What may be strange to some is a practice that Boston Bruins fans know all too well. Dealing away top players in exchange for building blocks has become somewhat of the norm in the past decade for the Bruins. A glance at their past ten years reveals four big trades that became integral to the Bruins and their history.
The first trade:
The 1997 NHL Entry Draft saw the Bruins with two top-ten picks. With the first overall pick in the draft, the Bruins picked up the big kid from Ontario named Joe Thornton. “Jumbo Joe” became a powerhouse for the Bruins. He racked up assists, proved himself as one of the most dominant power forwards and became the seventeenth captain in Bruins’ history.
On November 30, 2005, Bruins General Manager Mike O’Connell dealt away Thornton to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau. The feeling in Boston was not unlike when the Red Sox traded fan-favorite Nomar Garciaparra.
Contrasted to the upcoming Samsonov trade, no real key parts came of the Thornton trade. As a matter of fact, the Sharks named Thornton captain and he’s put up some of the best numbers of his career there. In all honesty, it was one of the stranger deals I’ve seen a team make.
The second trade:
Their second top-ten pick in the ’97 draft was spent on an undersized, yet lethal skater by the name of Sergei Samsonov. His scouting report from the draft listed him as “an excellent skater … An outstanding offensive player who sees the ice extremely well… He has a quick release when shooting and is very capable of scoring picturesque goals.”
The Russian phenom spent eight seasons in Boston and consistently put up excellent offensive numbers. He hit the 40-point plateau all but twice in his Bruins career and never took many penalties. He was a key player for the B’s.
On March 9, 2006, he was traded to Edmonton in exchange for Marty Reasoner, Yan Stastny and Edmonton’s 2nd round pick in the 2006 Entry Draft.
Now, Reason and Stastny never made much of their time in Boston, but that second-round pick became a current fan favorite of the Bruins #17, Milan Lucic, who has had two Stanley Cup appearances with the B’s.
Now, for the third and fourth trades, which planted the seeds of the bizarre Boston-Dallas-Toronto family tree.
The Bruins posted a disappointing 29-37-16 record in the 2005-06 season, which yielded them the fifth overall pick in the 2006 Entry Draft. The B’s spent that pick on the six-foot speed demon from Madison, Wisconsin named Phil Kessel. He spent three seasons in Boston and looked to be a promising sniper that would lead them out of the doldrums.
After those three seasons, however, contract negotiations hit a snag and the Bruins dealt him away to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the Leafs’ first and second round picks in the 2010 Draft, and their first round choice in the 2011 draft.
Those two first round picks became two players who Bruins fans know like the backs of their own hands.
The 2010 first-rounder became none other than Tyler Seguin, and the 2011 first-rounder became the ever-promising defenseman Dougie Hamilton.
Seguin led an impressive 2010-11 Bruins rookie class, which included Brad Marchand and quickly became touted as the face of the Bruins’ future. The Bruins won the Stanley Cup his rookie year and things looked on the up and up for him.
His numbers increased the following year, but not by much. Reports of off-ice incidents and partying eventually led to his trade to Dallas on July 4, 2013. He was dealt alongside fellow Bruin Rich Peverley (acquired in yet another trade where Boston dealt away a first-round draft pick) and prospect Ryan Button.
The trade seemed to be the most powerful out of the “big four” trades the Bruins made, as this one provided the most balance between the two parties.
Dallas sent NHL mainstay Loui Eriksson and three prospects in Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser to Boston. Despite being plagued with concussions, Loui Eriksson is still a prolific hockey player and Reilly Smith is one of the most creative goal-scorers the Bruins have.
So, to summarize the Boston-Dallas-Toronto family tree, Dallas now has an ex-Bruin (Seguin) who came to Boston by way of trading Kessel to Toronto.
Oh, and more branch to that tree— in 2006, the Bruins traded their goalie Andrew Raycroft straight up for Tuukka Rask, who was the Leafs’ first-round pick in the 2005 draft. Being that Rask now has two Stanley Cup appearances and has been a top-ten finalist for the Vezina Trophy (best goaltender) twice in Boston, the deal wound up being just a little unfair to Toronto.
Now if you’re a Toronto fan, these trades may make you very upset. Sure, Kessel is an absolute asset for the Leafs, and at 26, has a long career ahead of him.
But at what cost?
Of cvourse there’s no guarantee that if Toronto never traded for Kessel that they would’ve drafted Seguin and Dougie Hamilton, but let’s assume they drafted those two and held on to Rask. The whole scope of that franchise could’ve changed. Rask and Seguin both have a Stanley Cup ring, and Hamilton has been in the finals. Maybe the Leafs would’ve gotten their first Cup since 1967.
Funny the way things work, eh?
Ray Waldron can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org