Kicking off Random Trade Week with the anniversary of the Alexandre Daigle trade

It’s been 24 years since the Lightning pulled off a bit of a stunner (not that it helped at the time).

Twenty-four years ago today, the Tampa Bay Lightning had just finished celebrating one of the few happy times of the 1998-99 NHL season. They had successfully hosted the NHL All-Star Game - a sort of league-wide farewell for Wayne Gretzky who won the MVP award and would retire at the end of the season. One other thing happened that month, on this very day in fact:

During the All-Star festivities a storyline was floating around the league. Disgruntled Philadelphia Flyers forward Alexandre Daigle, once considered a can’t-miss-prospect, was on the trading block just a year after the Flyers had acquired him. Daigle had been drafted first overall by the Ottawa Senators in 1993 (Hartford took Chris Pronger with the second pick, and the Lightning took Chris Gratton with the third pick) which makes Daigle’s infamous statement following the draft, “I’m glad I got drafted first, because no one remembers number two,” all the more hilarious.

That’s not to say Daigle wasn’t worth the hype. In his draft year the right-wing put up 137 points (45 goals, 92 assists) in 53 games with the Victoriaville Tigers of the QMJHL. It wasn’t a fluke as he had put up 110 points (35 goals, 75 assists) in 66 games the previous season. As an 18-year-old in the NHL he had a strong rookie season posting a 51 point (20 goal, 31 assist) season for the Senators teaming up with Alexei Yashin to give hope to Sens fans in a season where Ottawa finished 14-61—9.

Despite the strong start, there was a sense there was already a sense that he might not live up to the hype, or his record-setting rookie contract of $12.25 million over five years. The 1994-95 work stoppage saw him start the season back in Victoriaville where he put up 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in 18 games before putting up 37 more points for the Senators in 47 games after the season resumed.

Despite the offensive production for a team that desperately needed it, a lack of attention to defense was a detriment to his development. Plus/Minus is a flawed stat, but a -137 in 301 career games with the Senators is impressive. Rumors that he enjoyed the nightlife a little too much also started to surface. Ottawa finally decided to part ways with him as they traded him to Philadelphia on January 17th, 1998 for a 2nd round pick, Pat Falloon, and old friend Vinny Prospal.

It took less than a year for things to not go well in Philadelphia. In 26 games he did put up a respectable 26 points (9 goals, 17 assists) and was a reasonable -1 to finish out the 1997-98 season. The next season was a disaster as he only scored 3 goals in 31 games for the Flyers. The relationship soured to the point that Daigle was all but banished from the team as general manager Bob Clarke tried to work out a deal. It looked like he had an agreement to send him to Edmonton for Andrei Kovalenko, but Daigle apparently refused because he didn’t want to sign an extension with the Oilers that was part of the deal.

Enter the Tampa Bay Lightning. After an extensive look into his background, general manager Jacques Demers decided the juice was worth the squeeze and offered to become a third-party to help facilitate the deal telling The Tampa Tribune^,

“We spoke with 11 different people associated with Alexandre Daigle and we found that there are some tremendous pluses to having him. There are also some negatives, but from listening to the people we’ve talked to, there are more pluses than negatives”.

The final deal ended up as two transactions. First was the original trade - Daigle to Edmonton for Kovalenko. The Oilers then sent Daigle to Tampa for Alex Selivanov, a player that the organization thought had plateaued a bit and the condition that Daigle would “consider” signing an extension with the Lightning.

Even on the way out the door, Clark couldn’t help but throw a few shots at the 24-year-old referring to him as acting like a “spoiled kid who doesn’t get his own way”, and:

“He would have fit in [in Edmonton], and there would have been a lot of attention on him. With Tampa, he’s liable to just go down there and have fun, like he did here...for a young player to try and select the team he wants to play for, to say he’d rather sit on his rear end for four months than go and play, and we’d still have to pay him..,it’s kind of foolish.” ^^

Play he did, averaging about 13:59 of ice which was almost double of what he was playing in Philly, score he did not. In 32 games he scored 6 goals and added 6 assists. In his first 9 games with the Lightning, in which they went 1-7-1, he had 2 assists.

The summer saw a lot of changes for the Lightning. Rick Dudley had taken over the general manager’s reins from Demers and Steve Ludzik was behind the bench. Daigle had a chance to make a fresh start, but failed to win a spot on the team. He was exposed in the expansion draft for the Atlanta Thrashers and not taken. Then he was exposed on the waiver draft with no one willing to pick up the contract. After he cleared that, the Lightning assigned him to the Detroit Vipers in the IHL. He never reported as Tampa Bay was able to work out a deal with the New York Rangers for future considerations (cash).

In 58 games with the Rangers he put up 26 points (8 goals, 18 assists). After that he didn’t appear in the league again until the 2002-03 season where he played briefly for the Penguins. He had a bit of a comeback the next season with the Minnesota Wild with 51 points in 78 goals, including the third 20-goal season of his career. After another season with the Wild he would play four seasons in Europe.

Over a 10-year career in the NHL he played for six teams and put up 129 goals with 198 assists for 327 points in 616 games. Again, plus/minus isn’t great, but a career -137 is simply staggering. Still, averaging over a 12 point a game through a long career isn’t horrible and it’s slightly unfair that he’s considered a bust.

^ “Lightning take another chance, get Daigle for Selivanov” by Roy Cummings, Tampa Tribune, January 30th, 1999, retrieved via on January 29th, 2023

^^ “Daigle goes to Tampa in trade” by Les Bowen, The Philadelphia Daily News, January 30th, 1999, retrieved via on January 29th, 2023