Once upon a time, the Detroit Red Wings didn’t have to do business with a pesky salary cap hanging over their heads. That made hockey’s annual trade deadline day a lot more fun than it currently is, given Ken Holland routinely is now forced to deal with financial constraints and realities.
Back when the Red Wings were competing for the Stanley Cup every year and hockey money was flowing wildly, they made some interesting and solid moves. Many were splashy. Most paid off eventually, but others were simply exciting for fans who enjoyed the fast-paced, rumor driven world the trade deadline presents. What were the most memorable and quality splashes? Here’s a look at some that fans might remember well.
1. 1999: Chicago Blackhawks deal Chris Chelios to Detroit for Anders Ericksson and two first round draft picks. In arguably the best, most aggressive deadline deal in team history, the Red Wings secured the services of an old nemesis from one of their biggest rivals in shocking move. Chelios didn’t help Detroit win a championship instantly, but helped bring the Stanley Cup back in 2002 and was a key veteran for the 2008 Red Wings, who also took home the prize. Chelios became a staple in the Michigan community, opening restaurants in the area and
2. 1997: Toronto Maple Leafs send Larry Murphy to Detroit for future considerations. Probably the biggest steal of them all, considering Murphy formed a dynamic duo with Nicklas Lidstrom for years and helped quarterback the Red Wings’ defense to two Stanley Cups. Toronto fans made Murphy their whipping boy and once he left, he was able to flourish. The best part of the trade? Detroit literally gave up nothing to get the services of a two time cup champion. Laterl, Murphy hung around and was on the broadcast team until being unceremoniously broomed in the name of poor ratings.
3. 2008: Los Angeles Kings trade Brad Stuart to Detroit for two draft picks. Though this move came under the current league business structure, the Red Wings still made out like bandits. Stuart was just the addition the team needed on the back end, and he helped lead the team to a Stanley Cup immediately while also helping them come within an eyelash of repeating. Stuart also stuck around for a few more years, giving the team a great return on their investment. Along with Niklas Kronwall and Nicklas Lidstrom, he was arguably Detroit’s last steady defenseman.
4. 2003: Los Angeles Kings trade Mathieu Schnider to Detroit for Sean Avery, Maxim Kuznetsov and two draft picks. As usual, the Red Wings were needy on the back end a year after winning the Stanley Cup and turned to Schnider’s booming shot and offensive mentality to solve the problem. However exciting the move was, it didn’t exactly work out as Detroit was swept by the upstart Anaheim Ducks in the first round. Schnider did stick around two more years and provide a solid return on investment, but the team never experienced a championship with him in the fold. The move also helped the team remove Avery, who would prove an unwanted distraction in the years ahead.
5. 1998: Toronto Maple Leafs deal Jamie Macoun to Red Wings for a fourth round pick. Much like Murphy, Macoun, another blueline stabilizer, came over a year later in 1998 and helped solidify the back end very quietly. He scored two goals in seven playoff games played, and was certainly worth the low cost of a draft pick. Macoun wasn’t a sexy addition by any means, but Detroit made the move and it ended up playing a role in helping repeat as champions a few months later.
Bonus 1: 1999: Tampa Bay Lightning trade Wendel Clark and Bill Ranford to Detroit for Kevin Hodson and two drft picks. It was a busy 1999 deadline for the Red Wings, who didn’t only get their hands on Chelios, but also Clark and Ranford in addition to Ulf Samuelsson in separate deals. Much like Chelios, fans had gotten used to hating Clark from his years in Toronto, but embraced him for the stretch run. Detroit lost to Colorado and Clark didn’t do much in a Red Wings’ sweater only scoring four goals while Ranford stepped in well for a time in the playoffs. Both left after the season, but for fans of 1990s hockey, suddenly, Detroit had a who’s who lineup by March of 1999.
Bonus 2: 2004: Washington Captials trade Robert Lang to Detroit for Tomas Fleishmann, a first round pick (Mike Green) and a fourth round pick. Put this move down as one that didn’t exactly work out. Lang, though he was leading the league in scoring when Detroit acquired him, didn’t set the world on fire with the Red Wings or lead in much winning, but did stick around through the 2007 season, scoring a big goal in a playoff game against the San Jose Sharks. The headliner here, of course, would prove to be Green, who has gone on to have a solid career in Washington.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax