Trade Chains – Craig Simpson’s Legacy In Pittsburgh

Updated: January 10, 2018 at 7:10 pm by Derek Zona

Alexei Kovalev
…begat Kovalev who begat…
Photo by Michael Miller, via Wikimedia Commons


This is the first installment of Trade Chains, a series which will take look at the legacy of trades throughout NHL history, but unlike Matthew 1:2, we’ll spare you the begat. This is a numbers site, so we’ll go with charts instead.

In 1984-85, the Pittsburgh Penguins were made up of Mario Lemieux and a series of players Mario Lemieux used as bumpers to deflect shots into the net.  While Lemieux’s rookie season was brilliant, it wasn’t nearly enough to get the Pens out of the Patrick Division basement.  They were the second-worst team in the league, and unlike the previous year, they didn’t purposefully tank to get there. 

The Penguins had the second overall pick in the 1985 draft and while they wanted the top-ranked player and ideal #2 center Craig Simpson, an 18-year old with two seasons of NCAA hockey under his belt, the Toronto Maple Leafs held the top pick.  With the Leafs intent on taking Simpson, the Pens were likely to get a defenseman, either 2nd-ranked Dana Murzyn or 3rd-ranked Wendel Clark.  But as luck would have it, Maple Leafs General Manager Gerry McNamara alienated Simpson’s parents, leading Simpson to tell the Leafs to look elsewhere at #1.  When the Leafs went for the truculent Clark, the Pens leapt at the chance to take Simpson, or as Pens’ GM Eddie Johnston called him, the “impressive kid.

But Simpson wasn’t the NHL scorer he was projected to be as he scored just 105 points in his first 169 games, leading the Penguins to trade him to him on November 24th 1987, along with Dave Hannan, Moe Mantha and Chris Joseph to Edmonton for all-world defenseman Paul Coffey and Dave Hunter.  That trade would spawn eleven more trades and that trade lives on in Pittsburgh today.

Craig Simpson's Trade Chain
Somewhere in this chart is the answer.  Click the picture for a larger chart.


The Coffey trade was just the beginning of Simpson’s legacy. Five years later, on February 19, 1992, the Penguins traded Paul Coffey and Mark Recchi to Philadelphia and Los Angeles for Rick Tocchet, Kjell Samuelsson, Ken Wregget, Jeff Chychrun and a 3rd round pick in the 1993 NHL draft.  The draft pick became left wing Dave Roche.

July 29th, 1994 – Rick Tocchet, along with a 2nd round draft choice, was traded to Los Angeles for Luc Robitaille.

August 31st, 1995 – In a salary dump, the Pens traded Luc Robitaille and Ulf Samuelsson to the New York Rangers for Sergei Zubov and Petr Nedved.

June 22nd, 1996 – After an ongoing spat with Mario Lemieux over control of the Pens’ power play, the Pens traded Sergei Zubov to the Dallas Stars for Kevin Hatcher.

June 17th, 1998 – Ken Wregget was traded to Calgary for German Titov and Todd Hlushko, marking the last of the players involved in the Coffey trade to leave Pittsburgh.

November 25th, 1998 – Traded Petr Nedved, along with Sean Pronger and Chris Tamer to the New York Rangers for Alexei Kovalev and Harry York.

September 30, 1999 – Traded Kevin Hatcher to the New York Rangers for Peter Popovic, turning an all-world defenseman (Zubov) into … Peter Popovic.

March 14th, 2000 – Traded German Titov to Edmonton in exchange for Josef Beranek.

February 10th, 2003 – In yet another salary dump, Craig Patrick traded Alexei Kovalev, along with Dan LaCouture, Janne Laukkanen and Mike Wilson to the New York Rangers for Mikael Samuelsson, Rico Fata, Joel Bouchard and Richard Lintner.

June 21st, 2003 – Traded Mikael Samuelsson, along with their 1st round pick in 2003 and 2nd round pick in 2003 to Florida for the Panthers 1st round pick, the first overall in 2003 and the Panthers 3rd round pick in 2003.  The Pens drafted Marc-Andre Fleury with the 1st overall pick and Daniel Carcillo with the 3rd round pick.

February 27th, 2007 – Traded Daniel Carcillo to the Phoenix Coyotes for Georges Laraque

So to recap, at different times in his career, Craig Simpson became Paul Coffey, Rick Tocchet, Luc Robitaille, Petr Nedved and Sergei Zubov, and Alexei Kovalev.  There was far more value in Simpson the trade asset than Simpson the player.

25 years after he was first traded, Simpson is still connected to the Penguins’ franchise.  At the moment, Simpson’s legacy  is Marc-Andre Fleury, but should the Pens find a taker on Fleury’s burdensome deal, they can extend Simpson’s trade chain and find value in the asset once again.