NHL Trade Deadline: The 5 Best Deals Ever Made

Markus Naslund #91 of the New York Rangers (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

We are less than one week away from the 2016 NHL trade deadline, which occurs on February 29 at 3:00 p.m. EST. Between now and then there will be plenty of hand-wringing and speculation about which players are going to move, where they are going to go, and what affect trades will have on the teams that make the deals. We will not consider any of that here. No, we are going to review the best trade deadline deals in NHL history.

Most of the trades on this list have a clear-cut winner and loser; we will look at the winning side of these trades. If it was a good deal for both sides, well, we’ll point that out as well. To make this list, a trade had to have either an immediate or long-lasting impact on one team based on the players involved. Therefore, we didn’t consider trades that brought in a draft pick who just happened to turn into an NHL superstar. So, as we work our way toward another trade deadline, we reflect on the five biggest trades from past trade deadlines.

5. Markus Naslund moves to the Vancouver Canucks

The 1996 trade deadline’s biggest move occurred when the Pittsburgh Penguins traded their first pick in the 1991 draft, Markus Naslund, to the Vancouver Canucks for Alek Stojanov. In his three years with Pittsburgh, Naslund played 151 games, splitting his time between the Penguins and the Cleveland Lumberjacks of the International Hockey League. In those 151 games with the Penguins, Naslund scored 67 points (25G, 42A). Meanwhile, Stojanov was known for his toughness more than his scoring, racking up 123 penalty minutes in 58 games with the Canucks during the 1995-96 season.

Following the trade, Naslund went on to become one of the most beloved players in Canucks history, and one of the best, playing 884 games for the franchise and scoring 756 points (346G, 410A) before signing with the New York Rangers as a free agent prior to the 2008-09 season. Stojonov didn’t do as well with the Penguins, playing in 45 games over two seasons before moving around the minors for the rest of his career.

4. Brett Hull moves to St. Louis

Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images
Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images

At the 1988 trade deadline, the Calgary Flames traded the player they picked in the sixth round of the 1984 entry draft to the St. Louis Blues. This competitor, Brett Hull (pictured left), had played just 57 games for the team and scored 51 points (27G, 24A). The trade moved Hull to the Blues in exchange for Rob Ramage and Rick Wamsley. The trade paid immediate dividends for the Flames; they won the Stanley Cup in 1989, but it was not a good move for their long-term record.

Hull played 11 years in St. Louis and become one of the best goal-scorers in NHL history, racking up 936 points (527G, 409A). After playing for the Blues, Hull bounced around the NHL, playing for the Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, and Phoenix Coyotes. He finished his career with 1,269 games played and 1,391 points (741G, 650A) and won two Stanley Cups. The Flames have not won the Cup since the year after this trade.

3. Islanders get Butch Goring

There are players who you always identify with a certain team. Butch Goring is one of those players, and the team he’s associated with is the New York Islanders — probably because Goring was part of the Islanders team that won four Stanley Cups in the early 1980s. However, before landing on Long Island, Goring played 736 games on the other side of the country, lacing his skates up for the Los Angeles Kings.

The Islanders obtained Goring at the trade deadline in 1980 in exchange for Billy Harris and Dave Lewis. Goring was an outstanding player for the Islanders’ dynasty, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1980-81 and scoring 62 points in the playoffs for the team during their four-year Cup run.

2. Ray Bourque moves to Colorado

Ray Bourque #77 of the Boston Bruins ready to hit during a NHL game
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

This one is a rare trade that worked out for both teams. At the 2000 trade deadline the Boston Bruins sent Ray Bourque — a player who they’d drafted with the eighth overall pick in the 1979 draft — to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Brian Rolston, Samuel Pahlsson, Martin Grenier, and a first-round draft choice. Veteran Dave Andreychuk also moved to Colorado. The year after the trade Bourque won his first and only Stanley Cup with the Avalanche, retiring after the season. As for the Bruins, Rolston played six productive seasons in Boston, scoring 251 points (104G, 147A) before moving on.

1. Penguins build a Cup winner

At the 1991 trade deadline, the Pittsburgh Penguins picked up Ulf Samuelsson, Ron Francis, and Grant Jennings from the Hartford Whalers. In exchange, the Penguins sent John Cullen, Jeff Parker, and Zarley Zalapski the other way. The Penguins went on to win the ’91 and ’92 Stanley Cup with these three players on the team. Samuelsson and Francis were the key pickups in this deal; they both had productive careers with the Penguins. Francis played 533 games and scoring 613 points (164G, 449A), and Samuelsson played 277 games and scoring 94 points (11G, 83A).

Statistics courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com.