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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/pointnshoot

The Flames’ draft day trades that weren’t

Draft day is probably the most hectic day for an NHL GM. Yes, I’m including the trade deadline.

Instead of phone calls and war rooms, all 31 GMs and their staffs are occupying one floor, just a bit over the size of a regulation rink. That’s a lot of people, and a lot of whispers. Nothing can be done in secret. If anyone sees you walk up to anyone else, everyone knows what’s about to happen. There are no secrets on the NHL draft floor; all of your cards are visible.

Let’s flash back to last year. It was Treliving talking to Kekalainen, then Kekalainen talking to Chiarelli, then talking to Treliving again, then all three talking, then all three scatter, and then back together again, and then they scatter, wait 10 minutes, and they’re back together again, and then nothing happens. The juiciest drama was happening all in a 30-minute span. Oh, this was also in addition to rumours about Ben Bishop and Marc-Andre Fleury. Who knows how the timeline would be altered just a year after if any of these trades went down.

Thanks to newspaper archives and the internet, I tracked down some more potential trades while doing research for another history project (keep ya eyes peeled). Since 1989 (the furthest back we can go), here are some of the potential blockbusters that never were.

1991: Unnamed, elite player to the Philadelphia Flyers for sixth overall (Peter Forsberg)

Risebrough talked to Philadelphia Flyers about the sixth pick overall – with a view to drafting Sweden’s Peter Forsberg – but to move up 13 places in the first round would have cost the Flames a front-line player.

Eric Duhatschek, Calgary Herald. “Hockey: Notebook,” June 23rd, 1991

Now, it isn’t explicitly stated that the Flames were certainly going to draft Forsberg, just that they want the pick, but given that the Flames drafted fellow Swede Niklas Sundblad that year, it’s probably a good chance that they were interested in Forsberg. Considering he was one of the most hyped that draft, they would’ve been silly not to have been.

Back in 1991, the Flames’ brightest stars were Theo Fleury, Doug Gilmour, Al Macinnis, Gary Suter, Mike Vernon, and Joe Nieuwendyk. At least one of those guys has to go, and it was probably either Gilmour or Nieuwendyk, two imminent departures for Calgary. Given that Gilmour was just six months away from being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a big bag of sunflower seeds, it was probably Gilmour going first (besides, with Nieuwendyk going to Dallas for Jarome Iginla, why would you deny that from happening?).

So Gilmour for Forsberg, but wait, there’s another part to this. You may remember Forsberg never playing for the Flyers, which is due in part to him being traded to the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche as a part of the infamous Eric Lindros trade. Allegedly, Quebec was also shopping Lindros to the Flames. Does Forsberg mean the Flames get Lindros? That’s a whole ‘nother universe. Plus, I doubt the Flames had $15M USD hanging around to give to the Nordiques, so nope. Forever a Flame Peter Forsberg has a nice ring to it though.

1993: Joe Nieuwendyk to the St. Louis Blues for Nelson Emerson and Bob Bassen

All Calgary Flames attempts to trade Joe Nieuwendyk fell on deaf ears as well. The Blues were said to be offering Nelson Emerson and Bob Bassen in exchange for Nieuwendyk — not nearly enough to get a deal done.

Eric Duhatschek, Calgary Herald. “Plenty of trade chat, little action.” June 27th, 1993

Yeah this is a pretty bad trade. Good thing Doug Risebrough knew he was getting fleeced this time.

Emerson was a 70-point scorer, but quickly fell off the wagon in the next few years. Bassen was a decent pugilist who eventually made his way to the Flames in 1998, when he scored three points in 41 games.

And as we already mentioned, Nieuwendyk went for Jarome Iginla, who was much better than these jamokes.

1994: Mike Vernon to the Philadelphia Flyers for Rod Brind’Amour

When the Flyers asked about Vernon in the spring, the Flames’ asking price was high-scoring forward Rod Brind’Amour.

Eric Duhatschek, Calgary Herald. “Kidd and kids on the spot.” June 30th, 1994

Here’s a story you’ve never heard before: the ’90s Flames were so broke and so bad, that they fire sold everyone who won them a cup.

Mike Vernon was no exception, traded draft day 1994 for decent depth defenceman Steve Chiasson. But, as Duhatschek brings up, he nearly went to Philadelphia (Duha says “the spring,” but we’re counting it here because I couldn’t find an earlier reference) for then-24-year-old phenom Rod Brind’Amour.

And that would’ve been deadly. The Flames were probably busy that year scooping pucks out of Trevor Kidd’s net, but Brind’Amout could’ve put them in the other team’s net easily as quickly. Imagine him playing on the left side of Corey Stillman with Jarome Iginla. The Flames would have one good line instead of two-thirds of one.

Alas, it was a pipe dream. The Flames didn’t want to pay up for sixth overall in 1991, so the Flyers didn’t want to pay up for Vernon.

1996: 13th overall to the Phoenix Coyotes for Don Hay and 11th overall

So in the end, all the Don Hay negotiations and machinations may have cost the Calgary Flames a bluechip prospect in Saturday’s National Hockey League entry draft.

Remember how the Phoenix Coyotes were prepared to switch first-rounders for permission to sign Hay, the Flames assistant coach?

With Phoenix’s choice, 11th overall, the Flames could have selected Josh Holden, the Calgary-born centre, a player Flames scouting co-ordinator Tom Thompson previously described as the best forward in the draft.

Holden was rated fourth overall by Central Scouting.

However, because the Flames and Coyotes couldn’t work out a deal for Hay, Calgary held onto its own choice, 13th overall.

Holden went 12th to the Vancouver Canucks.

So instead of Holden, the Flames ended up with his Regina Pats’ teammate Derek Morris, rated 85 by Central Scouting.

Eric Duhatschek, Calgary Herald. “Big-time gamble: Flames could’ve had better” June 23rd, 1996

We finally have a trade where the Flames are better for not having done it.

Phoenix needed permission to sign Flames’ coach Don Hay, but, from what I can tell, the Flames gave it to them without getting this package. The Coyotes were willing to swap picks, 11th for 13th, for the honour. The team later just received a third round pick in compensation.

And, as the scout says, they would’ve selected Josh Holden, a promising local centre instead of Derek Morris, a guy who was not as well regarded (in lieu of posting the entire article, there’s quite a few good quotes from other GMs just ripping on the Flames).

Somehow, this worked in the Flames’ favour. The Coyotes drafted Don Fochts, who only played 82 games in the league. Holden lasted even less time, adding 14 points in 60 games. Morris came out as arguably the second best defenceman in that draft behind Zdeno Chara, lasting over 1100 games in the league.

For the record, we named Don Hay the second worst coach in Flames history last year.

1996: 13th and 39th overall to the Phoenix Coyotes for Don Hay and 11th and 24th overall

It’s curious how the Hay situation worked out. The Flames made two proposals to Phoenix, the first of which involved a double switch of draft choices, their 13th and 39th selections for the Coyotes’ 11th and 24th. Had Phoenix agreed, Calgary would have grabbed tiny scoring sensation Daniel Briere 24th overall.

Same article

Now this one is worth considering. So the Flames have Josh Holden (dud) and Daniel Briere, a useful, durable NHLer now. They probably still get Morris in the second round, anyways. From the wording of the article, it appears that Phoenix were the ones who rejected this package. I wouldn’t have paid that much for Don Hay either.

1997: Unknown to the San Jose Sharks for second overall (Patrick Marleau)

The Flames made a serious run at San Jose’s choice, second overall, with a view to drafting Patrick Marleau. Ironically, the Sharks weren’t especially high on Marleau until they started getting so many calls from teams, trying to trade for his rights.

Eric Duhatschek, Calgary Herald. “Page discussion options with Mighty Ducks: Calgary compensation could pose problem in talks with Anaheim. June 22nd, 1997

Mentioned just as a blurb, but the Flames were definitely calling San Jose for that second overall selection, according to the article. Who knows what could’ve gone back, but with the implied stiff competition, it probably had to be a lot. Their sixth overall pick plus maybe Theo Fleury? The heart of the Flames was in a constant state of contract negotiations with the Flames later in his tenure with the team. Perhaps he would’ve been a fine addition to the Sharks. Patrick Marleau would also have worked well here. I’d love to hear more details.

1998: Sixth overall + other picks to the Nashville Predators for third overall (Brad Stuart)

Minutes before Saturday’s National Hockey League entry draft was to begin, the Calgary Flames were poised to move up three places in the draft order to snag Regina Pats defenceman Brad Stuart.

Then, just before the deal was to be announced, it collapsed.

In what could have been the most intriguing development of an otherwise ho-hum draft, Flames general manager Al Coates had convinced his Nashville Predators counterpart David Poile to swap picks with him — sixth overall for No. 3.

In exchange, the Flames would surrender extra picks later in the draft.

Wisely, however, the Predators attached one condition to the deal — they would only do it if Poile himself couldn’t move up to the second spot overall and select the player he coveted, Plymouth centre David Legwand.

That, unfortunately, is exactly what happened.

Eric Duhatschek, Calgary Herald. “Flames deal to nab Stuart collapsed: Flames had eyes on Regina defenceman.” June 29th, 1998

In case you didn’t follow that: the Flames were going to swap picks with the Preds so they could trade up and grab Brad Stuart. However, this was based on the contingency that David Legwand would be selected by the Sharks. However, the Sharks were interested in Stuart, and instead swapped spots with the Preds. Preds are happy, Sharks are happy, Calgary picks Rico Fata. Not great.

1999: 11th overall to the New York Islanders for Brad Isbister

NHL sources confirmed that the Flames were close to trading their first choice, 11th overall, to the New York Islanders for Brad Isbister, but elected to back off when Saprykin was available at that spot. The Flames plan to make another pitch for Isbister later in the summer.

Eric Duhatschek, Calgary Herald. “NHL draft lives up to hype.” June 28th, 1999

When I looked up who Isbister was, I immediately got confused. In 1998-99, he scored eight points in 32 NHL games. Even more confusing, the Islanders had only just acquired him as a throw-in piece in a Robert Reichel trade. I’m guessing his Calgarian blood made him worth a first. Somehow, Calgary stuck with Oleg Saprykin and won.

2001: Derek Morris to the Buffalo Sabres, Michael Peca to the Detroit Red Wings, Chris Osgood to the Flames

Saturday’s early-morning rumpus had the Flames embroiled in a three-way blockbuster deal — basically, defenceman Derek Morris to Buffalo, centre Mike Peca to Detroit, netminder Chris Osgood to Calgary.

It hasn’t happened — yet.

Scott Cruickshank, Calgary Herald. “Rangers select goalie Blackburn.” June 24th, 2001

Here’s another familiar story: the Flames had bad goaltending and no solution was working. After trying out Fred Brathwaite, Grant Fuhr, Mike Vernon, and J.S. Giguere, they needed a new face.

Detroit needed a new centre, but had an extra goalie. Buffalo needed a new defenceman, and had an extra centre. All three met, and we have our first three-way trade on this list. An agreement was tentatively in place, until:

“I know Calgary got sick and tired of the Sabres,” said Peca. “A lot of the general managers are feeling that way now.”

And this mega blockbuster didn’t go down. The Flames are arguably, uh, better for it. Osgood, who went to the Islanders via waivers, stunk it up. The Flames held onto Morris for two more years, trading him for Chris Drury and Stephane Yelle.

2003: Bob Boughner to the Florida Panthers for (maybe) Ivan Novoseltsev

The Calgary Flames continue to aggressively shop Bob Boughner.

In fact, only a last-minute snag prevented the rugged defenceman from becoming a member of the Florida Panthers.

The sticking point? The Panthers probably wanted to unload enigmatic Ivan Novoseltsev, a talented but underachieving right-winger who collected 27 points last season. He’s 24 years old and cheap, but the Flames declined . . . for now.

Scott Cruickshank, Calgary Herald “Boughner almost an ex-Flame.” June 23rd, 2003

As we get closer to the present day, we find more GMs going mute over potential blockbusters, which is pretty boring. Just like this trade involving two guys who didn’t survive in the NHL after the lockout. If they didn’t make this trade, they wouldn’t have had the two picks acquired from the real world deal, which the Flames threw away on Kevin Lalande and Kristopher Hogg. I guess this is topical because the Boogieman just recently became the head coach of the Florida Panthers. Gotta get that SEO money.

2008: Dion Phaneuf to the Florida Panthers for Olli Jokinen

The Flames were also-rans in the Olli Jokinen Sweepstakes — the Florida centreman wound up with the Phoenix Coyotes instead — and Sutter says he doesn’t mind one bit.

“Jokinen’s price tag was way too high,” said Sutter. “We’re not putting Dion Phaneuf in a Jokinen trade, so it’s very simple. A little bit too high for a guy who hasn’t played a playoff game. Not interested in that.”

Jean Lefebvre, Calgary Herald. “Flames score on their forward strategy; Calgary picks centres, wingers with five of its seven selections.” June 22nd, 2008

Here’s an interesting one: we have two of the biggest whipping boys in recent Flames history, nearly exchanged for one another.

I don’t know if the initial reaction would be better or worse than when the Flames traded Phaneuf for Matt Stajan. In 2008, Phaneuf was starting to show cracks, but was still a key piece of the Flames. Jokinen, later bemoaned for his lacklustre performances, may have been the star player the Coyotes acquired in real life. For the Flames, he may have started a riot in Calgary. It’s certainly an out-there proposal in which no one wins.

Darryl was lying though: he did later trade for Jokinen – 10 months later. Still with no playoff experience, Jokinen headed west for Matthew Lombardi, Brandon Prust, and the 2009 first (Brandon Gormley). I guess that is slightly cheaper than Phaneuf?


And on that odd note, we leave you. If you ever heard any wild (hopefully verifiable) draft day trade rumours, leave ’em below in the comments section.

  • Isbister was a PPG player at the WJC the year before and helped Canada win a gold medal. Had a goal in the medal game. He also went to a school that also had relatives of Murray Edwards and other owners. That’s probably a better explanation.

    It’s okay, we got his classmate Krys Kolanos.

    Love lists like this. Usually more fascinating to see what didn’t happen.

  • Lucky 13

    I read an article way back involving GM Cliff Fletcher, who was then GM of Atlanta Flames tried to get Lanny McDonald from the Leafs from GM Jim Gregory. I believe it was 1977?

    Jim Gregory almost made the deal, however decided to sit on the decision for a few days.

    As we know Cliff Fletcher ( the fox that he was) eventually got McDonald from the Colorado Rockies (1982) and Lannys second season ( now Flames) he scores 66 goals.

    I always liked Fletcher, he was a mover and shaker and shrewd.

    He had some bad trades as well, ( Hull) ( Steen) however he set the Flames up for success in his tenure with Calgary. He did after all get us a Cup!

  • Greg

    The pluses and minuses in this list probably even out. But it’d be super interesting to get a glimpse of the alternate universe where Niewendyk gets traded for Forsberg instead of Iginla.