Rangers’ Most Impactful Trades of All-Time

As an Original Six team, the New York Rangers have been involved in a ton of trades, some of little significance, and some that have shaped or reshaped the entire organization. Perhaps the biggest trade the Rangers were involved in was on Oct. 4, 1991, when they acquired Mark Messier from the Edmonton Oilers. Messier subsequently went on to become one of the most beloved Rangers in history, if not the most beloved.

Messier Brings Stanley Cup

During the 1994 Stanley Cup playoffs, Messier put the Rangers on his back and guaranteed a Game 6 victory when the team was down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Final against the hated New Jersey Devils. He flat-out willed the team to victory with a hat trick on the night of May 25, 1994, in a 4-2 New York triumph. The Rangers went on to win Game 7 and then beat the Vancouver Canucks in a tough seven-game series to hoist the Stanley Cup, breaking their 54-year title drought. In doing so, Messier cemented himself as one of the greatest captains in not only Rangers history, but NHL history.

Mark Messier of the New York Rangers
Canadian professional hockey player Mark Messier of the New York Rangers hoists the Stanley Cup (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Messier came over along with future considerations in a deal that saw veteran sniper Bernie Nichols shipped to the Oilers as well as upcoming prospects Steven Rice and Louie Debrusk. The future considerations ended up seeing Jeff Beaukeboom get swapped for David Shaw. Beaukeboom was a solid contributor to the Rangers for eight seasons while Shaw’s contribution to the Oilers was scarce at best.

Espo Coming to New York

Phil Esposito was one of the greatest goalscorers in NHL history, and both the organization and fans alike were all smiles when he was brought to the Rangers. Though he was getting up there in years, his goal-scoring numbers hadn’t started to diminish yet. The trade on Nov. 7, 1975 between the Rangers and Boston Bruins involved the center Esposito and defenseman Carol Vadnais coming over from Boston for Rangers defenseman Brad Park and centerman Jean Ratelle plus Joe Zanussi, a defenseman in the Rangers minor league system.

Phil Esposito New York Rangers
Phil Esposito, New York Rangers, circa 1980 (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Although he was a fan favorite, Esposito entered into a downturn in career goal production almost immediately after he landed with the Rangers. He finished that 1975-76 season with only 35 goals after seasons of 61, 68, 55, 66 and 77 goals dating back to the 1970-71 season, all with the Bruins. While playing for the Rangers, Esposito finished every campaign as a minus player until he became an assistant coach with the Rangers at about the midway point of the 1980-81 season.

Bure Finally Dealt to Rangers

Another big day in Rangers trade history came when they acquired Pavel Bure from the Florida Panthers up against the trade deadline in 2002. Bure was moved to the Rangers for Igor Ulanov, Filip Novak, a first-round pick along with a second-round pick swap in the upcoming 2002 Draft, plus, the Rangers’ fourth-round pick in 2004.

This trade was huge at the time and had the league buzzing. However, it didn’t bring the same result as the Messier trade. Bure played 12 games for the Rangers to finish out the 2001-02 season after the trade. He scored 12 goals along with 8 assists, but the Rangers finished 11th in the Eastern Conference and missed the playoffs. The following season Bure played in 39 games, scoring 19 goals with 11 assists and the Rangers again missed the playoffs, coming in ninth place in the East.

Glen Sather, the Rangers general manager at the time, said, “It’s been a real roller-coaster of whether they were going to do it or not do it. I think it was a tough trade for them to do.” He went on to say, “They called me (Sunday) and said they weren’t doing the deal and then they called back this morning and wanted to see if they could get it back on the drawing board again. It happened.”

Did the Rangers Win or Lose?

Looking back at the trades involving the three big-name players the Rangers acquired during the latter part of their careers, you will notice a decline in scoring prowess with the exception of some years for Messier. If you ask just about anybody involved with the organization they’ll probably tell you the Messier trade trumps all, any fan of the team back then will almost certainly agree.