Written by former contributor Bill Schoeninger and originally published Apr. 30, 2015.
In the long run, most trades end up being more or less even. There are the lopsided trades that everyone remembers, but those aren’t the norm. Even more uncommon are the trades, even the lopsided ones, that send the two franchises involved in polar opposite directions like these four trades.
In each case, the winning team was catapulted to instant success, and the loser toiled in mediocrity. Even more interesting is that two of the trades involve the same player.
Edmonton Trades Pronger to Anaheim
(Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid, two first-round, one second-round)
In Pronger’s only season in Edmonton, he carried the eighth-seeded Oilers all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals before losing in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes. He played an average of 30:57 per game in the playoffs, and led the team in scoring with 21 points.
In the offseason, Pronger demanded a trade. He got it, and joined Scott Niedermayer on a star-studded blueline that promptly led the Ducks to a Stanley Cup the next year. That Ducks team is generally regarded as one of the most dominant in recent times, as they lost just five games those playoffs.
The Ducks would make the playoffs the next two years, winning one series, before Pronger was shipped to Philadelphia.
I don’t need to tell you how poorly the Oilers have done since that trade. They haven’t made the playoffs since, have gone through six head coaches, and come June 2015, will have picked first overall four times. The only real positive from the deal is that one of the first round picks turned into Jordan Eberle. (Ed. note: This article was originally published Apr. 2015…we all know who the Oilers have been able to draft since then.)
Hartford Trades Francis to Pittsburgh
(Jeff Parker, Zarley Zalapski and John Cullen)
When the Whalers dealt Ron Francis, they dealt a man who had been their leading scorer in six of the last nine seasons. Not coincidentally, they had also made the playoffs in the five previous seasons before trading Francis.
After trading Francis (stud defensive defenseman Ulf Samuelsson was part of the deal), they made the playoffs that season (1990-91) and the one after, but didn’t win a round. They didn’t make the playoffs for five seasons after that, then promptly relocated to Carolina.
Zalapski was a good offensive defenseman for three years before being traded, and Cullen never replicated the success he had in Pittsburgh in his new home. After scoring 102 and 92 points in his last two seasons in Pittsburgh, he never eclipsed 80 points again.
The Penguins won the Stanley Cup the season they acquired Francis, and then repeated the year after. Lemieux-Francis quickly became one of the most dangerous 1-2 center combinations in the league in their mini-dynasty.
Francis’ resume on the Penguins includes the following: four 90+ point seasons, six seasons of top 10 finishes in Selke Trophy voting (one win) and leading the 1992 playoffs in assists en route to a Cup.
St. Louis Trades Pronger to Edmonton
(Eric Brewer, Jeff Woywitka and Doug Lynch)
We know how Chris Pronger did in his single season in Edmonton, so this one is about how much the Blues fell apart once Pronger departed. One year removed from being a Norris Trophy finalist, the Blues traded their franchise player because of the imposition of the salary cap. Trying to make the team more attractive in order to sell it, they did not believe they could afford to pay Pronger what he deserved.
The first season the Blues played without Pronger, 2005-06, was the season their 25-year streak of making the playoffs was snapped. Eric Brewer turned into a solid, minute-munching defensive defenseman, but was nowhere close to Pronger as a player.
Lynch and Woywitka were complete non-factors, as the Blues made the playoffs just once out of the six seasons played after trading Pronger.
Montreal Trades Roy and Keane to Colorado
(Jocelyn Thibault, Martin Rucinsky and Andrei Kovalenko)
Three seasons after leading the Montreal Canadiens to their most recent Stanley Cup in 1992-93, Patrick Roy famously came to blows with coach Mario Tremblay. They already had a tenuous relationship, but when Tremblay left Roy in after being shelled to the tune of nine goals, the straw broke the camel’s back.
Roy swore it was his last game in a Habs uniform, and he was later traded to the Avalanche. At the time, many believed the trade to be one-sided, but it turned out being even worse in the long run.
The Canadiens held on for awhile, making the playoffs for three years, but winning just one series. In the three subsequent years, they missed the playoffs each season for the first time since 1919 to 1922.
In his (and the team’s) first season in Colorado, the Avalanche went all the way to win franchise’s first Stanley Cup in a sweep of the Florida Panthers. He finished in the top five of Vezina voting five times in Colorado, won another Stanley Cup in 2001, and a Conn Smythe in 2001.
Martin Rucinsky went on to become a solid top six forward for the Canadiens, and Jocelyn Thibault an average starting goaltender. However, their impact paled into comparison to what Roy accomplished in Colorado.