up by acquiring puck-moving defenceman Brian Campbell in exchange for Steve Bernier and a first-round pick.
Campbell had a great regular season in San Jose, finishing with 19 points in 20 games. But he had just four points in the playoffs, and the Sharks were surprisingly sent home by the Dallas Stars in the second round. The Sharks did not re-sign Campbell, who signed a massive contract with Chicago instead.
Though Bernier never lived up to his potential, the Sabres’ draft choice acquired in the Campbell trade turned into Tyler Ennis. He’s enjoyed a trio of 20-goal seasons and figures to be a key piece of Buffalo’s future for years to come.
10. Thrashers Get Nothing For Marian Hossa
Marian Hossa was a star on the Ottawa Senators for many years before being traded for Dany Heatley prior to the 2005-06 season. Hossa was a star with the Atlanta Thrashers, scoring 39 goals and 92 points in 2005-06 followed by 43 goals and 100 points in 2006-07. Hossa had 26 goals 56 points in 60 games with Atlanta during the 2007-08 season. But the team was struggling Hossa was set to become a free agent at season’s end.
The rising Pittsburgh Penguins needed a veteran for a Cup run, so they traded for Hossa and Pascal Dupuis in exchange for two-way forward Colby Armstrong, shootout specialist Erik Christensen, promising prospect Angelo Esposito and a 2008 first-round pick that turned out to be Daultan Leveille.
Pittsburgh reached the Stanley Cup Final but would lose to Detroit. Dupuis became Sidney Crosby’s favourite linemate and the Pens won the Cup a year later. None of the players Atlanta got in return were effective after the trade. It was highway robbery for the Penguins.
9. Predators Land Peter Forsberg
The perennial superstar signed a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers before the 2005-06 season. Peter Forsberg had 19 goals and 75 points in just 60 games. The following season, the Flyers were the NHL’s worst team and Forsberg was an impending unrestricted free agent. Forsberg had 40 points in as many games and figured to bring a nice haul back to Philadelphia.
The Nashville Predators acquired Forsberg in exchange for veteran Scottie Upshall, prospect Ryan Parent and first and third-round picks in 2007. Though Forsberg scored 15 points in 17 games with the Preds, they were eliminated in the first round by the San Jose Sharks. Parent never became the star that was expected of him, Upshall struggled and none of the draft selections brought anything to the table for Philadelphia. This was a trade that did more harm than good for both teams in the long run.
8. Lightning Rob Senators Of Ben Bishop
The Ottawa Senators had a good problem in 2013 — too many goalies. Craig Anderson was arguably the NHL’s top goalie that season, while the promising Robin Lehner figured to be their starter for years to come. That meant that the up-and-coming Ben Bishop was expendable, so the Senators were in position to add some much-needed scoring.
Ottawa traded Bishop to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Cory Conacher and a fourth-round pick. Conacher had 24 points in 35 games with the Lightning and figured to bring a much-needed upgrade to the Senators’ forward unit. He had just five points in 12 games and played one more year in Ottawa before being put on waivers.
Bishop led the Lightning to the playoffs in 2014, 2015 and 2016. He took them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015 and to the Eastern Conference Final last season. Lehner failed to pan out and was traded to Buffalo in 2015, while Anderson failed to build off of a spectacular 2013 season.
7. Stars Trade James Neal To Pittsburgh
The Dallas Stars had a rising superstar in James Neal, but figured he was expendable since they already had Jamie Benn on offence. At the 2011 trade deadline, Neal and two-way defenceman Matt Niskanen were traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for blueliner Alex Goligoski.
Goligoski had shown promise with nine goals and 31 points in Pittsburgh during the 2010-11 campaign, and he was a solid top-pairing defenceman with the Stars for five years. But Niskanen fared just as well as Goligoski, but James Neal became an ultra superstar with the Penguins.
Neal struggled with the Pens in 2010-11, then broke out the following season with 40 goals and 81 points. In a lockout-shortened 48-game 2012-12 season, Neal scored 21 goals and 36 points. He had 27 tallies and 61 points the following season. He was then traded to the Nashville Predators in 2014 and has remained a reliable 25-plus goal-scorer. What hurts Dallas more is Neal’s Preds are in their division, so he gets to remind them how silly they were for giving up on him.
6. Sharks Swim And Sink With Craig Rivet
Craig River was a solid but not great defenceman with the Montreal Canadiens. But the San Jose Sharks acted as if he was a superstar at the 2007 trade deadline by giving up blueliner Josh Gorges and a 2007 first-round pick for Rivet’s services. Gorges was a solid stay-at-home defenceman in Montreal, but Rivet didn’t quite turn out to be the star San Jose had seemingly hoped for.
The Sharks failed to get past the second round in two seasons with Rivet, who joined the Buffalo Sabres in 2008-09. Meanwhile, the Habs’ used that first-round pick to select Max Pacioretty — the team’s best skater to this day. In the past three seasons, Pacioretty has scored at least 30 goals and 60 points. He figures to hit those marks again in 2016-17. Pacioretty has helped Montreal become one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference as well.
5. Capitals Give Up Forsberg For Erat
The Capitals’ playoff hopes were on the ropes during the 2012-13 season, so they boosted their chances by acquiring long-time Predator Martin Erat in exchange for Filip Forsberg. It seemed like a great deal for the win-now Capitals, considering Erat had scored at least 48 points in the previous seven seasons.
Erat didn’t do much in Washington, scoring just three points in nine games while being held scoreless in the playoffs as the Capitals were eliminated in the first-round of the playoffs. Erat scored just 24 points in 53 games the following season before the Capitals bought him out.
Meanwhile, Filip Forsberg has become a superstar on the Predators. In the past two seasons, he scored 59 goals and 127 points. If the Capitals had Forsberg playing with Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, imagine just what would be going on in D.C. right now? Or, what could have already happened in Washington?
4. Canucks Acquire Future Captain for Nada
Markus Naslund was an up-and-coming star with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the ’90s, but a contract issue forced them to look for a trading partner. They traded him to the Vancouver Canucks for Alek Stojanov, who played just 107 NHL games — scoring two goals and 107 points.
Meanwhile, Naslund became the Canucks’ franchise icon for over a decade. He turned a consistently losing franchise into one of the top Western Conference teams. Naslund scored 48 goals and 104 points in the 2002-03 season and narrowly missed out on the scoring title — won by Peter Forsberg.
In six seasons with Vancouver, Naslund scored at least 30 goals six times and managed 40-plus goals three times. He, Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison formed the infamous ‘West Coast Express Line’ and brought much more energy and faith into a struggling Canucks franchise. All they had to give up was a forward who didn’t last long in the NHL.
3. Lightning Get Struck By Brad Richards Trade
The Tampa Bay Lightning won the 2004 Stanley Cup thanks to a trio of elite forwards in Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards. The latter scored 26 goals and 79 points in 2003-04 and won the Conn Smythe Trophy after scoring 12 goals and 26 points in the postseason.
Richards continued to be a force on Tampa Bay, scoring 91 points in 2005-06 and 70 points in 2006-07. But the Lightning were the NHL’s worst team at the 2008 trade deadline, and they looked to trade Richards for future assets. Despite many teams having interest, they took the Dallas Stars’ low-balling offer.
The Stars got Richards and goalie Johan Holmqvist in exchange for fellow goaltender Mike Smith, veteran Jeff Halpern, shootout specialist Jussi Jokinen and a fourth-round pick. Smith was an unproven goalie and struggled in Tampa. Halpern was past his prime and Jokinen was out of Tampa Bay a year later. Richards helped the Stars reach the 2008 Western Conference Final and would remain a superstar — even scoring 91 points during the 2009-10 season.
2. Whalers Assist Penguins In Two Stanley Cups
The Pittsburgh Penguins were already a juggernaut in the early ’90s. They had world-class scorers Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux plus other stars in Paul Coffey, Kevin Stevens, Larry Murphy and star goalie Tom Barrasso. However, they were a bit short of depth and really just needed two more pieces to win the Stanley Cup. Luckily, the Hartford Whalers were willing to comply.
The great Ron Francis, physical defenceman Ulf Samuelsson and blueliner Grant Jennings were traded to the Penguins in exchange for Jeff Parker, John Cullen and Zarley Zalapski. None of those three guys turned into stars, but Samuelsson provided the Pens with plenty of toughness that got them over. Francis became one of the highest-scoring players of all-time, and along with Lemieux and Jagr guided the Penguins to Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and 1992.
1. Flames Give Away Brett Hull To St. Louis
The Flames signed Brett Hull in 1986, but gave up on him too soon. Despite scoring 26 goals and 50 points in 52 games during the 1987-77, they traded him and Steve Bozek to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Rob Ramage and Rick Wamsley. Ramage played 70 games with Calgary — scoring four goals and 23 points. Wamsley had a decent tenure with the Flames, but was far from a superstar netminder.
Hull became one of the league’s greatest players ever. The Golden Brett scored at least 70 goals in three straight seasons from 1989-90 to 1990-91. That included an 86-goal and 131-point season in 1990-91. Hull’s 741 goals are the fourth-most in NHL history, as his one-timer became one of the prettiest things the hockey world has ever seen.
Too bad the Flames gave up on the rising star so quickly without getting much of a return, though.
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