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Five famous/infamous trades of NHL superstars

With Vinny Lecavalier trade rumors swirling from the Tampa Bay area to Montreal, it was only a matter of time before someone said one of the dumbest cliches in sports: "Well, if Wayne Gretzky can be traded, then anybody can be traded." Okay, sure, anybody can be traded. But that doesn't justify the trade of any player, including Gretzky. If you look at the famous (or, some might say, infamous) Gretzky trade from the Oilers to the Kings in 1988, it turned out poorly for the Oilers in the long run and would have to be considered a bad trade. Here's a look at five trades involving NHL superstars and how they turned out to be disastrous for at least one side.

The Phil Esposito trade

The trade: The Chicago Blackhawks traded Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield to the Boston Bruins for Pit Martin, Jack Norris and Gilles Marotte.

What happened: Before the 1967-68 season, the Blackhawks sent young Esposito to the Bruins. Playing alongside legendary Bobby Orr, Esposito became of one of the greatest scorers in NHL history. In his second season with the Bruins, Esposito became the first player to score 100 points in a season, and he was the league MVP. With Boston, Esposito won five scoring titles and two Stanley Cups.

Final analysis: This is often considered the most lopsided trade in NHL history. The Bruins made the playoffs every season with Esposito in their uniform. Meantime, the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup drought stretches back to 1961; they have reached the final five times since.

The Wayne Gretzky trade

The trade: The Edmonton Oilers traded Wayne Gretzky, Mike Krushelnyski and Marty McSorley to the Los Angeles Kings for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, three first-round draft picks and $15 million.

What happened: The Kings were transformed immediately by the summer 1988 deal and knocked the Oilers out of the playoffs the next season. Edmonton still had loads of talent (Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson) and won the Cup in 1990. But then the Oilers pretty much fell off the map, in part because of other trades. They missed the playoffs from 1993 to '96 and haven't won a Cup since '90, reaching the final only once since.

Final analysis: Finances played a major role in the trade, but clearly the Kings, who reached the final in 1993, were the short-term winners, and the Oilers were the long-term losers. More than 20 years later, the Gretzky trade remains the darkest day in Edmonton history.

The Mark Messier trade

The trade: The Edmonton Oilers traded Mark Messier to the New York Rangers for Bernie Nicholls, Steven Rice and Louie DeBrusk.

What happened: In a desperate attempt to keep the franchise above water financially, the Oilers dealt Messier three years after they traded Gretzky. On the eve of the 1991-92 season, Messier went to a Rangers team that had not won the Cup since 1940. The Oilers made the playoffs in 1991-92 but then fell apart, missing the playoffs the next three seasons. Meantime, in 1994, Messier was hailed as Mark "Messiah" as he led the Rangers to their first Cup in 54 years.

Final analysis: This probably had a more damaging effect on the Oilers franchise than the trade of Gretzky. Gretzky never won a Stanley Cup without Messier, but Messier won two Cups (one in Edmonton and one in New York) without Gretzky.

The Patrick Roy trade

The trade: The Montreal Canadiens traded Patrick Roy and Mike Keane to the Colorado Avalanche for Andrei Kovalenko, Jocelyn Thibault and Martin Rucinsky.

What happened: After being stuck in net for nine goals before being pulled in the second period of a December 1995 game, fuming Montreal goalie Roy went to the bench and told the team president he would never play for the Canadiens again. Instead of smoothing things over, the Canadiens traded Roy to Colorado within days. That season, the Avalanche won its first Stanley Cup with Roy in goal.

Final analysis: Roy won two Cups for the Avalanche, and the Canadiens are still searching for their first Cup since 1993 — when Roy was their goalie. In the six seasons after the trade, the Canadiens won only one playoff series.

The Jaromir Jagr trade

The trade: The Pittsburgh Penguins traded Jaromir Jagr and Frantisek Kucera to the Washington Capitals for Kris Beech, Ross Lupaschuk and Michal Sivek.

What happened: This trade was made mostly for the financially strapped Penguins to dump Jagr's salary, but the Penguins didn't even get solid prospects in return. Beech bounced back and forth from the Penguins to the minors for the next three seasons, scoring 10 goals and 17 assists in 95 games. Sivek scored three goals in 38 games with the Penguins. And Lupaschuk appeared in only three games with Pittsburgh. Meantime, Jagr's stint in Washington was shaky, but he still piled up 201 points in 190 games.

Final analysis: The trade was so bad for Pittsburgh that it turned out good. The Penguins ended up sinking to the bottom of the league, which allowed them to draft goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with the first pick in 2003 and Evgeni Malkin with the second pick in 2004.

Five famous/infamous trades of NHL superstars 01/15/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 15, 2009 9:29pm]
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