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The Five Worst Trades in NHL History

Posted on November 08, 2013 by Martin Banks

Every season, some poor GM breaks down and gambles on a player that they think will completely change the direction of their club by trading away a huge amount of assets to acquire him. Sometimes it works, sometimes it is utter disaster. Let’s take a look at some of these trainwrecks and how they affected the league:

5) The Francis/Samuelsson Trade

Ron Francis

In 1991, the Pittsburgh Penguins were a few good pieces away from being a playoff contender. Guys like Brian Trottier, Kevin Stevens, young Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux were the start of a great core, but success had yet to come to the team. In a shocking move, meant to revitalize the slumping Penguins, GM Craig Patrick swapped John Cullen, Zarley Zalapski and Jeff Parker for Grant Jennings, Ulf Samuelsson and Ron Francis. Samuelsson would bring a vicious net-front presence to the Pens D, and Francis would complement Lemieux up front to lead the Penguins to not one, but two Stanley Cup wins back to back in 1991 and 1992. The Whalers, on the other hand, would never recover from the trade, and their fanbase was (and still is) very bitter about it. The Whalers would eventually move to Carolina in 1997, and Ron Francis would be traded there in 1998.

4) The Luongo/Jokinen Trade

roberto luongo

Former Islanders GM Mike Milbury could have his own Top 5 bad trades, but this is one of the worst. After criticizing Luongo for some off-ice attitude, and signing rookie Rick DiPietro to the biggest rookie contract ever made, Milbury dished Luongo and forward Olli Jokinen to the Florida Panthers for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha. Luongo would go on to be one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL, and Jokinen would spend much of his career as a top line scoring forward. DiPietro was an utter failure, and Parrish and Kvasha didn’t compensate for the loss of Jokinen. This deal was a total laugher, but not quite as bad as….

3) The Yashin Trade

alexei yashin

Mike Milbury Strikes Again! It’s a wonder he didn’t end up in a drug rehab center after the disappointment of his awful trades. This time, grabbing forward Alexi Yashin, who was starting to decline, and dishing out young 6’9” Slovakian defenseman Zdeno Chara , Bill Muckalt, and a second overall pick in the draft (which would become current Sens captain Jason Spezza). Not only did Milbury trade away two future stars, but he then gave Yashin an enormous 10 year, $87.5 million dollar deal. Yashin muddled around Long Island until they finally bought out his contract, forcing New York to pay out the remainder of his $17.63 Million dollars owed. Yashin then high-tailed it to Europe, and played pretty well, making this dark saga in Islander fans’ history just a shade darker.

2) The Lindros Trade


Young Eric Lindros of the OHL’s Oshawa Generals was drafted 1st round by the lowly Quebec Nordiques in 1991, but the cocky rookie refused to play in Quebec because he didn’t like the team, the city, or the fact that he’d have to learn French, and held out without signing his contract. The Nordiques played hardball too, saying they would not trade him, and in essence, would ruin his potential career. Finally, after almost a year and several back-room meetings, The Philadelphia Flyers acquired Eric Lindros for one of the steepest prices in NHL history; 6 roster players, 2 picks, and $15,000,000 cash. The real kicker is who those 6 players and draft pick turned out to be. They were Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, Chris Simon, Mike Ricci, Kerry Huffman and Steve Duchense, but you may know most of them better as members of the Stanley Cup winning Colorado Avalanche. The Nordiques were doomed to leave Quebec, but before they did, they assembled one of the best teams in the NHL. The first draft pick turned out to be Jocelyn Thibault, who was traded to Montreal for disgruntled superstar Patrick Roy. This became the winning combination for the Nords once they moved to Colorado and promptly won 8 division titles and two Stanley Cups. Lindros was still a great player, but not anywhere near worth the value he was traded for.

1) The Gretzky Trade

gretzky trade

25 years ago, the Hockey world was shaken to its core when GM Glen Sather allowed the unthinkable; Trading Gretzky. Slather wanted no part of it, but his hands were tied. The greatest player in the world was on the greatest dynasty in hockey, and there just wasn’t enough money to go around. It’s the price you pay for winning, but the fee was steep, and the Oilers are still trying to recover. In exchange for The Great One and his bodyguard (Marty McSorley), The Kings only had to part with Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, 3 first round picks, and $15 million ($18.5mil Canadian at the time). It was a steal. The Kings immediately sold out every game, and Gretzky got into the American spotlight. The Oilers would have to continue to trade away important pieces from their Cup teams like Kurri and Messier, eventually becoming a punching bag for the Western Conference. While the trade HAD to happen, and it’s hard to fault those involved, it set a precedent that NO player is above being traded, not even The Great One.

Scott Huntington is a writer, reporter, blogger, and long-time hockey fan. He’co-creator and admin of the hockey group Soft Dump. Follow Scott at @SMHuntington

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