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February 22, 2012 | 11:58pm ET
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 to Detroit.

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 lockout.

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 three years.

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 years.

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 the difference.

Tab Bamford is a Columnist for TheFourthPeriod.com and the Chicago Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine.


 

 

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