July 14 was a day that saw two big-name general managers get hired by two “Original Six” franchises. Also, some future head coaches and executives were on the move during the playing days and a Hall of Fame goalie gets a new home.
New General Managers Named
On July 14, 1986, the New York Rangers named Phil Esposito as their new general manager and vice president, replacing Craig Patrick. Esposito promised that he would bring a Stanley Cup to Broadway, but he does not fulfill this pledge.
Esposito quickly earns the nickname “Trader Phil” because of his itchy trigger figure when it came to firing off a deal. In fact, he made more trades in his three years with the Rangers than the Vancouver Canucks made in the entire decade of the 1980s.
One of his most memorable trades was acquiring future Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne at the tail end of his career. In 1987, he also traded a first-round draft pick to the Quebec Nordiques for the services of head coach Michel Bergeron. Esposito fired him with just two games remaining in the 1988-89 season.
Esposito himself was fired in late May of 1989. The team made it to the Stanley Cup playoffs in two of the three seasons with him in charge, but lost in the first round both times, to the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Pat Quinn added general manager to his job title on July 14, 1999. He held on to the job until he was replaced by John Ferguson on Aug. 29, 2003, but remained the head coach through the end of the 2005-06 season.
The Maple Leafs won one division title and made it to the playoffs in all four seasons Quinn served as general manager. He led them to the Eastern Conference Final in 2002 before losing to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Two Former Oilers Get New Homes
Hall of Fame goaltender Grant Fuhr signed as a free agent with the St. Louis Blues on July 14, 1995. Fuhr, who won four Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s, made stops with the Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres and Los Angeles Kings before signing with the Blues.
He played in 249 games over four seasons in St. Louis, going 108-87-41 with a .900 save percentage (SV%) and 2.68 goals-against average (GAA). He earned 11 of his career 25 shutouts during this span, two more than he had in 10 seasons with the Oilers.
Bernie Nichols, who played 95 games over two seasons with the Oilers in the early 1990s, signed with the Chicago Blackhawks on July 14, 1994. He played two seasons with the Blackhawks, scoring 41 goals and 111 points in 107 games. He also had 21 points in 26 Stanley Cup playoff games in Chicago.
Odds & Ends
On July 14, 1976, the NHL officially approved the relocation of the California Seals to Cleveland, where they became the Barons. This marked the first time an NHL franchise relocated since 1934 when the original Ottawa Senators moved to St. Louis. The Barons only lasted two seasons in Cleveland before merging with the Minnesota North Stars in 1978.
The Nordiques signed Guy Lafleur on July 14, 1989. The former Montreal Canadiens star played the previous season with the Rangers after three-year absence following his retirement in 1985. Lefleur scored 24 goals and 62 points in his two seasons with the Nordiques, the final two of his 17-season Hall of Fame career.
Current Anaheim Ducks head coach, Dallas Eakins, signed with the Maple Leafs on July 14, 1998. Before getting into coaching, Eakins was a journeyman defenseman who appeared in 120 NHL games, over 10 seasons, with eight different teams.
The Atlanta Thrashers named Curt Fraser as their head coach, on July 14, 1999, their first in franchise history. He coached the first 279 games of the Thrashers’ existence, going 64-168-46. He was fired 33 games into the 2002-03 season. Don Waddell initially took over as head coach before hiring Bob Hartley 10 games later.
On July 14, 2003, the Dallas Stars signed free-agent defenseman Don Sweeney, who had spent his entire 15-season NHL career with the Boston Bruins. He picked up 11 assists during the 2003-04 season before retiring as a player. After a short stint as a broadcaster, Sweeny returned to the Bruins organization in 2006. He has been their general manager since May 20, 2015.
Happy Birthday to You
A total of 16 former and current NHL players were born on July 14. Some of today’s birthday boys include Kevin McCarthy (63), Mike McPhee (60), Nate Dempsey (46), Nikolai Kulemin (34), Josh Jooris (30) and John Gibson (27).