Loan players are often the most traded currency before the NHL trade deadline, and a pair of high-profile pending free agents were on the move this past week.
The St. Louis Blues traded Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly, both of whom can be unrestricted free agents this summer, to the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs, respectively. It’s possible that one of these players will have a successful but short stay at their new clubs, ending up a future version of the best pure hires of the salary cap era.
But the run-up to the trade deadline is also a time when an NHL general manager can make a long-term addition. Whether it’s a player who still has time left on his contract, or someone like Bo Horvat who was traded and then immediately signed an eight-year deal with the New York Islanders, GMs can find long-term roster solutions during a time that is often focused on the short-term gains for competing clubs.
This edition of The List is about those players — added in the days leading up to the trade deadline, life turned around midseason, but the new home was a long-term success. Like the list of pure rentals, we’re going to stick to trades within six weeks or so of the deadline, so early season moves don’t work here.
We are also going to stick to veteran/established NHL players and to the salary cap era. Prospects get traded this time of year, but they’re also usually under team control for a long time, so it shouldn’t be a surprise if they spend half a decade or more in their new city. Therefore, Filip Forsberg is not at or near the top of this list.
Our list includes two core members of the Los Angeles Kings’ title team, a couple of guys who spent a lot of time skating next to Sidney Crosby, a couple of future captains and a bunch of defensemen.
March 4, 2009 – Kings trade Patrick O’Sullivan and a 2009 second-round pick to Hurricanes for Williams
O’Sullivan and another 2009 second went to Edmonton for Erik Cole in this three-team trade. Williams became a critical player for two Stanley Cup-winning teams in three years for Los Angeles, earning the moniker “Mr. Game 7” for his late-season postseason heroics. The Kings were an early analyst darling, and Williams became a star in the Corsi Era because he was one of the best players in the league at winning puck battles along the boards and creating/sustaining offensive possessions. He spent the next six seasons after this trade in Los Angeles. The Hurricanes also fared quite well, getting a big season from Cole in his second tour of duty with the club, and second-round pick Brian Dumoulin. He was a key part of the trade that brought Jordan Staal to Carolina.
February 23, 2012 — Kings trade Jack Johnson and a 2013 first-round pick to the Blue Jackets for Carter
Carter signed an 11-year, $58 million contract, one of the “loophole” deals that helped the Kings and Blackhawks dominate that stretch before the league shut it down. He signed that contract with the Flyers and was then traded twice before finding a home in Los Angeles. He spent nine full years with the Kings, winning titles in 2012 and 2014, before being traded to Pittsburgh. He is in the top 10 in franchise history in goals during the regular season, while only Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille have more playoff goals for the Kings.
February 26, 2009 — Penguins trade Ryan Whitney to Ducks for Kunitz and Eric Tangradi
Tangradi was an exciting prospect, but Kunitz became a fixture for the Penguins, especially next to Crosby. The Ducks traded Whitney to Edmonton the following season, while Kunitz won a Stanley Cup four months after the trade and again in 2016. He has the 10th most goals in Penguins history, more for the franchise than Hall of Fame talents Ron Francis, Mark Reechi and Joe Mullen, who all spent at least 379 games with the club.
February 19, 2011 — Avalanche trade Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Stewart and a 2011 second-round pick to the Blues for Johnson, Jay McClement and a 2011 first-round pick
This was a seismic trade, involving three exciting young players. Stewart spent two full seasons with St. Louis before heading to Buffalo in a trade for Ryan Miller and Steve Ott. Shattenkirk received Calder Trophy votes at the end of that season, then spent five full years with the Blues. He finished in the top 20 of Norris Trophy voting twice, then was traded to Washington at the 2017 deadline. The No. 1 pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, Johnson has carved out a long career in Colorado as a solid but rarely spectacular defender. He is one of seven players to play in over 700 games for the Avalanche, and won the Cup for the first time as a 34-year-old last season.
February 26, 2008 — Penguins trade Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito and a 2008 first-round pick to Thrashers for Marian Hossa and Dupuis
Hossa was No. 1 on our list of pure rentals in the salary cap era after his incredible playoff performance in 2008. Well, he went to Detroit and Dupuis not only stuck, but became an integral role player for the Penguins. He was a depth scorer for the 2009 champions, but Dupuis moved up the lineup and scored 80 goals over the next four seasons. He had 20 in 48 games in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, finishing seventh in Selke Trophy voting. Injuries hampered him toward the end, but Dupuis spent eight seasons after the trade in Pittsburgh.
April 1, 2013 – Blues trade Reto Berra, Mark Cundari and a 2013 first-round pick to Flames for Bouwmeester
At the time of the trade, Bouwmeester had played 750 NHL games without making the playoffs (which was the most in league history for anyone who hadn’t). He played in 75 postseason games for the Blues, including the run to a Stanley Cup in 2019. Bouwmeester spent the last seven seasons of his career with the Blues and averaged more than 20 minutes per game in all of them.
February 21, 2011 — Stars trade James Neal and Matt Niskanen to Penguins for Alex Goligoski
Neal had a rough start with his new team after the trade, then scored 88 goals over the next three seasons before being traded for an eventual Stanley Cup hero (Patric Hornqvist). Niskanen had three strong seasons with the Penguins before signing with the rival Capitals and winning a Cup in 2018. But Goligoski logged the most teams with his new team. He spent five seasons with the Stars and played more than 23 minutes a night for Dallas.
February 18, 2011 — Senators trade Brian Elliott to Avalanche for Anderson
Anderson had started for Colorado the year before in the playoffs, but they flipped him for Elliott, who went 2-8-1 for them in 12 games before moving on. Anderson spent the next nine seasons with Ottawa. He is the franchise leader in games played by a goalie and won.
Dion Phaneuf and Matt Stajan
January 31, 2010 — Maple Leafs trade Stajan, Ian White, Jamal Mayers and Niklas Hagman to Flames for Phaneuf, Keith Aulie and Fredrik Sjostrom
A major upheaval for both teams about five weeks before the deadline, both Phaneuf and Stajan found new homes long after this one. Neither team made the playoffs in 2010, but Phaneuf eventually became Toronto’s captain, signed a seven-year, $49 million contract … and was one of the more polarizing players of the cap era in Toronto. Stajan signed two four-year contracts with the Flames after joining Calgary as a pending UFA in 2010. He scored in double figures in six straight years for the Maple Leafs, then went on to do so just once in his eight years with the Flames.
February 10, 2011 — Predators trade 2011 first-round pick and 2012 third-round pick to Ottawa for Fisher
There are four trades on this list that happened in 11 days in 2011. The trade made headlines outside of hockey because Fisher is married to Carrie Underwood. He spent the last seven years of his career playing for the Predators, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2017. Fisher currently has the eighth most goals in Predators history, although Ryan Johansen is one behind him.
March 4, 2014 – Panthers trade Jacob Markstorm and Shawn Matthias to Canucks for Luongo
Luongo cemented his Hall of Fame status with two more top-10 Vezina Trophy finishes in five-plus years after being traded back to the Panthers. His contract had soured his history in Vancouver, but Luongo remained one of the best goaltenders in the world well into his 30s. Luongo had a .922 save percentage from the day after the trade through the end of 2017-18 (his age-38 season) — only John Gibson and Corey Crawford (both .923) bettered in 150-plus games during that span. .
March 2, 2015 – Canadiens trade a 2015 second-round pick and a 2015 fourth-round pick to the Oilers for Petry
Petry went from being underrated in Edmonton to a staple on Montreal’s blue line for seven years. He played nearly 23 minutes per game during his time with the Canadiens, while earning Norris votes in 2019 and 2021 and helping the club reach the Stanley Cup Finals in 2021. Edmonton used the second round to trade for Cam Talbot and drafted Caleb Jones with the fourth-round pick.
February 27, 2016 — Penguins trade 2016 third-round pick to Oilers for Schultz
Hey, another Oilers defenseman who left Edmonton and found more success elsewhere. It was immediate for Schultz, who helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017. He spent four full seasons with Pittsburgh, including a career-best 12 goals and 51 points in 2016-17. Schultz also led the Kris Letang-less defense corps with four goals and 13 points in the playoffs.
February 10, 2007 — Bruins trade Wayne Primeau, Brad Stuart and a conditional fourth-round pick to the Flames for Ference and Chuck Kobasew
Kobasew had a couple of productive seasons for the Bruins, but Ference became a fixture on the Boston blue line for six years after this trade. Ference was never considered an offensive defenseman, but he had four goals and 10 points during Boston’s run to the championship in 2011. This deal worked out pretty well for Calgary as well. The Flames only got the fourth-round pick if Stuart didn’t re-sign with the team. He didn’t, and the Flames selected TJ Brodie with the pick.
February 26, 2008 — Devils trade Cam Janssen to Blues for Salvador
Salvador spent six seasons with the Devils, including a run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012. He was named captain in January 2013, becoming the third black player in league history to wear the ‘C’ after Dirk Graham and Jarome Iginla. As a bonus, he has worked for the team’s telecast since retiring and is one of the best studio analysts in the NHL. Janssen was always known more for his work with his fists, but he actually scored more goals for the Devils when he returned to the team years after the trade than he did during his time in St. Louis.
(Top photo by Justin Williams: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)