Finding the right rental player
Sometimes, the right rental player can make all the difference.
CHICAGO, IL -- In light of the recent trades involving a couple
30-something defensemen with expiring contracts -- Hal Gill and Pavel
Kubina -- it's a good time for a reminder of what can be the ultimate
result of "renting" a defenseman.
Throughout the last 30 years, teams have moved aging players in an
effort to add anything possible to the organization the veteran is
leaving before retirement hits. Sometimes teams hit the jackpot, other
times the deal amounts to as much as a wet bottle rocket.
But in the last 15 years, two teams paid a premium for a perceived
"rental" and hit a home run.
At the end of March of 1999, the Red Wings needed help on their blue
line. So they made an offer that, today, would appear to be overpaying
to the point of generating laughter. In exchange for a 37-year-old
whose production indicated the end of his career was imminent (42
points and minus-seven two years after 72 points and plus-25), the
Wings dealt away a 23-year-old former first round pick and two
additional first round selections in subsequent drafts.
In what became a stunning, Benedict Arnold-caliber turn of event,
Chicago native and Blackhawks captain Chris Chelios did what he had
told everyone with a microphone he would never do: he accepted a trade
Obviously, the rest is history in Detroit. Chelios played in 10 more
seasons with Detroit and won a couple Stanley Cups there, each time
bringing the Cup back to his home town to dour salt in an awful wound.
He didn't get back to scoring 70 points again (Chelios never reached
40 with the Wings), but he did play in the post-season every year he
wore the winged wheel sweater.
The pieces Chicago received for Chelios?
The 23-year-old was a defenseman named Anders Eriksson, who went on to
play in 97 games for the Hawks before he was dealt to Florida during
the 2000-01 season for Jaroslav Spacek. He scored five goals and added
36 assists in those 97 games; of course, those 41 points are over
parts of three seasons is less than Chelios had in his final full
campaign in Chicago.
The first round pick in 1999 became defenseman Steve McCarthy, who
played in 134 games over parts of five seasons for the Hawks before
the lockout. In those 134 games, he scored three goals and added 13
assists. The 2001 first round pick was used on goalie Adam Munro, who
appeared in 17 NHL games with Chicago. He had a less-than-spectacular
4-10-3 record in his NHL career.
Fast forward two seasons to another deadline, when another ageless
wonder was dealt to a contender. This time, two legendary names in the
game were moved in the same deal, one of whom was a 40-year-old
defenseman who just wanted one chance to win a ring.
Boston tried to jump-start a rebuild by trading two of their aging
stars, Dave Andreychuk and Ray Bourque, to the Colorado Avalanche for
three players and a first round pick.
For Brian Rolston, this deal marked the second time in five months
that he was changing addresses; he was traded to Colorado from New
Jersey in early November, and after 50 games was traded out of Denver
to Boston in the Bourque trade. He did hang around Boston for four
full seasons, however, and was a good player for the Bruins. He scored
96 goals and added 131 assists in 322 games with the Bruins before the
Sami Pahlsson finished the season in the Swedish Elite League and
began the 2000-01 season in Boston, only to be traded to Anaheim after
17 games for Andrei Nazarov and Patrick Traverse. Like Rolston,
Pahlsson is still in the NHL, though his contracts haven't made him as
memorable (or infamous) to fans of his respective teams.
Martin Grenier, the third player in the Bourque trade, was a second
round pick of the Avs in 1999 and wouldn't leave the QMJHL until a
year later. But when he finally did reach the NHL in the 2000-01
season, it was with the Phoenix Coyotes; in his career, Grenier scored
one goal in 18 NHL games.
The first round pick Boston received in the deal, which was originally
the Devils' selection (acquired with Rolston earlier in the 1999-2000
season) was used on Martin Samuelsson. He played 14 games for the
Bruins and had one assist, and has been playing in Sweden the last
To put this trade into perspective, Bourque was drafted three years
before Samuelsson was born, and Andreychuk only a few months after
Samuelsson joined the world. The two ancient warriors stepped into a
talented but aging Avalanche lineup and helped those Colorado teams
forge an incredible rivalry with Chelios' Red Wings for a couple
Of course, one of the most emotional moments in the last 30 years
happened when Joe Sakic handed the Stanley Cup to Bourque after his
final game in 2001 as a champion for the first time.
In both of these deals, we saw a team go for broke and throw away a
lot of value for old defensemen. For both teams, it worked out
incredibly well, and they realize their championship dreams.
The other end of the spectrum is the "value" the selling teams
received. With the exception of Rolston, there wasn't a player
involved in either trade that made an impact for the sellers moving
forward. Indeed, both of these deals are great reminders that draft
picks are only as good as the staff utilizing them to make selections.
In 1999, Chicago selected McCarthy at 23, just before Ottawa used the
26th overall pick on Martin Havlat. In 2000, the two picks immediately
following the Bruins' selection of Samuelsson were Justin Williams to
Philadelphia and Niklas Kronwall to Detroit. In 2001, when Chicago
selected Munro at 29, two of the following three picks were Dave
Steckel (30 to LA) and Derek Roy (32 to Buffalo).
So, as teams go shopping over the next few days, it's important to
remember that value is all relative and the right rental can make all