New York Islanders Trade History: Best and Worst Trades of All-Time

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Alexi Yashin #79 of the New York Islanders skates up the ice against the Buffalo Sabres during the NHL game on October 10, 2002 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York. The Sabres defeated the Islanders 5-1.

The History of Trade is a mini series going through each team’s best and worst trades of all time. Each team has their own history and some may cross over, but the series will try to stick to each team. This article will focus on the New York Islanders trade history, finding the best and worst of all time.

New York Islanders Trade History

Founded in 1972, the New York Islanders quickly developed into an NHL powerhouse. The Islanders made their first playoff appearance in 1974 and by 1979 had the NHL’s best record. From 1980 to 1983 they would win four consecutive Stanley Cups. Despite such early success, however, the Islanders’ trade history is very questionable. While they have made many trades throughout their existence, they do not seem very proficient at making them.

Best Trade

The Islanders, for whatever reason, rarely seem to be on the right side of big trades. Still, they have been able to pull off some decent trades in their history. Their most important trade was made at the trade deadline in 1980 and proved to be the trade that pushed them over their Stanley Cup hump and launched their dynasty.

The Trade

March 10, 1980

Islanders trade Billy Harris and Dave Lewis to Los Angeles for Butch Goring.

Traded Away

Billy Harris was part of the Islanders’ inaugural season in 1972. In his eight seasons in New York, Harris scored 20 or more goals in his first six, including a 32-goal season in 1975-76. Harris had one more 20 goal season left in him after the trade. For the Kings, however, Harris’ best days were behind him and he only played one full season before being traded to Toronto in 1981-82.

Dave Lewis was a key member of the Islanders’ quick rise to competitiveness in the 1970’s. A pillar of strength in his own end, Lewis was an important defender for the Islanders, and continued to be a solid defender in Los Angeles for parts of four seasons.

These two players helped the Islanders develop into one of the NHL’s most promising and competitive teams in the late 70’s. Unfortunately for them, they were traded away right as the Islanders began their Stanley Cup dynasty.

The Return

In what is still considered the “gold standard” of all deadline deals, the Islanders acquired Butch Goring. Considered the final piece of the puzzle in New York, Goring’s arrival propelled the Islanders into one of the NHL’s greatest dynasties.

Before Goring’s arrival in New York, the Islanders had developed into one of the NHL’s best regular season teams. For all their success, however, the Islanders could not continue their effectiveness in the playoffs. After another playoff upset in 1979, the Islanders slugged to a 29-26-7 record before the 1980 trade deadline. After his arrival, the Islanders went on a 8-0-4 run heading into the playoffs.

Goring really made his mark in the playoffs for the Islanders. In the 1980 playoffs, Goring scored seven goals and 19 points en route to hoisting the club’s first Stanley Cup. In the 1981 playoffs, Goring improved his production, netting 10 goals and 20 points, leading the Islanders to their second consecutive Cup and winning the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP.

Before Goring’s arrival in New York, the Islanders never made the Stanley Cup finals. With him, they won four Stanley Cups in a row and made five straight Stanley Cup finals. After his departure from Long Island, the Islanders have not found their way back to their former glory.

Honorable Mention

Islanders trade Kent Simpson, T.J. Brennan, Ville Pokka and Anders Nilsson to Chicago for Nick Leddy; Islanders trade Ryan O’Marra, Robert Nilsson and a 2007 first round pick to Edmonton for Ryan Smyth; New York trade Mariusz Czerkawski to Montreal for Arron Asham and a 2002 fourth round pick; Islanders trade Doug Crossman to Hartford for Ray Ferraro; Islanders trade Pat LaFontaine, Randy Wood, Randy Hillier and a 1992 fourth round pick for Buffalo for Pierre Turgeon, Benoit Hogue, Uwe Krupp and Dave McLlwain.

Worst Trade

The Islanders might be one of the worst teams at making trades, and many of their failings can be attributed to the tenure of Mike Milbury. For some inexplicable reason, Milbury was able to stay on as Islanders GM from 1995 to 2006. The Islanders would only make the playoffs three times with Milbury as GM. His tenure was marred by questionable trades and ridiculous contracts.

The Trade

June 23, 2001

Islanders trade Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckalt and a 2001 first round pick to Ottawa for Alexei Yashin.

Traded Away

Zdeno Chara was developing into a solid defensive defenseman in the Islanders’ organization before being traded to Ottawa. The trade to Ottawa saw Chara’s offensive game developed and he became a premier two-way defenseman in the NHL. Every year in Ottawa, Chara’s offensive numbers improved. After four seasons in Ottawa, he signed with the Boston Bruins, where he became a truly elite defenseman. Chara is a six-time Norris Trophy finalist and won the award in 2009. Moreover, in 2011 he captained the Bruins to the Stanley Cup.

Bill Muckalt played one uneventful season in Ottawa. He played 70 games and only netted eight assists. Muckalt left Ottawa via free agency after the 2002 season and was out of the NHL by 2004.

The 2001 first round pick was actually the second pick overall in that draft, and the Senators used the pick to select Jason Spezza. Spezza would play 11 seasons in Ottawa and developed into a premiere playmaking centre. Spezza was a point-per-game player in Ottawa, scoring 251 goals and 687 points in 686 games.

The Return

Alexei Yashin was traded to New York after a bitter divorce from Ottawa. Yashin sat out the entire 1999-2000 season over a contract dispute. He returned to Ottawa the following season and had a great year; scoring 40 goals and 88 points. Unfortunately the situation in Ottawa was so toxic that Yashin was traded at the 2001 NHL draft.

After acquiring Yashin, Islanders GM Mike Milbury signed him to an absurd 10-year, $87.5 million contract. Initially, Yashin produced well in New York. He scored 32 goals and 75 points in his first season and led the Islanders to their first playoff appearance in eight seasons. Yashin would lead the Islanders to three straight playoff appearances. Still, the Islanders never advanced past the first round.

Unfortunately, Yashin’s production and play dropped in each successive season in New York. His play seemed uninspired and lethargic. Adding to the issue was his enormous contract, which drew the ire of the media and fans. In 2007, the Islanders bought out the remaining term on Yashin’s contract and he returned to Russia, where he would play five more seasons before retiring in 2012. Unfortunately for the Islanders, they were paying Yashin his buyout until 2015.

Dishonourable Mention

Islanders trade Pierre Turgeon and Vladimir Malakhov to the Canadiens for Kirk Muller, Mathieu Schneider and Craig Darby; Islanders trade Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan McCabe, 1998 third round pick to the Canucks for Trevor Linden; New York trades Bryan Berard and a 1999 sixth round pick to Toronto for Felix Potvin and a 1999 sixth round pick; Islanders trade Zigmund Palffy, Bryan Smolinski, Marcel Cousineau and a 1999 fourth round pick to Los Angeles for Olli Jokinen, Mathieu Biron, Josh Green and a 1999 first round pick; Islanders trade Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen to Florida for Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish.

via Last Word on Hockey, by Connor Lapalme

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