As noted in part one yesterday, the Leafs’ best trades were #5. Acquiring Owen Nolan and #4 Acquiring Dion Phaneuf. Today, we will be reviewing the top three trades of all time, at least, as noted, in the post-Gilmour era.
#3. The Leafs acquire Dave Andreychuck, Darren Puppa and a first round pick (Kenny Johnson) in exchange for Grant Fuhr and a conditional 5th round pick.
It was 1993, the Leafs were improving, having added Doug Gilmour the year before and after years of being one of the worst teams in hockey, were finally on the upswing. With Felix Potvin knocking at the door, GM Cliff Fletcher sent starting goalie Grant Fuhr to the Sabres in exchange for Andreychuck, Puppa and a pick.
It was a bonus that the pick would go on to be Kenny Johnson, a player the Leafs would waste in 1997 in one of the worst trades they ever made when they sent Johnson and what would turn out to be Robert Luongo to the Islanders for Wendel Clark and Mathieu Schneider. We can only imagine how things might have turned out if the Leafs had not made that terrible trade, but alas, that’s basically THE pastime of Leaf fans the world over.
The main acquisition that day was future Hall of Fame Dave Andreychuck who was in the midst of a 54 goal season when the Leafs got him. He instantly clicked with Gilmour, scoring at a nearly goal per game pace for the rest of the season, creating one of the bet combos in the league at the time.
While Andreychuck’s tenure with the Leafs was only a brief four seasons (the main peril of trading for established players who are already 30) he was amazing for 2 of those years. In the aforementioned first half season with the Leafs, him and Gilmour took the team to within one overtime period of the Stanley Cup, ultimately losing to the Kings and withholding fans of the chance to see a Toronto /Montreal Final.
In his second year with Toronto, Andreychuck scored 53 goals and 99 points and the Leafs again made the Final Four, only to lose to the Canucks. The next season was ruined by the lockout and the veteran Leafs lost in the first round to the Hawks. In Andreychuck’s last season with the Leafs, they inexplicably traded him to the Devils at the trade deadline for picks that never turned out, despite qualifying for the playoffs.
In the end, all the Leafs got out of Andreychuck was 1.5 really magical seasons in which only bad luck prevented, at the very least, an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. Still, that is enough to make it one of the greatest trades in Leaf history.
#2 The Leafs acquire Phil Kessel for two first round picks (Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton) and a second round pick (Jared Knight)
This trade has been controversial from the get go, and it has taken a while, but I think it has proved to be one of the best trades the Leafs have ever made. Sure, Tyler Seguin is the first line centre they have long sought, but Phil Kessel is better. Kessel is still just 26 and has so far put up 5 straight 30 goal seasons for the Leafs, if you prorate the lockout total. (30,32,37,20,37). Since coming to the Leafs, only Alexander Ovechkin has more goals in entire NHL.
Besides, dominating the league since coming to Toronto, Kessel has also developed a decent two-way game,shedding the unfair ‘one dimensional’ tag he was saddled with originally. This past season Kessel along with JVR and Tyler Bozak were one of the NHL’s best lines, with Kessel finishing 6th this past year in league scoring. In fact, Kessel has finished in the top ten in scoring in each of the last 3 years and has not missed a game since shoulder surgery kept him out of the first 12 games of his Leafs career.
In reality, it doesn’t matter what Seguin, Hamilton or Knight accomplish in their careers. Them doing good or bad shouldn’t have any effect on how this trade is viewed because Kessel has been even better than what the best case scenario was when he arrived, and what he adds to the team is not contingent on the players he was traded for succeeding or not. Kessel is just entering his prime and he provides the Leafs with one of the best forwards in the NHL. He is the face of the franchise and probably the best player, outside of Sundin, to ever wear the jersey in the post expansion era.
The price the Leafs paid was steep, but fair. Also, when Boston sent the Leafs a gift package of a First, a Second and Joe Colborne in exchange for Tomas Kaberle, the Leafs basically recouped enough to make the original trade – for all intents and purposes- a straight up Seguin for Kessel swap. And, even if Seguin continues to be one of the best players in hockey, it is still a good trade because the Leafs have already had five season of an elite player and Seguin has provided one.
The Leafs are, in my opinion, poised to be one of the league’s surprise teams (because they have a way better roster than anyone will admit and suffered a preposterous amount of bad luck last year) and Kessel is a good bet to become the first 50 goal scorer the Leafs have had since Andreychuck.
This is almost the best trade in recent Leafs history, and though the #1 is, at this point, probably pretty obvious, I will leave it until tomorrow so that I am not forced to try to talk about it in two paragraphs.
Thanks for Reading.
Covering the Leafs for the Hockey Writers.