Trades happen in the NHL all the time, especially these days as teams are more inclined to make moves shortly before the trade deadline every season and either play for a Stanley Cup or build for the future. However, a lot of these trades tend to be for role players that are only on the team for the rest of the season.
Then, there are trades where superstars are sent and received, changing the entire landscape of the NHL. Over the years, a handful of trades have really shaken things up and set multiple franchises on a different course of history. Here are the five biggest trades in the history of the NHL.
5. Joe For Jarome
After the Flames moved from Atlanta to Calgary, the team improved almost instantly and were competitors by the second half of the 1980s. They also had a superstar come up through the ranks in the form of Joe Nieuwendyk, who in his first full season with Calgary scored 92 points in 75 games. In his second season, he was equally impressive and helped the Flames win the Stanley Cup in 1989.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars had just selected Jarome Iginla 11th overall in the 1995 NHL Draft and were in win-now mode with a solid roster. The Stars traded Iginla and Corey Millen in exchange for Nieuwendyk in the ultimate win-win trade. Nieuwendyk helped the Stars win the 1999 Stanley Cup while Iginla became the highest-scoring player in Flames history.
4. Senators Unload Karlsson
The Ottawa Senators were oh-so-close to reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in 2017 but lost to the Penguins. The next year, the team struggled and it seemed their window may be closing, so the team offloaded much of their top talent. Mark Stone went to Las Vegas, Matt Duchene went to Columbus, and Erik Karlsson went to San Jose.
The defenseman was fresh off of a Norris Trophy win and was considered an all-time great at the position. To obtain Karlsson, the Sharks gave away four players and four draft picks, including three first-rounders. It will be many years before a true winner of the trade is fully decided due to the sheer volume of draft picks that have been part of the trade tree since it happened in 2018.
The Colorado Avalanche had just been established in 1995 after moving from Quebec City, and the team wanted to win a Stanley Cup as quickly as possible. To do so, the team knew that it needed a goalie, and there was no better goalie than Patrick Roy. The timing couldn’t have been any better for Colorado as Montreal had just hired a coach who famously didn’t get along with Roy.
Roy wanted out of Montreal, and he was shipped alongside Mike Keane to the Avalanche in exchange for Andrei Kovalenko, Martin Rucinsky, and Jocelyn Thibault. Roy got the lost laugh on coach Mario Tremblay as he won the Stanley Cup in his first season while Tremblay lasted just two years as a head coach.
2. Lindros Comes to Philly
Needless to say, there’s a real doozy at the top spot for this to not be the biggest trade of all time. This is also another trade that involves Jocelyn Thibault and the Quebec Nordiques. In 1992, Eric Lindros was considered the best draft prospect since Wayne Gretzky and was selected first overall by the Nordiques during the draft.
Every team wanted him, but not many had the trade capital to get him. The Nordiques did, and gave away Steve Duchesne, Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, Kerry Huffman, Mark Ricci, $15 million in cash, and two first-round picks that would become Nolan Baumgartner and Jocelyn Thibault. Multiple Hall of Famers were involved in one trade, which is incredibly rare.
1. The King’s Ransom
Of course, when talking about NHL trades, you have to bring up the one that’s had multiple documentaries made on the subject. After coming up with the Edmonton Oilers when they entered the NHL, Gretzky was sent to the second-largest market in the nation, Los Angeles.
The Kings also got Mike Krushelnyski and Marty McSorely while giving away Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, a trio of first-round picks, and enough cash to keep the small-market Oilers running. So who won the trade? Many say that it was Mark Messier, who got a chance to become the star in Edmonton.