While the Erik Karlsson trade rumors have died down the past week, it’s still expected that Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion will be forced, at some point, to trade his superstar defenseman as the team obviously cannot afford to lose him for nothing via free agency.
Karlsson has reportedly turned down an eight year contract extension offer from the Sens and, at this point, it seems likely that the smooth skating, Swedish blue liner will test the open market as an unrestricted free agent next offseason. The return that Karlsson fetches via trade will be crucial for the Sens in their rebuild and the pieces acquired could end up being the building blocks of future success for the team. But… let’s be honest, Karlsson has the Sens over a barrel here, doesn’t he?
I mean, how often can a team trade away its best player and still make out relatively well as a result? Well, it’s actually surprisingly more common than you may think. Sean McIndoe, more commonly known under his pen name of Down Goes Brown, compiled a list of six times in which a team has been forced to “trade a star and won” in his latest article for Sportsnet. As always, McIndoe’s work, the result of some excellent research, is well worth the read. Click the link below to read the full article or check out some of the highlights below:
Eric Lindros to Philadelphia, 1992
The trade: This gets a little complicated, since the Nordiques actually ended up trading Lindros twice. They agreed to separate deals with both the Rangers and the Flyers, and it took a hearing in front of an NHL arbitrator to figure out which deal would stand. After five days and 11 witnesses, the ruling came down: Lindros was headed to Philadelphia , in exchange for Ron Hextall, Steve Duchesne, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci, the rights to Peter Forsberg, two first-round picks and cash.
The result: While he wasn’t the next Lemieux, Lindros came reasonably close to living up to the hype. He won a Hart Trophy in his third season, and eventually made the Hall of Fame despite an injury-riddled career. But the Nordiques may have got the best player in the deal in Forsberg, and the rest of the haul helped them make a quick transition from laughingstock to Cup contender.
Adam Oates to Washington, 1997
The trade: The Bruins traded Oates along with Rick Tocchet and Bill Ranford to the Capitals, in exchange for Jim Carey, Anson Carter and Jason Allison.
The result: It was a classic rebuilding trade for the Bruins, with Capitals GM David Poile shifting into win-now mode after a disappointing season. It didn’t work in the short-term; Oates initially refused to report without a new contract, the Caps missed the playoffs, and Poile lost his job. But one year later, Washington went to the Cup final for the first time.
At the time, Carey seemed like the main piece coming back to Boston; he was just 22 and had won the Vezina the year before. But he was a bust in Boston, and was out of the league entirely by 1999. (According to some reports at the time, the Bruins were offered Olaf Kolzig but decided on Carey instead.) Carter fared better, turning into a 20-goal scorer and going on to a long career.
But the big catch ended up being Allison. The 21-year-old had just 29 career points in parts of four NHL seasons, but he blossomed into a front-line player as a Bruin. He had 83 points in his first full season in Boston, and a career-high 95 in 2000-01.
Dale Hawerchuk to Buffalo, 1990
The trade: The Jets sent Hawerchuk and a first-round pick to the Sabres for Phil Housley, Scott Arniel, Jeff Parker and a first.
The result: This ended up being one of those trades that worked out reasonably well for both teams. Hawerchuk was very good in Buffalo, putting up four straight seasons between 86 and 98 points. For his part, Housley was a Norris finalist in his second year in Winnipeg and then racked up an eye-popping 97 points in 1992-93, which still ranks as one of the best offensive seasons from a blue liner in league history.
But the real key to the deal for the Jets was that swap of first-round picks. Winnipeg actually ended up moving down in the exchange, but they used their pick on Keith Tkachuk, who’d score over 300 goals in nearly a decade with the franchise. (In case you’re wondering, the Sabres used their pick on Brad May.)
Jaromir Jagr to Washington, 2001
The trade: The Pens sent Jagr to Washington for prospects Kris Beech, Ross Lupaschuk, Michal Sivek.
The result: In one sense, this is the rare trade where everybody lost. Jagr’s production fell off a cliff in Washington, and less than three years later the Caps were shipping him to the Rangers in a straight-up deal for Anson Carter. To this day, the Jagr-in-Washington era is one of those “let’s never speak of this again” things.
But the Penguins didn’t really fare any better. All three prospects ended up being busts, combining to score just 13 goals in Penguin uniforms. Pittsburgh basically traded the league’s top scorer for nothing.
So how does this deal wind up as a positive for Pittsburgh? Because Jagr’s absence allowed them to hit rock bottom over the next three years. That landed them three top-five picks, which they turned into Ryan Whitney, Marc-Andre Fleury and Evgeni Malkin. More importantly, those three terrible seasons gave them the league’s best odds in the 2005 Sidney Crosby lottery. When the ping pong balls bounced their way, the groundwork for three more Cups (and counting) had been laid. And none of it would have happened if they hadn’t traded Jagr for a handful of magic beans.
Denis Savard to Montreal, 1990
The trade: Chicago sent Savard to Montreal for 28-year-old former Norris winner Chris Chelios and a second-round pick.
The result: Savard had some decent moments in Montreal, but his production fell off to the point where he was a healthy scratch for much of the Canadiens’ 1993 Cup run. His stint as a Hab lasted just three seasons, and after a detour in Tampa he finished his career back in a Keenan-less Chicago.
Meanwhile, Chelios had reportedly been causing headaches of his own in Montreal, but continued to dominate on the ice in Chicago. He won two Norris Trophies as a Hawk and was a finalist for two more before being dealt to the Red Wings in 1999 and going on to one of the longest careers in NHL history.
Alexei Yashin to New York, 2001
The trade: At the 2001 draft, the Senators sent Yashin to the Islanders for the second overall pick, young defenceman Zdeno Chara, and forward Bill Muckalt.
The result: Yashin got a massive new contract from the Islanders, then saw his production flatline. He was eventually bought out, and his deal only came off the Isles’ books a few years ago.
Meanwhile, the Senators used the second pick on Jason Spezza, who quickly developed into a 90-point centre. That alone would have been enough to score the trade as a win, but they also landed Chara, at the time a big but raw blue liner who was viewed as a project. It’s fair to say the project turned out well, and he developed into a Norris candidate in four seasons in Ottawa.
As for Muckalt, his Senators resume involved the rare feat of going a full season without scoring a single goal. Nobody cared, and to this day the trade that was spawned by the seemingly no-win Yashin situation stands as the best the Senators have ever made.