NHL Draft Stories: Odds and Ends

The NHL Draft is a few weeks away. The draft always provides plenty of drama and intrigue amongst fans and media. This has been true since its inception. While people tend to get excited about trades and prospects, there are other moments that leave people scratching their heads. Recently we looked at the biggest draft-day trade (and drama) when Eric Lindros was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers. That is a trade that will be talked about long for as long as there is an NHL draft. Not all big trades seem big at the time. For the final edition, we are going to look back at some seemingly small and forgotten draft moves that reverberated through the NHL for years to come.

Odds and Ends

1990 NHL Draft – Flames Trade Up for the Wrong Kidd

The Calgary Flames were coming off a disappointing season. They were the defending Stanley Cup champions and finished second overall in the NHL. So what made this season disappointing? A first-round loss to the Los Angeles Kings. Flames management fired head coach Terry Crisp despite a 144-63-33 record with two Presidents Trophies and a Stanley Cup (won in 1989). Entering the draft in 1990, the Flames had their eye on the top goaltending prospect. Due to their record, however, the Flames were picking second from last in the first round. If they wanted their target, they were going to have to move up. Move up they did trading the 20th, 24th and 29th overall picks (first and two seconds) for the 11th and 32nd (first and second). The Flames made their pick, Trevor Kidd.

Kidd was considered the top goalie prospect in the draft so moving up to get him made some sense, then. Even though the Flames still had Mike Vernon between the pipes, they were looking to solidify their long-term prospects in net. The interesting part of this deal is the Flames’ trading partner. The team the Flames traded with was the New Jersey Devils. They were also interested in drafting a goalie. The Devils kept their nerve and waited until their pick at 20 to select, Martin Brodeur. It was a trade that altered the course of these two franchises.
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Kidd had a solid if an unspectacular career as a backup. Brodeur on the other hand developed into one of the greatest goalies of all time. He won three Stanley Cups, four Vezina Trophies, five Jennings Trophies and the 1994 Calder Trophy.

1998 Draft – Does Anyone Want to Pick First Overall?

It is important to note that teams didn’t necessarily value draft picks like they do today. Just keep that in mind when reading this.

In 1998 the consensus first overall pick was Vincent Lecavalier. He was a highly-touted prospect. Not quite a generational talent but a very good prospect you could build a winner around. In the end, the Tampa Bay Lightning end up picking Lcavalier first overall, but how we get there is interesting. It all starts with Viktor Kozlov.

The San Jose Sharks had drafted Viktor Kozlov in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. The Sharks had big expectations for the Russian center. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out too well with the Sharks. In parts of four seasons, Kozlov only netted 69 points. The Sharks grew impatient and were looking to move on. So in November of 1997, the Sharks sent Kozlov and a fifth-round pick to the Florida Panthers for a 1998 first-round pick and Dave Lowry.

While this trade looks bad, remember that the Panthers had been to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final and made the playoffs in 1997 so they were not expected to finish last overall. Unfortunately for the Panthers a 13-game losing streak to end the season landed them in second to last place. They ended up with the first overall by virtue of winning a draft lottery. Unfortunately, that pick belonged to the Sharks now.

One More Twist

So the Sharks held the first overall pick, or so it seemed. Before the draft lottery determined the order of the draft, the Sharks, on their way to the postseason, made a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning in March 1998. San Jose sent Andrei Nazarov and a conditional pick to Tampa for Brian Marchement and David Shaw. The conditions to the draft pick sent in the trade gave Tampa Bay the right to swap picks with the Sharks. So once the Panthers pick owned by the Shark won the lottery, Tampa exercised the conditions and swapped picks. So Tampa was now picking first overall and selected Lecavalier.

The Sharks ended up moving back again, to the third overall pick where they selected defenceman Brad Stuart. After five seasons with the Sharks, Stuart was packaged with Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau and sent to Boston for Joe Thornton.

1993 Draft – Viktor Kozlov Origins

The San Jose Sharks were not great at managing their draft capital in the 90s. We just saw how they made a trade that cost them Vincent Lecavalier. Now let’s see how they traded out of picking a Hall of Famer.

The Whalers were looking to move up from their number six pick in the 1993 NHL Draft. They had their sights set on Peterborough Peetes defenceman Chris Pronger. The Sharks were willing to do some business as they were intrigued by Russian winger Viktor Kozlov. So the Whalers traded Sergei Makarov, the sixth overall pick, a second-round and a third-round pick to the Sharks for the second overall pick. Finally, to ensure Kozlov was available for the Sharks at number six, the Whalers sent a 1994 second-round pick to Florida to ensure the Panthers would not select Kozlov at fifth overall.

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So the Whalers got their guy in Pronger and the Sharks got their guy in Kozlov. While Kozlov has a respectable career he never hit the highs of Pronger. Pronger won a Hart Trophy, a Norris Trophy and a Stanley Cup and was one of the best defencemen of his generation. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.

1980 Draft – ’79 Reclaim Draft Fallout

When the Vegas Golden Knights entered the league they had a fantastic expansion draft. So good in fact they have made the Stanley Cup Final in their first year of existence. Part of the reason they were so good was they took advantage of desperate teams looking to make sure Vegas picked or did not pick specific players. This wasn’t the first time teams were taken advantage of in an expansion draft.

When the WHA merged with the NHL they held a reclaim draft of WHA players whose rights were held by NHL teams. The league only allowed the WHA teams to protect up to two goalies and two skaters. So if teams wanted to make sure a player was passed over, they would have to cut a deal. That is exactly what the Quebec Nordiques did with the Chicago Black Hawks.

Chicago owned the NHL rights to winger Real Cloutier and Quebec wanted to keep him. So they sent a 1980 first-round pick to Chicago to not take Cloutier. Unfortunately for Quebec, they ended up with the third overall pick, which now belonged to Chicago. The Black Hawks used the pick to select Denis Savard.

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In hindsight, this looks like a terrible decision for Quebec (and it was) but to be fair to them Cloutier was a star in the WHA and a local product, which matters in Quebec. While Cloutier did reasonably well in the NHL he retired after the 1985 season. Savard on the other hand ended up with a Hall of Fame career (2000). In 1,196 games, Savard scored 473 goals and 865 points for 1,338 points. He was a four-time Hart Trophy nominee who probably would have won one or two if not for some guy named Gretzky. Savard was named one of the 100 greatest players in NHL history.