By Dave Gross, Postmedia News
The National Hockey League’s annual swap shop is open for business.
Trade deadline activity has seen a steady rise in the past 30-plus years. Back on March 11, 1980, a total of three deals were made involving just five players.
Three years later, trade deadline day’s activity was limited to one deal — the legendary Ken Solheim sent to Detroit from Minnesota for future considerations.
Doesn’t quite inspire wall-to-wall coverage on TSN, does it?
To put it mildly, business has picked up recently.
In the past five years, 207 deals have been consummated at the deadline — an average of more than 40 per season.
Two years ago — on March 4, 2009 — a record 47 transactions took place.
Last year, with the deadline coming on the heels of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, 31 moves were made involving 55 players.
However, one thing we’ve learned over the years, frequency does not necessitate prosperity.
There have been some slam-bang lopsided deals done in the past 20 years as the deadline picked up steam.
Here’s a sampling.
March 4, 1991 (one day prior to deadline)
Trade: Ron Francis, Grant Jennings and Ulf Samuelsson from Hartford to Pittsburgh for John Cullen, Jeff Parker and Zarley Zalapski.
Result: Nobody could ever accuse Hartford of being selfish. This deal paved the way for the Penguins’ Stanley Cup triumph that spring, and another one year later. Francis was a perfect fit for the Pens — a defensively responsible centre among a group of attack-oriented skaters (Mario Lemieux, Kevin Stevens, Jaromir Jagr, Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy). Samuelsson added nastiness and was an underrated defensive defenceman.
—- Cullen — the centrepiece of the swap for the Whalers — enjoyed one good year before ending up with the Maple Leafs. Zalapski turned out to be the best part of the deal for Hartford. Parker was a bust.
March 5, 1991
Trade: Geoff Courtnall, Robert Dirk, Sergio Momesso, Cliff Ronning and future considerations traded from St. Louis to Vancouver for Dan Quinn and Garth Butcher.
Result: As the Canucks ramp up to an (expected) extended playoff run this season, this deal laid the groundwork for their last dominant team, in the early ’90s. Ronning was a huge part of Vancouver’s success the next six seasons, culminating in a Stanley Cup final appearance against the eventual champion New York Rangers in ’94. Momesso provided toughness and goals through five seasons. Ditto for Courtnall.
Quinn played another year-and-a-half in the NHL before taking his game overseas. Butcher’s best hockey was left on the West Coast.
March 20, 1996
Trade: Alek Stojanov traded from Vancouver to Pittsburgh for Markus Naslund.
Result: Perhaps the most one-sided deadline deal in history.
Stojanov was a terror as a junior, the toughest guy in the Ontario Hockey League, and was selected in the first round by the Canucks. As a pro, he absolutely fizzled.
You just might have heard about the exploits of that guy named Naslund.
March 18, 1997
Trade: Ed Olczyk traded from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh for Glen Murray.
Result: Eddie O was on his last legs and scored only 15 goals the next season-and-a-half for Pittsburgh.
Murray’s career bloomed. He collected two 29-goal seasons in the five years on the coast and was a consistent threat.
March 8, 2006 (one day before deadline)
Trade: Dwayne Roloson traded from Minnesota to Edmonton for a first-round pick.
Result: Ask the residents and frequenters of Whyte Ave.
Roloson started the first 18 games of that miracle run that spring by Edmonton. He posted a 2.33 goals-against average and sizzling .927 save percentage, and likely would have been a Conn Smythe winner of he was able to ward off a knee injury in Game 1 of the final. The playoff-ending injury stole the wind out of the Oilers’ sail.
The Wild later traded that pick to Los Angeles. Centre Trevor Lewis was the pick.
Feb. 27, 2007
Trade: Edmonton traded Ryan Smyth to the New York Islanders for Ryan O’Marra, Robert Nilsson and the Islanders’ first-round pick in the 2007 draft.
Result: The Oilers have yet to rebound from trading away the face of the franchise. Smyth’s numbers aren’t always great, but there’s no questioning his leadership ability. No one’s replaced that in Edmonton.
The return was poor. O’Marra’s struggled to score, even in the minors. Nilsson was a bust and is currently skating in the KHL.
That first-round pick was used to take Alex Plante.
Feb. 26, 2008
Trade: Dallas traded Mike Smith, Jeff Halpern, Jussi Jokinen and its fourth-round pick in the 2009 draft to Tampa Bay for Brad Richards and Johan Holmqvist.
Result: Here’s all you need to know — three years after this deal was swung, Richards heads into this summer’s unrestricted free agency period as the most sought-after player. He’s also a target heading into Monday’s deadline.
Tampa was up to its eyeballs in salary, which pushed the necessity of a trade. Unfortunately for the Lightning, Richards, 30, has had back-to-back sensational seasons in Texas.
Of the three skaters Tampa received from Dallas, only Smith remains, but he’s been relegated to the minors after the team picked up Dwayne Roloson mid-season.