Small NHL Trades With Big Results: Pat LaFontaine

Pat LaFontaine

Small trades with big results is a series that looks at trades throughout NHL history that seemed small or insignificant at the time but turned out to be much, much more. In this installment, we look at how Pat LaFontaine ended up with the New York Islanders.

Small NHL Trades With Big Results: Pat LaFontaine

Another trade that paid off down the road. The Islanders were the defending Stanley Cup champions and looked like a team to be reckoned with for years to come. Understanding this, Islanders Bill Torrey was looking for a way to keep the team competitive in the moment and the long term future. To pull off this feat Torrey looked to exploit a struggling team.

The Trade

On October 1st, 1981, the Islanders trade Dave Cameron and Bob Lorimer to the Colorado Rockies for a 1983 first-round draft pick.

Dave Cameron

Dave Cameron played three seasons for the University of Prince Edward Island. He performed well, scoring 27 goals and 89 points in 49 career games. Cameron was drafted by the Islanders in the eighth round of the 1978 draft. Cameron turned pro for the 1979-80 season, joining the Fort Wayne Komets of the IHL. His Komets career lasted a whopping six games, where he scored three goals and nine points. After those six games, Cameron joined the Indianapolis Checkers of the Central Hockey League (CHL) where he would score 15 goals and 36 points in 70 games. The following year, Cameron broke out. In 78 games with the Checkers, Cameron scored 40 goals and 70 points. Before Cameron could suit up for the Islanders, he was traded.

Bob Lorimer

Bob Lorimer was a solid stay at home defenceman. Lorimer played for Michigan Tech of the NCAA for four seasons between 1972 and 1975. The Islanders selected Lorimer in the ninth round of the 1973 draft. While offence was never his thing, he did put up 31 points, including 10 goals in his last year at Michigan Tech. Lorimer bounced between the Islanders and the minor leagues for a few seasons. He became an NHL regular in the 1978-79 season. He played for the Islanders for the next three seasons, capturing two Stanley Cups.

Pat LaFontaine (1983 first-round pick)

Pat LaFontaine started his junior career with the Detroit Compuware of the MNHL in 1981-82. There he put up otherworldly numbers. In 79 games, he scored 175 goals and 324 points in 79 games. The following year, LaFontaine joined the Verdun Juniors of the QMJHL. LaFontaine continued to produce at an incredible pace. In 70 games, he scored 104 goals and 234 points to lead the league in scoring. The Juniors would win the Presidents Cup as QMHJL playoff champions. LaFontaine won the Jean Beliveau Trophy as the league’s top scorer, the Michel Briere Trophy as the league’s MVP, the Guy Lafleur Trophy as the playoff MVP, the Michel Bergeron Trophy as rookie of the year and the Mike Bossy Trophy as the best pro prospect. After this year, LaFontaine emerged as the top prospect for the upcoming NHL draft.

The Aftermath

Rockies

Bob Lorimer played another five seasons with the Colorado/New Jersey Devils franchise. He continued to be a solid but unspectacular presence on the blueline. Lorimer at one point was defence partners with then Rockies coach Bert Marshall with the Islanders. Lorimer retired from hockey after the 1985-86 season.

Dave Cameron joined the Rockies for the 1981-82 season and appeared in 66 games. Unfortunately, he could not live up to his break out season with the Checkers. Cameron scored 11 goals and 23 points. The following season, Cameron split the season between the Devils and the CHL’s Wichita Wind. Cameron again played 66 games for the Devils in the 1984-85 season, but again he was a disappointment. He only scored nine goals and 21 points. After the 84-85 season, Cameron would never play another NHL game. He would stay in hockey bouncing between minor league teams until 1991.

Islanders

After participating in the 1984 Winter Olympics, Pat LaFontaine joined the Islanders for the end of the 1983-84 season. LaFontaine played in 16 games scoring 13 goals and 19 points. In the playoffs, LaFontaine would play in 16 games and scored three goals and nine points. Unfortunately for LaFontaine, he joined the Islanders right at the end of their dynasty. The Islanders lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Edmonton Oilers in five games. Still, LaFontaine scored twice in the third period of game five to give the Islanders some life even if it was in vain. Even though the Islanders’ glory years were past them, LaFontaine continued to be a bright spot for a team on the decline. Still, the Islanders were not the dregs of the league.

They would make the playoffs in his first five seasons. Unfortunately, they never made it back to a Stanley Cup Final. Despite that, LaFontaine etched himself into Islanders lore with a famous overtime goal in the 1987 playoffs.

It was game seven between the Islanders and the Washington Capitals in the Patrick Division Semi-Final. After the teams ended regulation tied at two, the game headed to overtime. While there were no shortage of chances for both teams, the goalies were able to stand tall and keep the game tied. Then, in the fourth overtime period, LaFontaine scored the winner to eliminate the Capitals. The ‘Easter Epic‘ ended at 1:58 am and lasted six hours and 18 minutes.

LaFontaine developed into a premier goalscorer in the NHL. Between 1985-86 and 1992-93, he would score at least 30 goals in every season. He would top 40 goals for six straight seasons between 1987-88 to 1992-93. In his career, LaFontaine would play in 865 games, scoring 468 goals and 1013 points. LaFontaine was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.

Big Things Can Have Small Beginnings

This might be the one trade that captures how flippant some teams were towards the draft. A team like the Colorado Rockies, that only made one playoff appearance in their history (before their move to New Jersey), a team that never won more than 22 games or had over 57 points was willing to part with a first-round pick that was sure to be a high pick. LaFontaine was an elite player that was moved for a bottom pair defenceman and a career minor leaguer. That’s how little some teams cherished their first-round picks. It’s crazy to look at it with 2020 eyes, especially as the pendulum might have swung too far the other way on the value of draft picks.

LaFontaine was an incredible player that, unfortunately, had his career cut short by injuries. Still, he was an incredibly gifted offensive player and produced a lot when he was on the ice.

For the next installment, we jump a few years into the future to look at a trade that, for the first time, does not include any draft picks (!) but does include one of the greatest goalscorers of all time.

 

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