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  1. #1
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    Revisiting BOTH Gretzky Trades.....

    Went down a bit of a rabbit hole, (I forget what I was reading about to start this) but came across the names that LA got when they traded Gretzky to St. Louis. This got me looking back at both trades.
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    First, I'll mention the "trade" of Gretzky from Edmonton to Los Angeles. It's often mentioned as a terrible deal for Edmonton. Of course I'm not going to say it wasn't.... but it was as much a sale as it was trade.


    To LA: Wayne Gretzky, Mike Krushelnyski, Marty McSorley
    To Edmonton: Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, 3 1st Round Picks, 18m Cash.


    LA got the best player in hockey. Perhaps people hadn't declared him the greatest player in the history of hockey (yet) but I suspect in 1988, everyone knew he was going to be that, and likely most already considered him to be the greatest of all time. They were trading away a 27 year old, in his prime Wayne Gretzky. He would break the all-time points record about 14 months after the trade.


    The Oilers actually good a really good player in Jimmy Carson, he just didn't want to be there - so he was gone a year later... for another really good package: Joe Murphy, Adam Graves, Petr Klima. Of course these guys were not Gretzky caliber, but the 1990 Stanley Cup OT Hero Klima... and the entire 1990 "Kid Line" of Graves / Murphy / Gelinas: They were all on the Oilers as a direct result of assets from the Gretzky deal.


    There was also 3 first round picks, and the 18m cash. That cash, when you consider inflation, is about $40m in 2020 dollars. The Picks?


    The Oilers traded LA's 1989 1st Round pick to New Jersey, for Corey Foster. He'd was drafted 12th overall in 1988, and I guess they thought this was more valuable than the 18th overall pick. I suppose they were right. The Devils selected Jason Miller, who went on to play 6 games for them... though he did have a long career. He played pro up until 2010. Foster? He never played for Edmonton, he was dealt to Philly a couple of years later, but he did get 45 games in the league.


    The 1991 1st Round pick ended up being 20th overall, and the Oilers selected Martin Rucinsky. He was, BY FAR, the best player taken with any of the three picks. He was a pretty good player in Cape Breton (Oilers AHL club), and played a couple of games for the Oilers in 91-92, but he was traded to Quebec that season, for Ron Tugnutt & Brad Zavisha. Zavisha played a couple of games for the club, but was eventually traded (along with a pick) for Ryan McGill. Tugnutt was a useful backup goalie, until he was taken by Anaheim in the expansion draft.


    The 1993 1st round was the last of the three. Oilers took Nick Stajduhar 16th overall. This guy was a beast in junior, and looked solid in his first year with Cape Breton (12 goals & 26 points for a big physical rookie dman is pretty good, IMO). I've heard the story that he never really recovered from an off-season bar fight, and that's what derailed his career. No idea if that's true or not.... but he didn't pan out, and only played 2 games for the Oilers.


    I'll also add to this, best I can tell: The Gretzky trade tree ends when German Titov left as a free agent, in the year 2000.


    So, did Edmonton did he hosed on the deal? Yes, but the $$$ were the biggest motivator for the team, not the "hockey trade" aspect of it, and hypothetically: If they still moved Carson when they did, kept Gelinas & Graves long term, and even moved out Murphy when they did....while using the picks on players like Saku Koivu, Sandis Ozlinch, and Adam Foote: They would have wound up a decent group of really good players in exchange for him. How bad the deal ended up looking was (at least) partially due to wasted picks, and moving on from good players too soon.


    Then you look at the deal LA made with St. Louis. Edmonton look brilliant by comparison.


    The Kings were not moving the same asset, of course. It was 8 years later. They wern't moving a 27 year old Superstar, that was under team control. They were moving a 35 year old, pending UFA. He was, without a doubt, the greatest player in NHL history when that trade was made, and still had some very good hockey left in him.


    To St. Louis: Wayne Gretzky
    To Los Angeles: Patrice Tardiff, Craig Johnson, Roman Vopat, a 1996 5th Round Pick, and a 1997 1st Round Pick.


    It's a deal, looking back on it, I don't actually understand. Why those players. How could the Kings not get a single "strong" asset when dealing Gretzky?


    Tardiff was a former 3rd round pick. He played 27 games for the Blues in 94-95, and 23 more in 95-96 before the trade. He played 15 games for the Kings after the deal was made. Those were his final 15 NHL games (though he did play pro-hockey until 2008)


    Johnson was actually a decent player. He'd logged 64 games with the Blues, over two seasons, at that point - but he never went back to the minors, and played in 557 NHL games (mostly with the Kings) after that. Certainly not a Superstar, his highest scoring season was 97-98 when he scored 17 goals, and 38 points. Best I can tell, he left for the Mighty Ducks after the 03-04 season as a free agent, and was claimed a couple of times on waivers that year... splitting the season with the Ducks, Leafs, and Caps. He played a few years in Germany after that, retired after the 07-08 season.


    Vopat was a 7th round pick in 1994. He played 25 games with St Louis before the trade, scoring twice. He scored 4 times for the Kings (in 29 games) in 1996-97. 97-98 saw him play in 25 games (zero goals) and 98-99 saw him log 54 NHL games with three teams. He was traded three times, and never scored. He went home to Europe for the 99-00 season, where he played until 2011.


    The trades with Vopat? The Kings sent him and a 6th round pick to Colorado for Eric Lacroix. He never played for the Avs, and a few weeks later he & the same pick were traded to Chicago for Cam Russell. 3 games & 7 days later he was traded to Philly for Mike Maneluk. That must have been a weird few weeks for him (He was traded on Oct 29th, Nov 10th, and Nov 17th 1998).


    After trading for Lacroix, he played 27 games with the Kings (actually, this was his second stint there!) and would be dealt to the Rangers for Sean Pronger. Pronger left as a Free Agent.


    The 5th Round pick that LA got was used on Peter Hogan. He & I have played in the same number of NHL games. The 1st round pick was used on Matt Zultek. He has the distinction of being one of three players taken in the 1997 1st Round, that played as many NHL games as Peter Hogan. The Kings never even signed Zultek to a contract, and he went back in the draft two years later. The Bruins used a 2nd round pick on him at that time.


    Gretzky was traded to St. Louis as a rental player. He was no longer the best player in hockey, though he was the greatest player of all time. I don't think anyone could have expected LA to be trading him and get a bounty of budding superstars - but you'd think they could have done better than that.


    They got 15 games of Patrice Tardiff, 33 games from Vopat, 27 games of Eric Lacroix, 13 games of Sean Pronger, and a pretty decent career from Craig Johnson, who spent 7 years in LA.








    Conclusion? It's hard to get good value when you trade the best player of all time. Most times when Superstars are dealt, the team that gives them up doesn't get anything nearly as good back. Edmonton obviously was trading the better asset, but I don't think they got ripped off as bad as the history books make it sound. The cash was as (more?) important as anything else in that deal (for Pocklington), and they got players that did do well in the NHL as a result. One third of their 1990 Cup winning forward group was on the team as a result of dealing The Great One.


    The Kings on the other hand, dealt Gretzky at the deadline for an okay 3rd line Centre, and a seasons's worth of games split between guys that were barely NHLers. He was a 35 year old, pending UFA: It's hard to imagine they'd get an amazing package of assets for him at that point, but you'd think they could have (at least) gotten 1 semi-star type player. They did not.

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    Stuff i didnt even know thaks for the share
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    Trade trees are fun to follow - while you often see "immediate" impact (or not) sometimes the long-term ramifications of a deal can take a lot longer to fully play out.

    The Gretzky deals were both terrible, and I think anybody looking at them from a "hockey perspective" would agree with few reservations. As you said, it was about money. But you can't legally sell players, so the Kings had to throw in a couple warm bodies along with the pile of cash. Now the real question at this point becomes: what did Pocklington do with the $$$ - was it just pocketed so that he could recoup any business losses, or were the millions used to sell Gretzky invested back in the team? In today's era, $18M (and the adjusted-for-inflation $40M, even moreso) would provide a significant boost to any NHL GM looking to improve his club. That's the equivalent of four Karl Alzners for cryin' out loud!

    My favourite trade tree, and it's still growing and taking roots, is the Canadiens sending Craig Rivet to San Jose for a young man named Josh Gorges and a 1st round pick (imagine trading Rivet for a 1st, even if you were as good as the Sharks were in those days) in the 2007 draft. The pick ended up being Max Pacioretty. Someone did a whole chart of the deal, which you can see here. Actively as a result of that trade, the Canadiens have Nick Suzuki, Tomas Tatar, 2 prospects who may make the NHL, a 2nd and a 7th this year, and a 3rd next year.
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    St.Louis didn't exactly "win" in the Gretzky deal, if I remember correctly -- since he was an end of season rental and went on to the Rangers after the Blues were eliminated somewhat early in the SC playoffs
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    Trade trees are fun to follow - while you often see "immediate" impact (or not) sometimes the long-term ramifications of a deal can take a lot longer to fully play out.

    The Gretzky deals were both terrible, and I think anybody looking at them from a "hockey perspective" would agree with few reservations. As you said, it was about money. But you can't legally sell players, so the Kings had to throw in a couple warm bodies along with the pile of cash. Now the real question at this point becomes: what did Pocklington do with the $$$ - was it just pocketed so that he could recoup any business losses, or were the millions used to sell Gretzky invested back in the team? In today's era, $18M (and the adjusted-for-inflation $40M, even moreso) would provide a significant boost to any NHL GM looking to improve his club. That's the equivalent of four Karl Alzners for cryin' out loud!

    My favourite trade tree, and it's still growing and taking roots, is the Canadiens sending Craig Rivet to San Jose for a young man named Josh Gorges and a 1st round pick (imagine trading Rivet for a 1st, even if you were as good as the Sharks were in those days) in the 2007 draft. The pick ended up being Max Pacioretty. Someone did a whole chart of the deal, which you can see here. Actively as a result of that trade, the Canadiens have Nick Suzuki, Tomas Tatar, 2 prospects who may make the NHL, a 2nd and a 7th this year, and a 3rd next year.

    The money, as I understand it, was to keep Pocklington's other businesses afloat. That wasn't invested back into the team. Heck, even the Messier trade (which looks worse than the Gretzky trade) - it later came to light that $2m cash traded hands, but under the table.

    I mentioned that the Gretzky trade tree ends in 2001, when Titov left. Funny thing though: The Messier trade (which was worse, IMO) is still alive today, in the form of Andreas Athanasiou!

    Trade trees are a lot of fun though. I have another (non-Oilers related!) one that I'll do a little refresher on, and post. Probably the greatest trade tree of all time.

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    St.Louis didn't exactly "win" in the Gretzky deal, if I remember correctly -- since he was an end of season rental and went on to the Rangers after the Blues were eliminated somewhat early in the SC playoffs

    Yeah, I mean.... if you're dealing a 1st Round pick & prospects, for a major upgrade at the deadline, the goal is to win a Championship. That's what the real "win" would be. If the player is just a rental (like Gretzky was, in this case) then even more so.

    The for the record: The Blues lost in double over time, of game 7, to the Red Wings in the 2nd round that year. If they'd had one more lucky bounce - would they have handled the Avs any better in the semi-finals? Who knows. I do think the Blues had a very good shot at winning that Cup, it just didn't work out (clearly).

    I'd also argue that the 18 Regular Season game, plus 13 Playoff games, that Gretzky played for them.... wound up being more valuable than anything they gave up.

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    I'd also argue that the 18 Regular Season game, plus 13 Playoff games, that Gretzky played for them.... wound up being more valuable than anything they gave up.

    No need to argue with me -- most people would agree that getting the GOAT for what the Blues gave up was worth the gamble, but this seems to me one of many examples where rentals are GMs fantasies -- they try to "improve" an already good team LATE in the season with little regards for chemistry -- Gretzky and Hull and whoever had 18 games to mesh before the playoffs -- pretty high expectations.

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    a good read.

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    A very good read indeed. In hockey they seem to make a lot of "weird" trades compared to other sports involving their top talent so most of the time I never really understood the deals at the time either.
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    The for the record: The Blues lost in double over time, of game 7, to the Red Wings in the 2nd round that year. If they'd had one more lucky bounce - would they have handled the Avs any better in the semi-finals? Who knows. I do think the Blues had a very good shot at winning that Cup, it just didn't work out (clearly).

    In that game 7, Gretzky all but handed the puck to Yzerman, who went down to score the GWG. No Blues fan will ever forget!

    Despite that, the deal was a HUGE win for St. Louis. Not with Gretzky's play, but his presence. Ticket prices went way up, and every person in St. Louis bought a Gretzky jersey. It was a big cash cow
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