Photo by Lisa McRitchie, all rights reserved.
The Dustin Penner Trade got me thinking, how often have the Oilers ever benefited in a deal where they traded an NHL player for unknowns?
I'm not talking about trades like Esa Tikkanen for Doug Weight, a trade where the Oilers got back a younger player who was already establishing themselves in the NHL, but a trade where it's prospects and/or picks coming back?
Now I think we need to define a "won" trade. I guess the term isn't so much as won the trade as it is got a good deal given the circumstances. If you've got a guy who will be a UFA and won't sign, getting something useful is probably a win. The criteria I'm using is as follows:
1. Did the return at least get something that was a decent replacement, or was the return the main piece of another trade in the future that brought a quality player (i.e. Hamrlik->Brewer->Pronger)?
2. If the Oilers were going to lose the player anyways (i.e. they were pricing themselves out of Edmonton), did they at least get players who were able to contribute beyond a minimal role (i.e. Guerin->Carter+)?
3. Any players they got back had to have less than 150 NHL games.
4. Draft pick position doesn't count as a win. They need to have actually used it to pick a good player. Conversely it's not a loss if the other team picked a really good player with a late pick involved in the trade.
In the end, what I did was try and follow along through. Just because player X got traded for a 2nd round pick doesn't make it bad. What makes it bad if that 2nd round pick doesn't pan out, whether via the draft pick itself or through a future trade. In other words if you traded a good play for 4 assets and then traded those 4 assets for another good player, it's the 2 players that matter.
All trades are Chronological order from earliest to latest starting from 1990.
February 24, 1993 - Joe Murphy to Chicago for Igor Kravchuk & Dean McAmmond: Joe Murphy was an important part of the 1990 Stanley Cup team and had come off a year where he averaged a PPG and scored 24 points in 16 playoff games. Murphy held out the start of the 92-93 season until he was traded. He played 9 more seasons and his highest point totals after he was traded were 70, 51,48, 45, 41. Kravchuk played parts of 4 seasons with Edmonton, hitting 50 points his first full year. Dean McAmmond was a useful 3rd liner for most of his time in Edmonton, hitting 50 points once. this was a trade where Murphy priced himself out of Edmonton and the Oilers were able to get a decent defenceman and a useful NHL depth player. Verdict: Win
March 15, 1994 - Dave Manson, 1994 6th RD to Winnipeg for Boris Mironov, 1994 1st RD (Bonsignore), 1994 4thRD (Adam Copeland): Dave Manson was a mean, dirty defenceman capable of putting up points. He faded badly after this trade, scoring 30 or more points just twice more. Boris Mironov ended up being a solid defenceman for the Oilers and he alone was enough of a return to make it a win, it's too bad the 1st rounder flopped. Verdict: Win
March 21, 1994 - Craig MacTavish to NY Rangers for Todd Marchant. MacTavish was a long serving Oiler who was there for a lot of the good times andstuck with them when the team started selling everything off. Marchant played 9 very effective seasons in Edmonton, MacT played just parts of 3 more. Verdict: Win
January 11, 1996 - Bill Ranford to Boston for Sean Brown, Mariusz Czerkawski, 1996 1st RD (Matthieu Descoteaux): Bill Ranford was on the down swing of his career at this point. He was only a starting goaltender for one more seasons after the trade. Sean Brown was a serviceable #7 and Czerkawski was a useful 2nd line player. Descoteaux never amounted to anything in the organization. Verdict: Win
March 03, 1997 - Miroslav Satan to Buffalo for Craig Millar & Barrie Moore: Satan scored the same number of goals 2 years after the trade in one season (40) as Millar & Moore played in games as Oilers. Combined. Verdict: Loss
August 25, 1997 - Mariuz Czerkawski to NY Islanders for Dan Lacouture: Umm, yeah. Slats second awful trade in a couple of months. Verdict Loss
June 24, 2000 - Roman Hamrlik to NY Islanders for Eric Brewer, Josh Green, 2000 2nd RD (Brad Winchester): Roman Hamrlik was a minute eater for the Oilers. He never lived up to his draft selection or that 65 point season he had early on in his career but he was a good defenceman who could play in all situations. At the time he was dealt he was one of the highest paid players in Oilers history, and something had to give. Eric Brewer wasn't as good as Hamrlik, but he ended up being the key part of the Pronger deal. Josh Green never amounted to much and Brad Winchester was a serviceable 4th liner after spending several years trying to make it to the NHL. Brewer being the primary piece of the Pronger deal makes the difference. Verdict: Win
I''velinked the next 2 trades because the first is an extension of the second.
July 01, 2001 - Doug Weight, Michael Riesen to St. Louis for Marty Reasoner, 2002 2nd RD (Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers) & 2002 2nd RD (Jarret Stoll), Jan Horacek: This one is sort of controversial. Doug Weight was a fan favourite and was the best Oiler since the dynasty days. I still don't have an issue with this trade on it's merits. The Oilers got a couple of useful players in Reasoner and Hecht (who was parlayed into JDD & Stoll). Stoll was parlayed into part of Visnovsky trade, who then became Whitney. The Oilersmanaged to translate assets into a decent player 10 years down the road, so it's hard to argue with that. The fact that Weight was never the same player outside of Edmonton also has an impact here. Verdict: Win
October 07, 2002 - Mike Grier to Washington for 2003 2nd RD, 2003 3rd RD (Zack Stortini): The 2003 2nd was later traded with Niinimaa for Torres and Isbister but wasn't the key component of that deal. At this point in time the Oilers gave up a good 3rd liner in Grier for not a heck of a lot. Stortini was recently waived and doesn't look like he'll be an Oiler again. Verdict: Loss
This next one is strange so I'm using the entire deal.
June 30, 2003 - 2nd RD 2004, 4th RD 2004, Stephen Valiquette, Dwight Helminen to NY Rangers for Petr Nedved. Not quite in the same scope, but the original deal was Jussi Markkanen & a 4th for the rights to Brian Leetch. This was back in the day when teams would receive a compensation pick if they lost a UFA. The pick the Oilers got was a 2004 2nd RD pick. At the deadline that year, the Oilers re-acquired Markkanen and Nedved for the Leetch Comp pick, Valiquette and Helminen. In the end the trade worked out to this: Rangers get 60 games of Markkanen, 2nd, 4th, Valiquette, Helminen and the Oilers get 16 games of Markkanen, 16 games of Nedved. I can't see how this anything but a poor use of assets. Verdict: Loss
December 16, 2003 - Mike Comrie to Philadelphia for Jeff Woywitka, 2004 1st RD (Rob Schremp), 2005 3rd RD (Dan Syvret): The infamous Comrie trade. Neither Syvret (traded for Potulny) nor Scremp amounted to anything in Edmonton. Woywitka was a secondary piece of the Pronger deal. The only thing that makes this deal close is that Comrie struggled for the most part outside of Edmonton. He was never able to top his goal or point totals from his first full year in Edmonton. The other question is how big of a piece was Woywitka in the Pronger deal? I'm going to assume minor. When you combine that with the trade they didn't make (Perry), it's harder to justify the deal (I know that's outside the scope, but too bad). Verdict: Loss
March 09, 2004 - Tommy Salo & 6th RD 2005 to Colorado for Tom Gilbert: Um, yeah. Verdict Win
June 26, 2004 - Jason Chimera & 3rd RD 2004 to Phoenix for 2004 2nd RD (Geoff Paukovich) & 2004 4th RD (Liam Reddox): Liam Reddox has covered his bet as a 4th rounder but I don't think he's as good or better than Chimera yet. Paukovich is basically a write-off at this point. Verdict Loss
July 03, 2006 - Chris Pronger to Anaheim for Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid, 2007 1st RD, 2008 1st RD, 2008 2nd RD. Lupul has basically translated into Jim Vandermeer since this deal. The 2007 1st RD was traded with the Oilers 2nd round to pick Riley Nash who was then traded for a 2010 2nd RD pick (Martin Marincin). The 2008 2nd RD pick was traded to get the Oilers 2008 3rd RD pick to do the Penner offersheet. As of right now it's Smid, JVM and Eberle for Pronger, who was arguably signed to the best contract in the league at the time. Eberle is good, but he's got a long way to go to be Pronger. Verdict Loss
February 02, 2007 - Ryan Smyth to NY Islanders for Robert Nilsson, Ryan O'Marra, 2007 1st RD (Alex Plante): Nilsson is being paid to stay away, O'Marra is playing the checking role everyone envisioned in the wrong league. Even though Smyth has slowed down a touch, Plante(if his offense doesn't pick up) needs to have a long NHL career with the Oilers to come close to making this trade worthwhile. Verdict Loss
June 27, 2009 - Kyle Brodziak & 2009 6th RD for 2009 4th RD (Kyle Bigos) & 2009 5th RD (Olivier Roy): Even if Olivier Roy becomes a franchise goaltender, the Oilers could have kept Brodziak and drafted Roy instead of Bigos or Abney. The Oilers still haven't replaced Brodziak. Verdict Loss
By my eye, the Oilers did rather well in these sorts of trades under Sather, the obvious misfires were Satan and Czerkawski. Lowe started off well, with the Hamrlik, Weight and Hecht trades all working out well for the Oilers. The problem has been that since then, most of them have failed. The only one you can consider a win is the Gilbert-Salo one. But in reality getting a minor league player would have made that trade worth it. After that season Salo never played another NHL game.
7 of the last 8 trades (not including the recent Penner one) have resulted in the Oilers getting virtually nothing for something. Not only have they gotten killed on the trades involving good players (Smyth), they've failed to address the losses of bottom 6 players like Grier, Chimera & Brodziak.