Not only can we put an end to the “Is Eric Lindros A Hall of Famer?” argument, we can also close the book on the blockbuster trade that sent him from the Quebec Nordiques to the Philadelphia Flyers before his career even began.
After being passed over six times, Eric Lindros, who scored 372 goals and 493 assists over 760 NHL games, was finally inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame this week. Interestingly enough, on the day he was inducted, the Colorado Avalanche also didn’t offer defenceman Brandon Gormley a qualifying offer, making him a free agent, and officially putting to bed a string of players acquired by the Avs that began when the franchise, back when they were still in Quebec City, drafted Lindros first overall in 1991.
Prior to his draft year, Lindros was one of the most hyped prospects that hockey had ever seen. His combination of skill, skating ability, and, of course, size and strength made him an incredibly unique talent, enough so that he was donned “The Next One” who would take over the reins as the league’s best from “The Great One,” Wayne Gretzky.
The Quebec Nordiques, after finishing the 1990-91 season with a horrific 16-50-14 record, landed the first overall pick in Lindros’ draft year. It was the third time in a row the Nordiques were slotted to select first overall, as they had drafted Mats Sundin and Owen Nolan in the previous two years as prizes for their trouble. Despite the prospect of joining an incredibly talented young group, Lindros openly claimed before the draft that he absolutely wouldn’t play for the Nordiques, suggesting a language barrier and poor marketability as reasons for being repelled by Quebec.
Regardless, the Nordiques drafted him first overall anyway, and Lindros refused to sign, instead spending the 1991-92 season back with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL and the Canadian National Team, earning a Silver Medal at the Albertville Olympics. After a year of holding out, the Nordiques fielded multiple trade offers for the franchise prospect, and ultimately chose to send him to the Philadelphia Flyers for a massive package that would effectively alter the franchise for over a decade.
The trade was: Eric Lindros for Peter Forsberg, Steve Duchesne, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci, Ron Hextall, Philadelphia’s first choice in the 1993 Entry Draft (Jocelyn Thibault), $15,000,000 and future considerations, which ended up being Chris Simon and Philadelphia’s first choice in the 1994 Entry Draft (Nolan Baumgartner).
The Nordiques went on to make the playoffs in the following season, but the franchise ended up moving to Denver after three more seasons in Quebec, where they won the Stanley Cup in their inaugural season as the Avalanche with some of the players from the Lindros deal playing key roles.
This one ends pretty quickly, as Huffman played a few forgettable seasons with Quebec before being claimed off of waiver by the Ottawa Senators in 1994.
Like Huffman, Forsberg’s role in the trade chain is short, but it certainly wasn’t forgettable. Forsberg played one season in Quebec and nine in Colorado, putting up 217 goals and 538 assists over 591 games, and winning two Stanley Cups and a Hart Trophy in 2002-03. Looking back at their careers in complete hindsight, you honestly could have dealt Forsberg for Lindros one-for-one and called it a pretty fair swap.
He ended up leaving Colorado after the NHL lockout in 2005 to sign the Flyers, the team who drafted him sixth overall in 1991, as the Avs couldn’t fit him and all of their other star players under the newly implemented salary cap. That said, he did end up coming back to Colorado for two games over the 2010-11 season, but Forsberg’s part of the trade chain begins and ends with him.
Simon played two seasons with Quebec and one with Colorado before being traded to the Washington Capitals along with Curtis Leschyshyn for Keith Jones and a first and fourth round pick in the 1998 draft, which were used on Scott Parker and Krys Barch.
Barch never played for the Avs, so his part of the chain ends there. Jones played a few seasons with Colorado before being dealt to Philadelphia for Shjon Podein, who was dealt to St. Louis four years later for Mike Keane. Parker played three seasons with the Avs, but was traded to San Jose in 2003 for a fifth round pick that became Brad Richardson, who, in 2008, was dealt to Los Angeles for a second round pick, which became Peter Delmas who never played in the NHL.
Chris Simon’s role in the deal was relatively minor. Though he did play a role with the team that won the Stanley Cup in 1996, all of the players who joined the team through his trade chains weren’t really consequential save for playing depth roles over a few seasons.
The idea of Hextall playing for anybody other than the Philadelphia Flyers is very odd to me. Apparently he said he was going to refuse to report to the Nordiques, but ultimately complied. He only ended up playing a season in Quebec before being dealt to the Islanders, where he, again, spent one season before returning to Philadelphia in another trade.
For Hextall, the Nordiques got Mark Fitzpatrick and a fist round pick in 1993, which was used on Adam Deadmarsh. Deadmarsh himself played a key role on the Avs cup winning team in 1996 and had a solid career in Colorado, but who they ultimately traded him for is even more significant, as in 2001, he was moved to Los Angeles for Rob Blake and Steven Reinprecht. Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, was claimed in the expansion draft by the Florida Panthers.
Blake, as we know, was an excellent player for the Avs, helping the Colorado win the Stanley Cup in 2001, and anchoring the team’s blue line for the first half of the 2000s. He ended up leaving the team late in his career as a free agent to join the Kings again, ending his part of the trade chain. Reinprecht also played a role on the 2001 Cup team as a checker, and was dealt to the Buffalo Sabres in 2003 for Keith Ballard, who never played a game for the team, but was used in a deal with the Coyotes for Ossi Vaananen, Chris Gratton, and a second round pick that was used on Paul Stastny.
Neither Vaananen or Gratton accomplished much with the Avs, but that deal was salvaged by the draft of Stastny, who was one of Colorado’s best forwards for nearly a decade before signing with the St. Louis Blues as a free agent in 2014.
Hextall’s role in the trade chain is massive for the success of the Avalanche, as they were able to acquire a good forward for their first Cup win, and consequently, a top defender for their second one. And just to add good measure, they also ended up with Stastny, who like I said, was one of their best players for years.
Buckle up. This is where it start to get pretty heavy.
Duchesne only played one season with the Nordiques before getting moved to St. Louis for Bob Bassen, Garth Butcher, and Ron Sutter, all of whom would also only play one season in Quebec.
Bassen was pretty irrelevant here, as he only played a season for Quebec before signing with Dallas as a free agent. Butcher was part of a trade along with Mats Sundin, Todd Warriner, and the previously acquired 1994 Flyers first round pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Wendel Clark, Sylvain Lefebvre, Landon Wilson, and Toronto’s first round pick in 1994, which was used on Jeffrey Kealty. And finally, Sutter was moved with a first round pick to the Islanders for Uwe Krupp and a first round pick that was used on Wade Belak. Ironically, that pick the Islanders sent to New York in the Sutter deal became Eric’s younger brother, Brett.
So let’s take a second to regroup here. The Nordiques dealt Garth Butcher and Ron Sutter, along with others, in two separate deals, and got back Wendel Clark, Sylvain Lefebvre, Landon Wilson, Jeffrey Kealty, Uwe Krupp, and Wade Belak.
Clarke never himself played much of a role with the franchise, but he was traded straight up for Claude Lemieux a year later. Lemieux, as we know, played a key role on Colorado’s 1996 Cup team. In 1999, Lemieux was moved to New Jersey for Brian Rolston and Martin Samuelsson, who were later sent in a package to the Boston Bruins for Dave Andreychuk and Ray Bourque. Andreychuk left the Avs to sign as a free agent with the Buffalo Sabres, but Bourque played a key role on Colorado’s Cup winning team in 2001 before retiring.
Kealty, the first round pick, never played a game in the NHL, but is currently the Nashville Predators’ Chief Amateur Scout. Lefebvre had a decent career with the Avs, as he won the Cup with them in 1996, and also ended up with as assistant coaching role with the team between 2009 and 2012. But he left the Avs a free agent in 2000 to sign with the Coyotes, this ending his role in the chain. Wilson briefly played for Colorado, but was traded in 1996 to the Bruins for a 1998 first round pick that was used on Robyn Regehr.
Regehr didn’t play at all for Colorado, but he was traded along with Wade Belak, who was acquired in the Sutter trade a few years earlier, to Calgary for Theo Fleury and Chris Dingman. Dingman won with the Avs in 2001, but was dealt that offseason to Carolina for a fifth round pick that ended up being Mikko Viitanen, who never played in the NHL. Fleury never found himself in Colorado, only playing 15 games with the Avs before signing with the Rangers as a free agent in 1999. And finally, Krupp played a few seasons with Quebec and Colorado, and was a part of the 1996 Cup team, but eventually left the team to sign with Detroit as a free agent.
Getting Wendel Clark was the major part of this whole chain, but to even call that an effect of the Lindros trade might be a bit of a stretch, as that deal was pretty clearly built around Mats Sundin, not Garth Butcher. Regardless, that train ultimately led to the Avs acquiring Claude Lemieux, who was key to the team’s Cup in 1996, and then Ray Bourque, who, again, was key to their win in 2001. Honestly, this part of the chain has a whole bunch of really awful asset management, but that’s okay, because it loosely resulted in two championships, and it was made up for in other moves.
The first round pick in 1993 that the Flyers dealt to the Nordiques in the Lindros trade ended up being used on Jocelyn Thibault, who was selected tenth overall. He played parts of three seasons in Quebec before being packaged along with Martin Rucinsky and Andrei Kovalenko in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens for Patrick Roy and Mike Keane.
Keane ended up signing with the Rangers as a free agent, and was dealt back to Colorado in a deal I mentioned earlier, but none of that really matter, because the focus of this deal is all-time great goaltender Patrick Roy. Roy, who had already carved out an excellent career with the Montreal Canadiens, improved upon his legacy as one of the best ever to play the game by winning two Stanley Cups with Colorado.
I saved this one for last because it holds the final connection to the original deal.
Ricci played six seasons with the Nordiques and Avalanche before being dealt to San Jose for Shean Donovan and a first round pick in the 1998 draft that Colorado used on Alex Tanguay.
Donovan was dealt two years later to Atlanta for Rick Tabracci, who was ultimately selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the expansion draft.
After a solid seven-year career with the Avs, Tanguay was dealt to the Calgary Flames in the 2006 offseason for Jordan Leopold and two draft picks, which were used on Codey Burki and Trevor Cann, both of whom never played for Colorado. Leopold played three seasons with Colorado before being sent back to the Flames in a deal for Lawrence Nycholat, Ryan Wilson, and a second round pick that was used on Stefan Elliott.
Both Nycholat and Wilson appeared for the Avs, but are no longer in the NHL, so the trade chain ends with them. Elliott was traded right before the 2015-16 season began to Arizona for the Brandon Gormley, who, as I mentioned earlier, has since been released from the organization a as free agent.
Gormley, while his stint in Colorado wasn’t memorable at all, represents the very end of the Eric Lindros trade for the organization. And now that his free agency has been granted, we can finally close the book on this massive, blockbuster trade made all the way back in 1992.
While it isn’t really possible to talk in absolutes, because anything can happen, there’s no doubt that the Eric Lindros trade set up the Colorado Avalanche for years and years of success, and is directly responsible for two different Stanley Cup Championships. Peter Forsberg, as I said, isn’t a bad return for Lindros straight up, but the Avs also managed to acquire the likes of Patrick Roy, Adam Deadmarsh, Claude Lemieux, Rob Blake, and Ray Bourque, who all played major roles on the winning teams.
I mean, sure, the Nordiques were headed in a nice direction with Mats Sundin, Owen Nolan, and Joe Sakic, but it’s hard to imagine them having the deep and dominant roster that they did for years without making the Lindros trade with Philadelphia.
It’s hard to say whether the Flyers, in hindsight, would make the move again, but they did get themselves the dominant power forward they were hoping for, although his impact was cut short due to injuries. Unfortunately, though, the Quebec Nordiques were the ones who ultimately lost this trade, as the team moved to Colorado before the group that they had assembled could really catch its stride.
So not only did Quebec miss out on the most exciting prospect to hit the league in years, they also didn’t get the reap the rewards of many, many years of losing, and the subsequent holdout that Lindros put them through as the newly minted Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in their first year after leaving Quebec.
Anyways, Eric Lindros is in the Hall of Fame, and the trade chain that left tremors around the league for years after it happened should be too.