Trades #11-15 of the 15 Best Trades in the modern history of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have a (deservedly) bad reputation for losing trades, due to their lengthy track record of trading draft picks and prospects for fading veterans. However, the Leafs have also come out ahead, sometimes by a wide margin (especially when the Calgary Flames are involved) on a number of occasions. And so, in a search for karmic balance after pointing out the Worst Leafs Trades, I have decided to highlight the Best Leafs Trades of the modern era. Here are the trades that ranked #11-15, as well as a few honourable mentions.
Honourable Mention: Toronto acquires Jacques Plante from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for cash (May 18th, 1970)
Now I have absolutely NO idea how much cash the Leafs paid for Plante. But whatever they paid, it was a very solid investment. Despite acquiring Plante at the age of 42, he played parts of three seasons in Toronto. While his stats did decline during his time here, they were still impressive. In 1970-71, Plante went 24-11-4 with an absolutely sparkling 1.88 goals-against average. While he failed to win a playoff game as a Leaf (going 0-3 in four appearances), he finished with a solid overall regular season stats: 48-38-15 and a 2.46 GAA. Plus when he left Toronto, he netted the Leafs some valuable assets in a trade that will show up later in this series.
Honourable Mention: Toronto acquires Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom and Keith Aulie from the Calgary Flames in exchange for Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers and Ian White (January 31st, 2010)
This is absolutely a win for Toronto, but it’s more a win of attrition than anything else. Phaneuf does suffer from an inflated reputation, but he’s still a quality two-way defenseman, with offensive skills currently lacking from the rest of Toronto’s blueline. As of the start of the 2012-13 season, Phaneuf had 22 goals and 84 points in 174 games, including 12 goals and 44 points in the 2011-12 season. He’s a polarizing figure, but he’s also a leader who is accountable to fans and the media, taking heat from players less willing or able to handle the spotlight (such as Phil Kessel). Sjostrom was a bit of a nothing acquisition, scoring 10 points in 85 games before leaving the Leafs (and the NHL). Aulie was a well-regarded prospect, but he was flipped to Tampa Bay for Carter Ashton (son of ex-NHLer Brent Ashton).
But even if the trade was just for Phaneuf, the Flames lost this one. Mayers played 27 games, getting 6 points and 53 PIM before leaving for San Jose as a free agent. Hagman was brutal, scoring just 17 goals and 42 points in 106 games before being placed on waivers early in the 2011-12 season (where he was claimed by Anaheim). He hasn’t been much better there. Ian White has turned into a decent NHL defenseman… just not in Calgary. He bounced around with a few teams, but he’s put up a respectable 52 points in 139 games post-Calgary (vs. 18 points in 43 games with Calgary). White was dealt with Brett Sutter to the Hurricanes for Anton Babchuk and Tom Kotsopolous. The only Flame left is Matt Stajan. Stajan signed a four-year extension with a cap hit of $3.5 million per season. As of the start of the 2012-13 season, Stajan had 17 goals and 65 points in 164 games. He had 6 goals and 31 points in 2010-11, and then got WORSE, recording 8 goals and 18 points in 2011-12. So while Flames could argue they win by virtue of getting rid of Phaneuf’s contract… they didn’t exactly end up with much in the way of assets by moving him. I think Phaneuf gets a bad rap, and I’m happy he’s a Leaf. Is he a Norris candidate? No, and I don’t think he’ll live up to his early billing. But he’s still a quality defender who is the best on the Leafs’ blueline, and likely a strong #2-3 candidate on most NHL teams. So a good trade, but not a great one, hence the honourable mention.
And now, on with the trades that DID make the list of the Best Maple Leafs Trades of the Modern Era, beginning with the ones ranking #11-15!
#15: Toronto acquires Mark Osborne from the New York Rangers in exchange for Jeff Jackson and a 1989 3rd Round Pick (Rob Zamuner) (March 5th, 1987)
Before we begin, I’ve completely ignored Rob Zamuner and his rather lengthy NHL career for one simple reason: there is no guarantee the Leafs would have selected Zamuner with that draft pick. It’s the same reason I ignored the Islanders using the pick from the Wendel Clark trade to select Roberto Luongo: the only time I consider draft selection is on the Toronto side, because that’s the only side they control.
Anyhow, this trade led Osborne’s first stint in Toronto. He played three full season and parts of two others with the Leafs. His two best seasons were a pair of 23-goal seasons, where he scored 60 and 73 points respectively. On the whole, he scored 70 goals and 200 points in 266 games, and his chippy style also saw him record 321 PIM. He also contributed four goals and 13 points in 20 playoff games. Decent enough stats from a defensively-responsible forward.
Jackson only lasted nine games with the Rangers, before being traded with Terry Carkner to Quebec. Jackson ended up playing 186 NHL games post-New York, finishing his career with 263 games played. Now the Rangers did quite well in that deal, picking up David Shaw (who became Jeff Beukeboom after parts of five seasons), and John Ogrodnick (who had a 43-goal, 74-point season and was a decent offensive threat). But they squandered Zamuner, as he played just nine games in New York before playing another 789 NHL games elsewhere (largely in Tampa Bay). So while they managed to turn Jackson into something useful, the Rangers didn’t really get much out of what they received directly for Osborne. A nice win for Toronto.
#14: Toronto acquires Mikhail Grabovski from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Greg Pateryn and a 2nd Round Pick in 2010 (later traded to Boston, who selected Jared Knight) (July 3rd, 2008)
The most recent trade on this list. Pateryn has yet to make the NHL, although he is playing in the AHL as of the 2012-13 season after four years at the University of Michigan. Montreal moved the second round pick to Chicago for Robert Lang, who scored 39 points in 50 games before leaving as a free agent. The draft pick ended up coming back to Toronto before ending up in Boston via the Phil Kessel trade.
Grabovski has turned into a decent offensive centre for Toronto. In four full seasons with Toronto, he cleared 20 goals three times and fifty points twice. He’s scored 82 goals and 192 points in 292 games (as of the start of the 2012-13 season). Moderate return for a modest price.
#13: Toronto acquires Dan Daoust from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a 3rd Round Pick in 1984 (later traded to Minnesota, who selected Ken Hodge Jr.) (December 17th, 1982)
One of the few trade wins for the Leafs during a VERY dark era. Montreal flipped the draft pick to Minnesota in the Bobby Smith deal, which was a great pick-up for them. Now Daoust wasn’t a superstar, but he was solid offensively at first. He scored 53 goals and 179 points over his first 205 games before settling into a largely defensive role. All in all, he scored 235 points in 518 games before leaving Toronto (and the NHL) and 1989-90. He was a Leaf for the better part of eight seasons, definitely worth the cost of a third round pick. And in case you’re wondering, Hodge Jr. was a bust. He scored 30 goals and 59 points as a rookie for Boston, but only scored nine more goals and 28 more points during the rest of his limited NHL career with Boston and Tampa Bay. He ended up retiring in the British Ice Hockey Superleague after the 1997-98 season with 142 career NHL games played.
#12: Toronto acquires Tie Domi from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Mike Eastwood and 3rd Round Pick in 1995 (Brad Isbister) (April 7, 1995)
I will preface this immediately by saying I’m not much of a Tie Domi fan. I get that he was a fan favourite because Leafs fans love their rough-and-tumble types and they value grit and physical play. But Domi’s value to Toronto was severely overrated thanks to a few FLASHES of offensive skill that never panned out long term. And his stupidity against the Scott Niedermayer during the Leafs’ second-round loss to the New Jersey Devils in 2001 demonstrates how he could let his emotions get in the way of being an effective hockey player, as does his sucker punch on Ulf Samuelsson in 1995.
That being said, Domi did have a lengthy career as a Leaf, playing with the team from late in the 1994-95 season until the end of the 2005-06 season. He recorded 86 goals, 196 points and an astounding 2,223 penalty minutes in 775 games for Toronto. He also played in 86 playoff games, but only chipped in 16 points. He only posted double-digit goals three times, and maxed out at 15 in a single season. He also never reached the 30-point mark, so this belief that Domi could contribute offensively is a little far-fetched. However, he did represent a major physical presence in the line-up, clearing 200 PIM five times. And he finished his NHL career with 1,020 games played, so the man was clearly an NHL-calibre player.
Eastwood was a solid defensive player, but he didn’t say long in Winnipeg. He played 126 games over parts of three seasons with the Jets/Coyotes before being traded with Dallas Eakins (currently the coach of the Leafs’ AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies) to the New York Rangers for Jay More. Eastwood played another 546 games after leaving Phoenix, finishing with 236 points in 783 career games. Brad Isbister didn’t play in the NHL until after the Jets moved to Phoenix, and only played 98 games for the franchise. He was dealt to the Islanders for Robert Reichel, who ended up coming to Toronto in a deal that gave Leafs’ fans a whipping boy who was second only to Aki Berg during the first half of the 2000’s. So the Leafs traded a reliable defensive forward and a moderately valuable draft pick for a fan favourite who played in ten seasons for Toronto. My personal bias about Domi aside, that’s a pretty worthwhile deal.
#11: Toronto acquires a 4th Round Pick in 1998 (Alexei Ponikarovsky) from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Jamie Macoun (March 24th, 1988)
Macoun was a trade deadline pick-up by the Red Wings in their successful attempt to repeat as Stanley Cup champions in 1998. Macoun played seven regular season games, and then 22 playoff games. He played 69 games the following year, along with one final playoff game before retiring. Macoun did what Detroit hoped: he filled a spot on the blueline as an experienced and reliable veteran (alongside Larry Murphy, traded the year before) to help them win the cup.
But in a rare departure from similar moves (see Mike Gartner, Dave Gagner, Todd Gill, etc.) of that time, the Leafs managed to pick a long-term NHLer with their draft pick. Ponikarovsky had a few short stints with Toronto, but finally stuck in the 2003-04 season. During a five-year stretch between ’05-06 and ’09-10, he scored 18-23 goals and 38-45 points per season (except for a career-high 61 points in 2008-09). He was dealt to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline in 2009-10, and finished his Leafs career with 477 regular-season games in Toronto, in which he scored 114 goals and 257 points. He also played in 23 playoff games, but only scored one goal and four points. Still, getting almost 500 games out of a home-grown prospect in exchange for just over one season from a nearly-done veteran was a smart transaction that benefitted the Leafs over the long-term. It would have helped if the Leafs had done more with what they got from Pittsburgh for Ponikarovsky: they received Martin Skoula (later flipped for a 5th Round Pick that became Sam Carrick), and Luca Caputi (who became Nicolas Deschamps). But still, a solid return for the Leafs.
These trades saw the Leafs get long stretches of service from reliable-if-unspectacular players. As we move into the Top 10, things will change: the next wave of trades will feature some of the more popular Leafs names of the past decade. For more of this list, check out trades #6-10 on the list of the Best Toronto Maple Leafs Trades of the Modern Era.