Trades #6-10 of the 15 Best Trades in the modern history of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
After looking at the 25 Worst Trades in the (modern) history of the Toronto Maple Leafs, I decided to explore the other side of the balance sheet. And while the depth on the “Best Of” list isn’t as strong as the “Worst Of” list, there are still some notable trade victories for Toronto. Here are the trades that ranked #6-10.
#10: Toronto acquires Dave Ellett and Paul Fenton from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Ed Olczyk and Mark Osborne (November 10th, 1990)
Going into this deal, I wasn’t sure what to expect: my initial thoughts were that it might be an even deal, or perhaps a slim victory for the Leafs. But it ended up working out very well for Toronto. Ellett was by far the best Leafs’ defenseman of the 1990s. In his first four seasons with Toronto, he recorded 38, 51, 40 and 43 points. In his best season (1991-92), he scored 18 goals. And during the Leafs’ two deep playoff runs in ’93 and ’94, he scored 30 points in 39 games (including 18 points in 18 games in the ’94 playoffs). He was an absolute stud on the blueline, more dependable and less injury prone than Al Iafrate (who was traded to Washington two months after Ellett’s arrival). All in all, Ellett was on the Toronto blueline for parts of seven seasons, scoring 223 points in 446 games (and 32 points in 52 playoff games). Fenton was a nothing pick-up, scoring 15 points in 30 games before being dealt to Washington with Jon Kordic for a fifth round pick that turned into Alexei Kudashov.
Even with Fenton representing a nothing return, the deal was still gold for Toronto. Olczyk was very good with the Jets: in parts of three seasons, he scored 66 goals and 142 points in 150 games. Solid offensive player. But Winnipeg dealt him to the New York Rangers for Tie Domi and Kris King, electing to have more toughness instead of Olczyk’s offensive abilities. Unfortunately, Olczyk was never again a point-per-game after leaving Winnipeg (aside from a second stint with Winnipeg in the mid-90s, where he contributed 59 points in 64 games). It could be due in part to a thumb injury that cost him most of the Rangers’ cup-winning 1993-94 season. But either way, after being dealt from Winnipeg to New York, Olczyk bounced around with five NHL teams and scored 205 points in 396 games before retiring. Winnipeg eventually moved Domi to Toronto for Mike Eastwood and a pick (as seen in part two of this series), and King left for Toronto as a free agent. Squandered assets by the Jets. Osborne didn’t last long as a Jet either: he scored 32 points in 80 games across two seasons before winding up back in Toronto (also in part two of this series). The Leafs got nearly seven seasons out of a very talented offensive defenseman, while the Jets failed to get either a long tenure or fair value out of the assets received in the long term. Advantage Leafs.
#9: Toronto acquires Darcy Tucker and a 4th Round Pick in 2000 (Miguel Delisle) from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Mike Johnson, Marek Posmyk, a 5th Round Pick in 2000 (Pavel Sedov) and a 6th Round Pick in 2000 (Aaron Gionet) (February 9th, 2000)
This one was an easy one to deem a victory for Toronto. All of the draft picks (Delisle, Sedov and Gionet) failed to play in the NHL. Posmyk did, but only 19 games. So it literally just boils down to Tucker for Johnson. Mike Johnson did well in Tampa immediately after the trade, scoring 22 points in 28 games. But the next season he only registered 11 goals and 38 points in 64 games. Fortunately for Tampa, they moved him along with Paul Mara and a few other assets for Nikolai Khabibulin, a move that was critical in their winning the Stanley Cup in 2004. Johnson had a pair of decent seasons in Phoenix, but otherwise faded away as an NHLer, scoring 195 points in 343 games post-Tampa.
Darcy Tucker was a hothead who was known as a loudmouth, even by officials; his nickname was long touted to be Sideshow Bob. But the fact remains that Tucker was a popular player during his time here, who gave the Leafs nearly a decade of service as a quality NHLer. Tucker played with the Leafs from late in the 1999-00 season until the end of the 2007-08 season. During that time he scored 20+ goals four times, and had another two seasons of 18 and 16 respectively. His two best years saw him score 59 and 61 points. All in all, over a seven-year stretch, he was fairly consistent in hitting 15+ goals and 35+ points. Not all-star numbers, but he was often recording 100+ penalty minutes as well, and he was a terrific asset on their power play. He wasn’t stellar in the playoffs (he scored 21 points in 68 playoff games for Toronto), but (similar to Tie Domi) he was an aggressive player who distracted the other team. While his ability to be a “clean” player was limited (his hit on Mike Peca made him a villain to New York Islanders fans for years), Leafs fans loved him. And he was definitely worth the price paid to acquire him.
#8: Toronto acquires Tom Fergus from the Boston Bruins in exchange for Bill Derlago (October 11th, 1985)
This is a deal that doesn’t get much play among Leafs fans, and I can’t really figure out why. Granted Fergus was on some pretty bad Leafs teams, but he was a solid pick-up who (despite having durability issues) contributed offensively for for an extended period.
Derlago, despite being a long-time fan favourite, was clearly on his way out of the NHL. He contributed just 21 points in 39 games for the Bruins before being dealt to Winnipeg for Wade Campbell. Derlago then scored 11 goals and 27 points over his final 75 NHL games before retiring.
Fergus on the other hand was quite strong for the Leafs. While he only twice played more than 63 games, he had three seasons of 45-50 points as well as two seasons of 67 and 73 points. He scored 31 goals his first season in Toronto, and then 19-22 the following four seasons. He was typically just below the point-per-game mark, and ended up scoring 118 goals and 297 points in 357 games as a Leaf. And while the Leafs didn’t exactly do much in the playoffs during his tenure, Fergus still put up 9 goals and 21 points in 23 playoff games, including 12 points in 10 games during the 1986 playoffs. After playing just 25 games combined during the ’90-91 and ’91-92 seasons, Fergus was sold to Vancouver, where he scored another 19 goals and 48 points in his final 80 NHL games. Five solid (if injury-shortened) offensive seasons in return for a half-season from a fading veteran is a trade that any GM in the NHL would love to make.
#7: Toronto acquires Bryan McCabe from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Alexander Karpovtsev and a 4th Round Pick in 2001 (Vladimir Gusev) (October 2nd, 2000)
Bryan McCabe was a polarizing figure in Toronto towards the end of his tenure. He signed a massive contract with (I believe) a no-trade clause. And when the Leafs’ fortunes went south after the 2004-05 lockout, McCabe became an expensive lightning rod for fans’ displeasure at the state of the team in the salary cap era. But he was a quality defenseman for the majority of his seven seasons in blue and white.
Karpovtsev just never got into a rhythm in Chicago. After a contract dispute with the Leafs led to his being traded to the Blackhawks, Karpovtsev proved incredibly injury prone: he only played a combined 158 games during his first three seasons. He was traded about a quarter of the way through the 2003-04 season to the Islanders, having contributed 46 points and 105 penalty minutes in 182 games to Chicago. He only played nine more games in the NHL before returning to Russia. Chicago did however do well post-Karpovtsev: they turned him into a fourth round pick from the New York Islanders, which they used to select Niklas Hjalmarsson, a member of their 2010 Stanley Cup-winning team. However, the fourth rounder received from Toronto was wasted on Gusev (who never played in the NHL).
McCabe however put up some fantastic numbers Four times in seven seasons he scored 15-19 goals, and scored a career-high 68 points in 2005-06 (during a three-year stretch that saw him contribute 50 goals and 178 points in 230 games). But he was also hot-headed, getting 100+ PIM in five of his seven seasons, and he was prone to mental errors that stood out like sore thumbs in highlight reels. However, he did tend to step up his game during the playoffs: in 51 playoff games from 2001-2004, he scored 10 goals and 26 points. In total during his tenure, he scored 83 goals and 297 points in 523 regular-season games, along with 785 penalty minutes. He was traded to Florida for Mike Van Ryn; Vam Ryn never made an impact in Toronto, while McCabe quietly played another 218 games (scoring 110 points) for the Panthers and the New York Rangers. 500 games from a skilled offensive defenseman with a mean streak is definitely worth the cost of less than 200 games from Karpovtsev (who, despite being a strong defensive defenseman, was just too injury-prone). Even though his Toronto career ended somewhat negatively, McCabe was a strong presence on the Leafs’ blueline for nearly a decade.
#6: Toronto acquires Jason Smith, Steve Sullivan and Alyn McCauley from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Doug Gilmour, Dave Ellett and a 3rd Round Pick in 1999 (Andre Lakos) (February 25th, 1997)
This trade ranks fairly high on the Leafs’ list of all-time trades; but the true shame is that it could have been much higher if the Leafs had been smarter in their asset management. Gilmour was the heart-and-soul of the Leafs, their Captain, and arguably the best player on the team (although Sundin could be considered more skilled). But late in the ’96-97 season, it was painfully obvious the Leafs weren’t going anywhere (having already begun the process of shedding the majority of their expensive veterans during the offseason). Gilmour was moved to New Jersey in a blockbuster deal that shook up Leaf fandom. He was productive for New Jersey, but couldn’t get them past the second round of the 1997 playoffs. Gilmour scored a total of 20 goals and 75 points in 83 games over parts of two seasons with the Devils. He even scored 5 goals and 7 points during a first-round loss in the 1998 playoffs. But he left New Jersey when Chicago offered a big-money contract. Ellet’s stint was even shorter; he played 20 regular season games followed by 10 playoff games, and then left for Boston as a free agent. Andre Lakos, meanwhile, never played in the NHL.
Toronto on the other hand made out quite well. Jason Smith was a towering presence on their blueline, and Steve Sullivan was a skilled forward. While Alyn McCauley never developed into the offensive star many projected, he was a defensively-responsible centre for the Leafs, and was a hero during the 2002 playoffs (especially during Sundin’s absence due to injury), where he scored 5 goals and 15 points in 20 games. Unfortunately, the Leafs didn’t allow any of them to spend nearly enough time in a Maple Leafs jersey. Smith played 162 games over parts of three seasons, scoring 34 points and recording 156 penalty minutes. Unfortunately, he was dealt to the Edmonton Oilers for a pair of draft picks that turned into Kris Vernarsky and Jonathon Zion. Smith played 682 games after leaving Toronto, and was highly respected as the Captain of the Edmonton Oilers. Steve Sullivan showed flashes of brilliance. He scored 16 points in his first 21 games as a Leaf. After a down year in 1997-98, he scored 20 goals and 40 points in 63 games during the 1998-99 season, and chipped in 6 points in 13 playoff games. But early into the 1999-00 season, the Leafs acquired Dmitri Khristich, and put Sullivan on waivers to make room. Sullivan is still playing in the NHL today and, as of the start of the 2012-13 season, had scored 235 goals and 614 points in 766 games post-Toronto. McCauley had the longest run, but he only had three 50+ game seasons during his six seasons in Toronto. In total, he scored 33 goals and 82 points in 304 games. He ended up being shipped to San Jose as part of a package for Owen Nolan. Sadly, all three of those moves ended up on my Worst Maple Leafs Trade list. The potential squandered here was a massive setback to Toronto, but it showed that they could be capable of making deals with short-term pain for long-term gain if need be. And the Leafs did manage to get a combined 620 NHL games out of three up-and-coming players in exchange for just 103 games in New Jersey by Ellett and Gilmour. Great trade.
We’re almost at the end; we’ve seen the decent and the good, the next round (trades #1-5) are the great. Click that link to see top five trades in the modern history of the Toronto Maple Leafs!