Let's go shopping for the top NHL free agents available this offseason
This next offseason — whenever that is — will be full of star players who could change the direction of a franchise.This next offseason — whenever that is — will be full of star players who could change the direction of a franchise (cough, Buffalo, cough).
In the summer of 2006, the Toronto Maple Leafs decided not to pick up a contract option on 41-year-old Ed Belfour. Totaling three seasons as resident netminder in Toronto, Belfour spent much of his final season in Toronto hampered by a balky back. He was limited to 49 games in 2005-2006 and a substandard .892 save percentage. GM-at-the-time John Ferguson Jr. probably made the right call moving on from Belfour (though Belfour would bounce back somewhat in his one and only season with the Florida Panthers before retiring) – where Ferguson and the Maple Leafs erred was in choosing Belfour’s successor. © Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports The Maple Leafs obviously wish they hadn't deal Tuukka Rask to the Bruins.
Looking ahead, the Maple Leafs had two goalie prospects to dream on: Tuukka Rask and Justin Pogge. Unfortunately, neither Rask, 19, nor Pogge, 20, were ready to step between the pipes. Thus, Ferguson Jr. moved to deal from a position of future depth to secure a near-term solution. Toronto traded Rask to the Boston Bruins in a straight-up swap for 26-year-old goaltender Andrew Raycroft.
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On its face, the deal made some sense for both sides: Rask had been a recent first-round pick, No. 21 overall of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, while Raycroft came to Toronto decorated as the 2003-2004 Calder Trophy winner as the league’s top rookie. The Bruins were run at the time by interim General Manager Jeff Gorton (now the GM of the New York Rangers), who said this of the deal: “We had an opportunity, with three good, solid goaltenders who are all number one goalies in the NHL, and they couldn’t all play for us. Andrew had some value and we were able to move him for a player we really like, who is along the lines of Hannu Toivonen.”
Of course, Toivonen would be traded to St. Louis the following season for Carl Soderberg. He’d start 17 games for the Blues in 2007-2008 and never again appear in the NHL. So while the comparison wasn’t as apt as Gorton intended, his point was clear. Never mind that it’s a little curious for Gorton to trade for a player in Rask whom he would describe as being, essentially, “similar to the other guy we already have,” so it’s possible Gorton knew more about the organization’s future intentions than he let on at the time.
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More to the point, perhaps, was that the Bruins had made their choice about their starting goalie. A month before the Rask/Raycroft swap, Boston extended Tim Thomas with a three-year deal. The late-blossoming Thomas was primed to take over after 38 games and 2.77 GAA in 2005-2006.
Thomas was the Bruins’ chosen goalie moving forward, and he would take the heft of the timeshare as Rask came of age through the 2011-2012 season. Thomas was a four-time All-Star and two-time Vezina Trophy winner, including in 2011, when he took two-thirds of the timeshare en route to a Stanley Cup. Rask played a key role in getting that Bruins team through the regular season, but it was Thomas who steered the ship to the Cup. He took home the Conny Smythe Trophy as the oldest player ever to win the playoff MVP award. Unfortunately, his political views became a distraction in the following seasons – but Gorton’s trade with the Maple Leafs in the summer of 2006 provided Thomas’ heir apparent.
Big changes coming in the next NHL CBA
As the NHL and NHLPA work to finalize and ratify a new CBA extension, here’s the biggest changes you should know that are coming: The new CBA deal is for six years with an option to extend for one more. Players can opt-out of playing this summer without having an underlying condition and can’t be penalized.Cap ceiling will remain at $81.5 million and can’t go up until revenue hits $4.8 billion.Escrow will be 20 percent next season and work its way down to 6 percent by the 2023-24 season. This is what Artemi Panarin wanted players to hold out for.Participation in at least the next two Olympic Games.No Move/Trade follows the player.
Rask took over as the primary goalie in 2013-2014, leading the league in shutouts and winning the Vezina Trophy. He’s been one of the top goaltenders in the league ever since. Fourteen years later, Rask and Jaroslav Halak will share the Jennings Trophy this year, combining to allow just 2.24 GAA for the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Bruins. Rask has been a huge part of the Bruins’ success over the years in keeping Boston competitive. He put up a .934 save percentage in the postseason last year, helping the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Final. Rask has twice gotten the Bruins to the Stanley Cup since taking over as the primary goaltender, losing to the Blackhawks in 2013 and the Blues in 2019.
Back in Toronto, it’s been a long and winding road to current netminder Frederik Andersen. Andersen has settled in for Toronto, making his first all-star team in 2019-2020, his fourth season in Toronto. But even Andersen came at a cost: a 1st and 2nd round pick to Anaheim in the summer of 2016.
Raycroft, meanwhile, served up a league-high 205 goals in the 2006-2007 season for the Maple Leafs. His numbers would only get worse the year after, 3.92 GAA and a .876 save percentage. He left Toronto after a season and a half with a .890 save percentage and a 39-34-14 record. Pogge never developed to take the throne either. Six starts during the 2007-2008 season make up the entirety of his NHL career. He’d bounce around the AHL for a couple of seasons but never make it back to the NHL.
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In the interim between Belfour and Andersen, the Leafs cycled through a number of unspectacular puck-stoppers: Jonas Gustavsson, Raycroft, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Vesa Toskala, Garret Sparks, and Ben Scrivens each took a turn, but James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier had the most successful runs. Bernier made 140 mostly forgettable starts with a .915 save percentage from 2013 to 2016, and Reimer – who helped end Toronto’s playoff drought in 2012-2013 – took his office hours in the Toronto net for 196 starts and a .914 save percentage from 2011 to 2016.
But none quite rises to the level of Rask, who has stabilized the Boston goal for an entire era of Bruins’ hockey. For the Bruins, dealing for Rask was one of their better deals of the last 20 years. For the Maple Leafs, they’d probably like to have this one back.
That said, John Ferguson Jr., the GM who made the deal for Toronto, has probably made his peace with the deal: he’s currently the Executive Director of Player Personnel for – you guessed it – the Boston Bruins.
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Related slideshow: The best all-time trade for every NHL team (Provided by Yardbarker)
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The best all-time trade for every NHL team
With the NHL trade deadline here and every team in the league trying to find the missing piece to their Stanley Cup puzzle (or looking for the pieces to start a new one), we are going to take a look back at the best trade for every NHL team. This is not limited to just those done at the deadline but includes all trades no matter when they were made. Which is your favorite team's best trade? Have a look!
Anaheim Ducks: Teemu Selanne
Selanne had two different stops in Anaheim, but this one focuses on his initial time with the team. The Ducks acquired him from the Winnipeg Jets in the middle of the 1996 season for Chad Kilger, Oleg Tverdovsky and a third-round draft pick, giving the team a much-needed superstar. He ended up leading the league in goals twice within his first three years with Anaheim and was a top-five finisher in the MVP voting three times.
Arizona Coyotes: Jeremy Roenick
When the original Winnipeg Jets relocated to Arizona in the summer of 1996, they were going to need another star to help put people in the building. They got that when they landed Roenick, still in his prime as an elite offensive player, in a trade package centered around Alex Zhamnov. Roenick spent five years in the desert and while he never duplicated his previous numbers from Chicago, the Coyotes still ended up getting the best of the trade.
Boston Bruins: Phil Esposito
This can be described as a comically one-sided trade in the Bruins favor that saw them get Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield from the Chicago Blackhawks for Pit Martin, Jack Norris and Gilles Marotte. Esposito, the key player in the trade, went on to become the dominant player of his era, leading the league in goal scoring every season from 1969 to 1975, winning five scoring titles and helping the Bruins to two Stanley Cup wins, during the 1970 and 1972 seasons.
Calgary Flames: Jarome Iginla
This is not the only time you will hear about this trade in this article. At the 1995 trade deadline the Flames sent longtime standout Joe Nieuwendyk to the Dallas Stars for Iginla, a 19-year-old prospect with big-time potential. He would exceed even the wildest expectations anyone could have had for him. He went on to become one of the best players of his era and one of the best to ever wear a Calgary Flames sweater. Given what Nieuwendyk did for the Stars, it is one of the most successful trades for two teams to ever make.
Carolina Hurricanes: Rod Brind'Amour
The Hurricanes acquired Brind'Amour in the trade that sent Keith Primeau to Philadelphia, and it helped bring a Stanley Cup to Carolina. Brind'Amour spent nine-and-a-half years with the Hurricanes and was one of the league's best defensive forwards during that time, winning two Selke Trophies and playing a big role on the team's 2005-06 Stanley Cup team. He is currently the head coach of the team and continued his legacy as a Hurricanes legend by leading them on a surprise run to the 2019 Eastern Conference Final.
Chicago Blackhawks: Glenn Hall
The Blackhawks got one of the NHL's best goalies of all time (as well as another future Hall of Famer in Ted Lindsay, even if he was at the end of his career) for what basically amounted to some spare parts. Hall spent 10 years with the Blackhawks, winning a Stanley Cup and two Vezina Trophies.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Sergei Bobrovsky
The Blue Jackets needed a goalie in the summer of 2012 and sent a couple of draft picks to the Philadelphia Flyers for Bobrovsky, a promising but ultimately unproven goalie. It did not take him long to make an impact in Columbus. During his Blue Jackets tenure he won two Vezina Trophies and was consistently one of the league's top goaltenders.
Colorado Avalanche: Eric Lindros for Peter Forsberg (and much more)
This goes back to the team's days as the Quebec Nordiques, but it helped build the foundation for a two-time Stanley Cup winner in Colorado. With Lindros unwilling to play for the Nordiques, they sent him to Philadelphia for a package of players and draft picks that included Peter Forsberg, Mike Ricci, Steve Duschesne, Kerry Huffman and Ron Hextall as well as several first-round draft picks. One of those picks was used to select goalie Jocelyn Thibault, who was one of the key pieces sent to the Montreal Canadiens for Patrick Roy during the 1996 season. The original Lindros trade is one of the biggest trades in NHL history and the type of move that will almost certainly never be duplicated.
Detroit Red Wings: Brendan Shanahan
One week into the 1996 NHL season the Red Wings swung a blockbuster trade that saw them send Paul Coffey, Keith Primeau and a first-round pick to the Hartford Whalers for Brendan Shanahan. One of the best power forwards in the league, Shanahan was the missing piece the Red Wings needed to complete their championship recipe, helping the team win three Stanley Cups between the 1996 and 2002 seasons.
Edmonton Oilers: Doug Weight
During the 1993 season the Oilers dynasty had already gone away, and the team was trading off the remaining pieces of its championship run, including Esa Tikkanen, who went to the New York Rangers for Doug Weight. Tikkanen was still a solid player and helped the Rangers win a Stanley Cup in 1994, but Weight went on to become the Oilers' best player for the next seven years.
Florida Panthers: Roberto Luongo, Olli Jokinen
This might have been one of the biggest trade steals of all time. The Panthers sent forwards Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha to the New York Islanders for goalie Roberto Luongo and forward Olli Jokinen. Luongo was one of the most prized goaltending prospects the NHL had seen in years and was dealt by the Islanders after they used the top pick in the draft on Rick DiPietro. In Florida he blossomed into a star, while Jokinen turned into a consistent 35-goal forward. Parrish and Kvasha had completely forgettable careers on the Island.
Los Angeles Kings: Wayne Gretzky
I mean, come on. What else could it be here? When you trade for the best player of all time in the prime of his career, it does not matter what you give up. The Gretzky trade helped put Southern California hockey on the map and turned the Kings into an immediate contender. Gretzky went on to play seven-and-a-half years for the Kings, leading them to the 1992-93 Stanley Cup Final.
Minnesota Wild: Nino Niederreiter
In June 2013, Niederreiter was a struggling young NHLer who had failed to make much of an impact for the New York Islanders, the team that had used a top-five pick on him a couple of years earlier. The Islanders ended up trading him to the Minnesota Wild for Cal Clutterbuck, a grinding forward known for leading the league in hits every year. Clutterbuck continued to be a fourth-line grinder, while Niederreiter blossomed in Minnesota into one of the better two-way wingers in the NHL.
Nashville Predators: Filip Forsberg
In the middle of a disappointing 2012-13 season, the Predators dealt veteran forward Martin Erat to the Washington Capitals for Filip Forsberg, a talented prospect who was just one year removed from being one of the top picks in the draft. The Capitals thought it might give them a shot at a championship. Instead, the 31-year-old Erat scored only two goals in 62 games over two seasons with the Capitals, while Forsberg has blossomed into a top-line scorer who averages more than 30 goals per 82 games played.
New Jersey Devils: Scott Niedermayer
Just one game into the 1989 season the Devils traded defenseman Tom Kurvers to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a future first-round draft pick (1991). The Maple Leafs would quickly learn that there is always some risk to trading a future pick that far in advance, as it ended up being the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, which the Devils used to select defenseman Scott Niedermayer. Niedermayer went on to become one of the best players of his era and one of the cornerstone pieces of a Devils dynasty throughout the mid 1990s and early 2000s.
New York Islanders: Butch Goring
The Islanders added Goring from the Los Angeles Kings in an in-season trade that saw them send Billy Harris and Dave Lewis the other way. It paid off immediately, as Goring helped the Islanders win their first Stanley Cup later that year. He was a part of all four championships during their dynasty, including a Conn Smythe winning performance during the 1981 playoffs.
New York Rangers: Mark Messier
After winning five Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers, Messier was dealt to the New York Rangers in 1991 for Bernie Nicholls, Louie DeBrusk and Steven Rice. While he would only play six seasons for the Rangers, he was the missing piece the team needed to end its 54-year Stanley Cup drought when the Rangers defeated the Vancouver Canucks in 1994 to win their first Stanley Cup since the 1940 season.
Ottawa Senators: Alexei Yashin
Alexei Yashin was the Senators' first true star player, but after seven years they dealt him to the New York Islanders before the 2001-02 season for a package of players and draft picks that would reshape the franchise. In return for Yashin they received defenseman Zdeno Chara, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft who would be used to pick Jason Spezza and Bill Muckalt. Chara blossomed into one of the league's best all around defenders, while Spezza became an elite center for more than a decade in Ottawa.
Philadelphia Flyers: reacquiring Bernie Parent
The Flyers traded Parent to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the middle of the 1970-71 season and then two years later got him back. It is that second trade that makes the cut as the Flyers' best all-time trade because the team reacquired the franchise goalie who backstopped it to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975. He is the best goalie in franchise history, and the Flyers have been trying to find another ever since.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Paul Coffey
Most Penguins fans will tell you this should be the Ron Francis trade, and it is a great argument for the role it played in turning the Penguins into back-to-back Stanley Cup champions in 1991 and 1992, their first two championships in franchise history. But the Paul Coffey trade in 1987 is what put them on the map and made them contenders. He gave Mario Lemieux a bona fide superstar to play with (something he had never had before) and helped transform the organization from a laughing stock into a powerhouse. He spent only four-and-a-half seasons in Pittsburgh, but he rewrote the team's record book for a defenseman (only now is Kris Letang starting to break some of those records) and was a superstar.
San Jose Sharks: Joe Thornton
In the middle of the 2005-06 season, Thornton was being run out of Boston even though he was one of the best young players in the league and just entering the prime of his career. The Sharks smelled blood in the water and pounced, sending Brad Stuart, Wayne Primeau and Marco Sturm to the Bruins for the superstar center. Thornton ended up winning the MVP Award and scoring title that season, turned Jonathan Cheechoo into a 50-goal scorer and began what would be a decade-and-a-half run as the face of the Sharks franchise. It was a steal of a trade that gave the Sharks one of the best two-way centers of his era and one of the NHL's all-time best playmakers. He is a Hall of Famer but has never been fully appreciated during his career.
St. Louis Blues: Brett Hull
This turned out to be one of the most lopsided trades in NHL history. At the 1988 trade deadline, the Flames sent Hull — at the time a promising 23-year-old young NHLer — to the St. Louis Blues for Rick Wamsley and Rob Ramage. Hull went on to become one of the most dominant goal scorers of all time, while Wamsley and Ramage had brief and entirely forgettable tenures with the Flames.
Tampa Bay Lightning: acquiring top pick for Vincent Lecavalier
During the 1998 season, the Lightning sent Bryan Marchment and David Shaw to the San Jose Sharks for Andrei Nazarov and the right to swap first-round draft picks in the 1998 draft if the Sharks won the draft lottery. They did, and the Lightning took advantage of their opportunity to swap picks, moving from No. 2 to No. 1. It was there that they selected Lecavalier with the top pick and ended up with their first superstar. Lecavalier had a fantastic career with the Lightning and was the centerpiece of their 2003-04 Stanley Cup-winning team.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Doug Gilmour
In January 1992, the Maple Leafs acquired Gilmour from the Calgary Flames in a 10-player trade. Gilmour was already an established star with the Flames and helped turn the Maple Leafs into a Stanley Cup contender. He had the best offensive seasons of his career with Toronto, won a Selke Trophy and remains one of the most popular players in franchise history. None of the players who went to Calgary (Gary Leeman, Alexander Godynyuk, Michel Petit, Jeff Reese and Craig Berube) ever made a noticeable impact with the Flames. The Maple Leafs never got a Stanley Cup in the Gilmour era, but it was still a steal of a trade.
Vancouver Canucks: Henrik and Daniel Sedin
This is not any one particular trade but instead a series of trades. Prior to the 1999 draft, then Canucks general manager Brian Burke had to make a series of trades to secure the Nos. 2 and 3 overall picks in the draft, trading Bryan McCabe and several draft picks to put the team in a position to select Henrik and Daniel Sedin. They went on to be Hall of Fame talents and the two best players in franchise history, leading the team to two Presidents' Trophies and a Stanley Cup Final appearance.
Vegas Golden Knights: Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith
The Vegas Golden Knights became an immediate success in the NHL thanks to some shrewd moves in the expansion draft where they exploited teams that were looking to protect certain players (or dump salary). One of those teams was the Florida Panthers, which sent Marchessault and Smith to Vegas for a fourth-round draft pick. The intent on the Panthers' side was to dump Smith's salary and protect defensemen, but both players have been core parts of the Golden Knights' early success, including their Stanley Cup Final run during their inaugural season.
Washington Capitals: Rod Langway
Just before the start of the 1982-83 season, the Capitals acquired Langway in a blockbuster trade with the Montreal Canadiens. Langway was already an established NHL defenseman, but his career immediately took off upon arriving in the nation's capital, and he won back-to-back Norris Trophies in his first two years with the team. He would go on to be one of the best players in franchise history and earned the nickname, "Secretary of Defense." He is still regarded as one of the best defensive players in NHL history.
Winnipeg Jets: Blake Wheeler
This one goes back to when the franchise was still based in Atlanta and called the Thrashers. On Feb. 18, 2011, the Thrashers acquired Wheeler and defenseman Mark Stuart from the Boston Bruins for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik. While Peverley ended up playing a strong role in Boston and was part of a Stanley Cup team, his time there was brief and he was only a complementary player. Wheeler ended up being one of the best offensive players in the entire league over the past decade and has been the focal point of the team since its relocation to Winnipeg.
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