Phil Esposito is one of the greatest NHL players of all time, and his founding of the Tampa Bay Lightning is one of the best things to happen to the Tampa Bay area. He’s a hilarious individual, and his stories all tell a unique perspective of his life. However, his time as general manager brought more questions than answers. For example, "Why, on August 20th of 1997, did Phil Esposito trade away 4 first round picks?" I was baffled to see this while browsing for trades, and I dug more in depth to this strange trade.
The Trade: On August 20th, 1997, the Tampa Bay Lightning acquire D Karl Dykhuis and RW Mikael Renberg from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001 first round pick.
This trade looks crazy at first glance, garnering the same response from everyone that I’ve shown: WHAT ARE THEY THINKING!?!? Well, the Lightning were just returning the favor to the Flyers. These picks, which were originally Flyers property, landed in the laps of the Lightning and they decided to get some value for them.
First: For the Bolts:
Kyle Dykhuis scored 7 goals and 10 assists for 17 points in 111 total games with Tampa Bay before being traded back to the Flyers in exchange for Petr Svoboda. Svoboda scored 46 points (4 goals, 42 assists) in 123 games.
End of Dykhuis
Langkow was then traded to the Phoenix Coyotes for conditional draft picks. Those picks turned into a 2002 2nd and a 2003 1st. I’ll come back to the 2002 2nd, which actually overlaps in both parts of the trade. That 2003 pick became All-Star Jeff Carter. In 2011, Carter was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Jakub Voracek, a 2011 1st, and a 2011 3rd. The Flyers drafted Sean Couturier with that pick, and he’s transformed into a star. With the 3rd rounder, the Flyers selected Nick Cousins. Cousins, along with Merrick Madsen, was traded to the Arizona Coyotes for Brendan Warren and a 2018 5th.
Sillinger was dealt to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Dwayne Hay and Ryan Johnson. Hay would stay, while Johnson was dealt back to the Panthers, along with a 2003 6th round pick, in exchange for Vaclav (Vinny) Prospal. That draft pick would turn into Doug O’Brien, who was traded to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Joe Rullier. Rullier would only make it to the AHL.
Gratton, who was the 3rd overall pick in the 1993 NHL Draft for the Lightning, was sent to the Buffalo Sabres, along with a 2001 2nd, for Brian Holzinger, Wayne Primeau, Cory Sarich, and Alexander Kharitonov. Three years later, Holzinger was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Marc Bergevin (rhe current GM of the Montreal Canadiens). Bergevin was then moved to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a 2003 9th. With that pick, the Lightning drafted LW Albert Vishnyakov. Vishnyakov would remain in Russia for his career.
Wayne Primeau was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2001 for Matthew Barnaby. Barnaby would then be traded to the New York Rangers in exchange for Zdeno Ciger. Ciger would play 27 games with the Lightning, recording 12 points in 27 games before going to play with Bratislava Slovan, scoring at a point per game pace. Sarich scored 63 points in 328 games with the Lightning.
Kharitonov was traded to the New York Islanders, along with Adrian Aucoin, for Mathieu Biron and a 2002 2nd. We’ll come back to that 2002 2nd, as it affects both sides of the tree. Meanwhile, that 2001 2nd that was in the Gratton-to-Buffalo deal was used to select Derek Roy.
Roy would spend 8 years with the Sabres before being traded to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Steve Ott and Adam Pardy. Pardy would record 4 assists in 17 games, while Steve Ott was a part of an even larger trade. On February 28, 2014, Ott and Ryan Miller were traded to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for William Carrier, Chris Stewart, Jaroslav Halak, a 2015 1st and a 2016 3rd.
Here’s how they all fared:
Miller (STL): 10-8-1, .903 save % with STL
Carrier (BUF): 8 points in 41 games with Buffalo, claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft
Stewart (BUF): Traded to the Minnesota Wild for a 2017 2nd round pick. The pick became G Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, currently in the Mestis League.
Halak (BUF): Traded, with 2015 3rd, to the Washington Capitals for Michal Neuvirth and Rostislav Klesla. Klesla never played another NHL game, while Neuvirth was traded to the New York Islanders in exchange for Chad Johnson and a 2016 3rd. The 2016 3rd was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins as compensation for the Sabres hiring Dan Bylsma as their head coach.
2016 3rd (BUF): Traded to Florida, along with 2016 2nd and Mark Pysyk, in exchange for a 2016 2nd and Dmitri Kulikov. Buffalo’s acquired 2nd round pick became Rasmus Adplund, While the Florida 2nd acquired became LW Adam Mascherin (Drafted 1 spot ahead of Alex DeBrincat), and their 3rd became D Linus Nassen.
END OF TAMPA
So, those 4 first round picks. Who did the Philadelphia Flyers choose with those picks? In 1998, with the 22nd overall pick, the Philadelphia Flyers selected Simon Gagne. Gagne was an above-average player in his 11 years with the Flyers, even finishing in the top 5 in Calder voting in 1999-00. He finished 264 goals and 271 assists for 535 points in 691 games. He also scored this goal in game 6 in the 2004 Eastern Conference Final to force Game 7, which the Bolts would win.
Gagne would remain on the Flyers until July 19th of 2010, when he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Matt Walker and a 2011 4th round pick. Gagne was great for the Lightning in the 2011 season, scoring 17 goals and 23 assists for 40 points in just 63 games, and adding 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists) in 15 playoff games. Walker would only play 8 games for the Flyers over 2 seasons, recording no points in 8 games. In the American Hockey League, he registered 7 points (1 goal, 6 assists) in 44 games with the Adirondack Phantoms.
That 2011 4th round pick would turn into LW Marcel Noebels. Noebels would only get to the AHL in North America, but carved out a nice career with the Eisbåren Berlin in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga.
End of the 1998 1st
In 1999, with the Flyers selected G Maxime Ouellet. Ouellet would only play in 2 games for the Flyers before being traded, along with a 2002 1st, 2002 2nd, and 2002 3rd in exchange for Adam Oates of the Washington Capitals. Oates would score 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) in 14 games with the Flyers and added 2 assists in 5 playoff games for them. As for the 3rd round pick, the Capitals used it to draft F Derek Krestanovich. Krestanovich never made it past the ECHL.
The 1st rounder that Washington acquired was traded to the Dallas Stars, along with a 2002 2nd and a 2003 6th, in exchange for the 13th overall pick in the 2002 Draft. The Capitals selected Alexander Semin, while the Stars would select D Martin Vagner. Vagner never ended up playing in America, while Semin became a superstar, scoring 517 points (239 goals, 278 assists) in 650 games.
Dallas used the 2002 2nd round pick to draft F Marius Holtet. Holtet made it to the AHL and retired after 2013-14 after a stint in the Swedish Elite League. The 2003 6th would turn into LW Francis Wathier. Wathier would play 10 games over 4 seasons with the Stars, recording no points. Wathier currently plays for the Thetford Assurancia of the Ligue Nord-Américanine de Hockey (LNAH).
Back to the 2002 2nd from the trade before. This pick that the Capitals had was traded, along with Trevor Linden, to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a 2002 1st round pick and a 2003 3rd. Here’s who was drafted:
2002 1st (WSH): F Boyd Gordon (Attained 56 goals and 105 assists for 161 points in 706 games)
2002 2nd (VAN): D Denis Grot (Never made it to the NHL, drafted one spot behind Duncan Keith)
Grier was traded to the Sabres on March 9th, 2004, in exchange for Jakub Klepis. The 2003 3rd was kept, and Oilers drafted RW Zack Stortini. Stortini currently plays in the AHL with the Charlotte Checkers. The 2003 2nd that the Oilers acquired was traded to the New York Islanders, along with Janne Niinimaa, in exchange for Brad Isbister and Raffi Torres.
2003 2nd (NYI): C Yevgeni Tunik (Had 4 goals and 14 assists for 18 points in 61 games in his only season in the AHL)
Janne Niinimaa (NYI): Traded, along with 2007 5th, to Dallas Stars for John Erskine and 2006 2nd.
Brad Isbister (EDM): Traded to Boston Bruins for 2006 4th
Raffi Torres (EDM): Traded to Columbus Blue Jackets for Gilbert Brule
The 2006 4th round pick was then traded back to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Yan Stastny. Stastny was then traded to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Pierre-Cedric Labrie. Labrie is currently in the Nashville Predators organization with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL, recording 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists) in 50 games. Brule, acquired in the Torres trade, put up 49 points (26 goals, 23 assists) in 117 games.
Next, let’s look at the Niinimaa trade, with the other assets:
Erskine (NYI): 1 goal in 34 games with Islanders
2006 2nd (NYI): F Jesse Joensuu (8 goals and 7 assists for 15 points in 67 games)
End of the 1999 1st
Now we get to the 2000 1st round pick. The Flyers drafted Justin "Mr. Game 7" Williams. He was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Danil Markov. Williams would help the Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup in 2006, while Markov would score 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 points in only 34 games with the Flyers before leaving in free agency.
End of 2000 1st
Finally, the last part of the original trade is the 2001 1st. The Flyers traded the pick for three picks: a 2001 1st, a 2001 7th, and a 2002 2nd.
2001 7th (PHI): David Printz (0 points in 13 NHL games)
2002 2nd (PHI): Traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning, along with Ruslan Fedotenko 2002 2nd round pick #52, in exchange for a 2002 1st.
To quickly go over the Woywitka trade: the Oilers selected C Rob Schremp with the 1st round pick that they acquired. Schremp would only score 20 goals and 34 assists for 54 points in 114 NHL games and currently plays on Salzburg EC in Austria.
With the 3rd round pick that the Oilers acquired, they drafted D Danny Syvret. Syvret was then traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Ryan Potulny. Potulny put together 35 points (15 goals, 20 assists) in 72 games. Comrie would remain on the Flyers for 3 months, getting traded to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Sean Burke, the rights to Ben Eager, and the rights to Branko Radivojevic.
Burke and Radivojevic would stay with the Flyers, while Eager was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Jim Vandermeer. Vandermeer was then traded to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a 2009 3rd round pick. With that pick, the Flyers drafted goalie Adam Morrison. Morrison is currently playing in the ECHL with the Wheeling Nailers, with a record of 12-11-0 and a save percentage of .904.
As far as the 2002 2nd, the Tampa Bay Lightning dealt #34 to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Brad Lukowich and a 2003 7th. The Stars would draft G Tobias Stephan, who played a total of 11 NHL games and currently plays in the Swiss-A league with Zug EV.
The Bolts would choose LW Jay Rosehill with that pick, and Rosehill was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2010 for future considerations. The Brad Lukowich trade was a mess and a different beast of its own, that you can read here.
Ruslan Fedotenko was a decent player in his time with the Lightning, including scoring 2 goals in game 7 of the SCF to clinch the Cup for the Lightning. Pick #52 was traded to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2002 2nd and a 2002 5th. The Sharks would draft D Dan Spang, who was selected 2 spots ahead of Duncan Keith. The Lightning would select F Adam Henrich with the 2ndround pick that they acquired, and they would select D Gerad Dicaire with the 2002 5th.
Going over the Gleason trade: Gleason had 28 points in 125 games over 2 seasons with the Kings, while Smolinski had a crazy trade of his own. On July 9th of 2006, Smolinski was traded, along with Martin Havlat, to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Michal Barinka, Josh Hennessy, Tom Preissing, and a 2008 2nd.
Havlat would score 64 goals and 97 assists for 161 points in 172 games with the Blackhawks. Barinka would not play a game with the Senators and currently plays with Brno Kometa of the Czech League. Both Hennessy and Preissing were deadline swaps, and neither would make the most of their NHL opportunities. The 2008 2nd round pick was used to draft D Patrick Wiercioch.
End of Trade
Who do you think were the winners of the trade? What trade do you want me to analyze next? Leave your opinions below and please follow me @Tampa_baysports on Instagram for the latest news and scores of the Lightning, Bucs, and Rays. If you have any questions or suggestions about my next article, please feel free to email me at email@example.com