On this date, the Los Angeles Kings brought back one of the great players in their franchise’s history for the third time. Also, a dramatic coaching move was finally made official. Plus, some talented Stanley Cup winners are celebrating birthdays today.
Robitaille Returns to Hollywood…..Again
The Kings signed free-agent forward Luc Robitaille on July 24, 2003. This marked the third time Robitaille wore a Kings sweater. He was originally one of the best draft picks in franchise history when he was selected in the ninth-round (171st overall) of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft.
His first stint with the Kings laid the foundation for his Hall of Fame career. He won the Calder Trophy, for being the best rookie of the 1986-87 season, by scoring 45 goals and 84 points. He scored at least 44 goals in each of his first eight seasons in Los Angeles, including 63 during 1992-93, which ended with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
In July of 1994, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Rick Tocchet and a second-round draft pick that turned into Pavel Rosa. After one season with the Penguins, he was dealt to the New York Rangers.
Robitaille returned to Los Angeles, prior to the 1997-98 season when the Kings traded Kevin Stevens for him. He played four seasons in his second stint, scoring 128 goals and 276 points. He signed with the Detroit Red Wings in the summer of 2001. He scored 30 goals and 50 points during the regular season and won his one and only Stanley Cup in the spring of 2002.
His third go-round with the Kings lasted for two seasons, the final two of his NHL career. He scored 37 goals and 75 points before retiring in 2006. Robitaille is the franchise’s all-time leader with 557 goals. He is fifth with 597 assists and second in points with 1,154. Marcel Dionne is the only player to ever score more points than Robitaille in a Kings uniform.
Keenan Move Finalized
The great Mike Keenan drama of 1994 finally ended on this date. Keenan stepped down as Rangers’ head coach on July 15, 1994, just a few weeks after leading them to a Stanley Cup championship. Two days later, the St. Louis Blues announced he was hired as their new head coach and general manager.
The move was made official on July 24, 1994, when Gary Bettman finally approved the move. The Rangers acquired center Petr Nedved while sending forward Esa Tikkanen and defenseman Doug Lidster to St. Louis in order to finalize the Keenan hire.
Nedved 11 goals and 23 points in 46 games during the 1994-95 season. He was traded to the Penguins, in August of 1995, along with defenseman Sergei Zubov, for Robitaille and defenseman Ulf Samuelsson. The Penguins traded Nedved back in 1998 as part of the deal for Alex Kovalev.
Tikkanen played in 54 games for the Blues, over the next two seasons, scoring 13 goals and 40 points. He was to the New Jersey Devils for a draft pick early into the 1995-96 season. Lidster played in just 37 games during the 1994-95 season. He was traded back to the Rangers during the offseason for fellow defenseman Jay Wells.
Keenan’s stint with the Blues, like most of his stops in the NHL, did not last very long. He was let go just 33 games into his third season.
Odds & Ends
On July 24, 1995, the Florida Panthers named Doug MacLean as their new head coach. He replaced Roger Neilson, becoming the second head coach in franchise history. He took the Panthers all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season behind the bench. They miss the playoffs in 1997 and he is dismissed after a 7-12-4 start to the 1997-98 season.
The San Jose Sharks acquired former playoff hero Stephane Matteau, on July 24, 1997, from the Blues, in exchange for Darren Turcotte. Matteau spent the next five seasons with the Sharks, where he scored 55 goals and 119 points in 345 games. This was the longest stint with one team during his 13-season NHL career which also saw stops with the Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Rangers and Panthers.
The Flames signed free agent Dave Lowry on July 24, 2000. The veteran forward was named the captain for the 2000-01 season, the 17th different captain in franchise history. His first season in Calgary was one of the best of his career with 18 goals and 35 points. He spent a total of four seasons with the Flames, serving as captain in two of them.
Happy Birthday to You
A total of 23 current and former NHL players were born on July 24. Jamie Langenbrunner, born on this date in 1975, played in the most games of this group. He appeared in 1,109 games with the Dallas Stars, Devils and Blues during his career. He scored 243 goals and 663 points, winning Stanley Cup championships with the Stars in 1999 and the Devils in 2003.
Patrice Bergeron, born on July 24, 1985, will pass up Langenbrunner for the most games played early into the 2020-21 season. He is the highest-scoring player born on this date with 352 goals, 517 assists and 869 points in 1,089 games.
He’s won four Frank J. Selke Trophies for being the best defensive forward in the league. Bergeron won the Stanley Cup, with the Boston Bruins, in 2011. He was also a big part of the Bruins’ Eastern Conference championships in 2013 and 2019.
Other notable players born on this date include Jack O’ Callahan (63), Nathan Gerbe (33), Trevor van Riemsdyk (29), Robin Lehner (29) and Tanner Kero (28).