Trevor Linden’s first tenure with the Vancouver Canucks lasted seven seasons before he was traded away to the New York Islanders. He was drafted second overall in the 1988 draft and was second in Calder Trophy voting in the 1988-89 season, losing to New York Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch. Linden was named the ninth captain in team history at the age of 21, which made him the youngest captain in Canucks history. As captain, he led the team to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1993-94.
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Linden gave up the captaincy to the newly acquired Mark Messier in the 1997-98 season. The Canucks then traded Linden due to a conflict with then-acting general manager and head coach Mike Keenan, though the trade, where they lost one of the greatest players in franchise history, led to decades of success.
The Canucks shipped Linden to the Islanders and in return received Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan McCabe, and a 1998 third-round pick. Bertuzzi turned out to be the key piece in this trade as he was a part of the core that helped the team reach the playoffs in the early 2000s. He spent eight seasons in Vancouver and had a career-high in goals and points. In 2002-03 season, he had 46 goals and 97 points and during his time with Canucks, he had a total of 449 points in 518 games.
Bertuzzi spent most of his time with the Canucks on the first line alongside captain Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison. The line was named the West Coast Express after the commuter train that serviced the lower mainland. The team set career highs while playing together in goals, assists, and points. Along with Naslund, Bertuzzi was named a first-team All-Star in the 2002-03 season.
“Nazzy, Bert and Mo formed one of the best lines in the NHL for years,” said Linden, Canucks President of Hockey Operations, in 2015. “As a teammate it was thrilling to watch them compete every game with their combination of speed, skill and power.”
Drafting Daniel Sedin
McCabe was the other piece in the Linden trade, and was later involved in a series of trades which led to the Canucks acquiring the second overall pick in the 1999 NHL Draft. They used that pick to draft legend Daniel Sedin and his brother Henrik Sedin back-to-back, and the twins went on to have a lasting legacy on the team and the city. General manager Brian Burke made quite a few trades leading up to the draft in order to secure the Swedish twins.
Going into the draft, the Canucks had just the third overall pick. They traded McCabe and a 2000 first-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for the 1998 fourth overall pick. Burke then traded the fourth and two third-round picks to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the first overall pick in 1998. He then swapped the first pick with the Atlanta Thrashers for the second overall pick, which led to the Canucks drafting the Sedin twins.
After playing 107 games with the Islanders, Linden was traded to the Montreal Canadiens. He played another 107 in Montreal over the 1999-00 and 2000-01 seasons before being traded to the Washington Capitals. After playing 28 games in Washington, Linden finally returned to Vancouver in a trade. His point total declined since leaving in 1998, as he only passed the 40-point mark once, mostly due to injuries. After years of pursuing him, Burke finally re-acquired the former captain.
“Trevor brings several things to the party,” Burke said. “One is reliability, another is versatility and another is leadership.”
Linden played the final six seasons of his career with the Canucks and retired after the 2007-08 campaign. His second stint saw him in a reduced and defensive role, with the West Coast Express leading the offense. The following season, the Canucks retired his number, making him the second player in team history to have that honor.
After eight seasons in Vancouver, Bertuzzi was traded to the Florida Panthers with Bryan Allen and Alex Auld for Roberto Luongo, Lukas Kraijcek and a sixth-round pick. Luongo played eight seasons with the Canucks as well and he is remembered as the greatest goalie in franchise history. The team only missed the playoffs once while he was the starting goaltender. His first season with them is arguably the best he had as he was nominated for the Hart and Vezina Trophies.
Luongo was a key piece in Vancouver’s 2011 Stanley Cup Final run, winning 15 games, posting .914 save percentage and a 2.56 GAA. He also represented Canada at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics, winning gold both times.
Markstrom Stepping up
The 1998 Linden trade is still helpful for the Canucks, as the trade tree ends with Jacob Markstrom. He was acquired in the Luongo trade before the 2013-14 trade deadline. Markstrom has progressed into a reliable starting goaltender for the Canucks and has been the team’s MVP this season. He was also in consideration for the Vezina Trophy this season.
It was evident how valuable he was to the team as they lost five of their eight games once he went out with a lower-body injury. If the season is to resume, Markstrom would be ready to play and will be key in the Canucks making the playoffs.
Linden Trade Turned out Better Than Fans Hoped
Although trading away Linden was a low moment for the Canucks, it has led to them acquiring multiple fan favorite and legends. They traded away a fan favorite but acquired pieces for the immediate future as Bertuzzi and Daniel Sedin played large roles for the Canucks during the 2000s. Luongo came in and created a legacy for himself with the team as he played the best hockey of his career. Markstrom has developed into a starter for them and has been one of the reasons why they were in a playoff race for the first time since 2014-15 this season.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.