Throughout the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 105-year history, they have made a lot of transactions, good and bad; some have made the fans happy, while others did not. Either way, trades are some of the most exciting things that happen in a season.
Here’s a look back at some of the biggest trades in the history of the Maple Leafs. Trades that included players who made an immediate impact and altered the franchise, and who were beloved by fans still to this day.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Turk Broda
Detroit Red Wings: $8,000
Imagine if Maple Leafs’ general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas could buy a goaltender for $8,000. Well, in 1936, that happened. Conn Smythe, the Leafs’ GM, paid $8,000 for Walter “Turk” Broda, and Broda became one of the best goalies in the team’s history. He played 14 seasons with the club and was the starter for 13 of them before losing the starting job to Al Rollins in 1951-52.
He also led the Maple Leafs to five Stanley Cups, won two Vezina Trophies, and was a three-time All-Star. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1967 and named one of the 100 greatest NHL players of all time. Broda’s five championships rank fourth in NHL goaltending history, tied with Grant Fuhr. It was safe to say that the $8,000 that Smythe used to acquire Broda from the Detroit Red Wings was well spent.
Toronto Maple Leafs: First-round pick in 1973 (Ian Turnbull) and future considerations (Eddie Johnston)
Boston Bruins: Jacques Plante and a third-round pick in 1973 (Doug Gibson)
Jacques Plante, one of the greatest goalies of all time, was dealt to the Boston Bruins along with a draft pick and future considerations in exchange for a first-round pick in the 1973 Draft, which was used to select Ian Turnbull. This trade established one of the best defensive pairings in team history. Throughout their time together, he and the late Borje Salming became a force on the Maple Leafs’ blue line. Turnbull and Salming combined for 157 points in 1976-77; their 79 and 78 points, respectively, still rank first and second in points by a Maple Leafs’ defenseman in a season.
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Turnbull played for the Maple Leafs for nine seasons, recording 414 points in 580 games. He also represented the team at the 1977 Wales Conference All-Star Game. He also helped quarterback the team to eight playoff appearances alongside his long-time friend Salming and team captain Darryl Sittler.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Doug Gilmour, Jamie Macoun, Ric Nattress, Kent Manderville and Rick Wamsley
Calgary Flames: Gary Leeman, Alexander Godynyuk, Jeff Reese, Michel Petit and Craig Berube
Perhaps one of the most adored Maple Leafs of all time, Doug Gilmour, was acquired from the Calgary Flames in 1992. He was the star of a 10-player deal that brought him to Toronto, and Gilmour’s dominance was apparent as soon as he arrived. However, others in the deal had distinguished careers. Jamie Macoun and Kent Manderville were both on the team during their 1993 Playoff run alongside Gilmour. Three players who were involved with the Flames throughout that season and the playoffs—Gary Leeman, Jeff Reese, and Craig Berube—went the opposite way in the trade to Calgary.
Gilmour was explosive. He recorded 452 point in 393 games through seven seasons with the Maple Leafs. In 1993, he led the team to the conference finals but lost to Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings. In Game 6 of that series, Gretzky high-sticked Gilmour, leaving him bleeding, resulting in one of the worst missed calls in NHL history. The non-call kept Gretzky on the ice, and he scored to knock the Maple Leafs out of the postseason. In 1992-93, he also scored 127 points, which was a career-high, and he won the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward. Gilmour was named captain of the team in 1994 after Wendel Clark was traded to the Quebec Nordiques for a young Mats Sundin.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Rick Vaive and Bill Derlago
Vancouver Canucks: Dave “Tiger” Williams and Jerry Butler
Williams was one of the NHL’s best enforcers, serving 1,670 penalty minutes (PIMS) during his six seasons with the organization, and could also contribute offensively for the team. So, trading him away would have been difficult, however, GM Punch Imlach made it work. The Vancouver Canucks received Williams and Jerry Butler from the Leafs in exchange for Bill Derlago and 20-year-old Rick Vaive. Vaive and Williams were the main players in the trade, but Derlago stayed with the Maple Leafs for seven seasons, scoring 334 points in 378 games. However, in his eight seasons with the club, Vaive etched his name in the record books.
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He was the first and only player in Maple Leafs’ history to score three straight 50-goal seasons, and in 1981-82, he scored a career-high 54 goals, a single-season team record. He held that record for 40 years until Auston Matthews broke it with his 60 goals in 2021-22. He also served as captain from 1982-1986 and was an All-Star in three straight seasons (1982-84).
Toronto Maple Leafs: Mats Sundin, Garth Butcher, Todd Warriner and a first-round pick in 1994 (later traded to Washington, who selected Nolan Baumgartner)
Quebec Nordiques: Wendel Clark, Sylvain Lefebvre, Landon Wilson and a first-round pick in 1994 (Jeffrey Kealty)
The aforementioned Sundin, who had a stellar career in Toronto and still leads the franchise in most scoring stats, is arguably the greatest Maple Leaf of all time. The Maple Leafs traded Sundin in 1994 for Clark, another fan favourite and the captain at the time, and this might be the biggest and best trade in the organization’s history. Six players and two first-round draft picks were dealt. Sundin worked hard to gain the respect of the audience knowing Clark’s standing with them, and when he succeeded, he assumed the position of the franchise’s face.
Sundin, who played 13 seasons for the Maple Leafs, is the all-time leader in points (987 in 981 games). In Toronto, he never matched his best season of 114 points in 1992-93 with the Nordiques. His highest scoring season was in 1996-97, when he tallied 94 points. Sundin made the playoffs in eight seasons in Toronto, scoring 70 points in 77 total games. His list of accolades is long; he was an eight-time All-Star with the Maple Leafs, and he was awarded the NHL Mark Messier Leadership Award (given to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities for their team) in 2007-08.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012 and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Hall of Fame in 2013, and in 2017 he was named one of the NHL’s top 100 players of all time. Finally, during the team’s 100th-anniversary campaign in 2016, he was named the fifth-greatest Maple Leaf of all time.
These are the five best trades in Maple Leafs’ history. These additions had a big impact on the organization, and they consider Broda, Turnbull, Gilmour, Vaive, and Sundin to be some of the best players in their history. There have been deals that came close, but they didn’t quite measure up to the five largest trades in Maple Leafs’ history.