The Roman Hamrlik Trade

In December of 1997, Edmonton Oilers general manager Glen Sather pulled the trigger on a big trade, acquiring defenceman Roman Hamrlik from the Tampa Bay Lightning. It’s the kind of deal that fans of the current edition of the team would surely welcome.

The Deal

  • Dec. 30, 1997: Oilers acquire D Roman Hamrlik and F Paul Comrie from the Lightning in exchange for F Jason Bonsignore, F Steve Kelly and D Bryan Marchment.

It had to hurt to send out the package that Sather moved. Marchment was a vicious physical defenceman playing 20 minutes per game for Edmonton—Robin Brownlee wrote about him here—and was his fourth season with the team.

The pain wasn’t confined to Marchment. Bonsignore was the No. 4 pick in the 1994 Draft and was only 21 years old; he was at basically the same point in his career that fellow No. 4 pick Griffin Reinhart is at now, meaning he was easily young enough that an NHL team could look at him and project him as a major-leaguer. Kelly was the No. 6 pick in 1995; he was the same distance from draft day at the time of the deal as 2013 No. 7 pick Darnell Nurse is right now. Reinhart and Nurse aren’t really fair points of comparison because they’re defencemen, but they have similar draft pedigree and the idea is to give an idea of the timeframe.

In combination, Sather traded away two still-young forwards with exceptional draft pedigree as well as a minute-munching physical defenceman. Both Bonsignore and Kelly had failed to develop as hoped, but both were still young enough to have value and Marchment certainly did. Moving that trio took some courage.

Sather got back Comrie, a ninth-round pick the year before and lower-end prospect; we might call him the sweetener.

He also got the best player in the deal: Hamrlik.

Hamrlik and the 1997-98 Lightning

The 1997-98 Lightning were a team with some things in common with today’s Oilers.

Hamrlik was the No. 1 pick of the 1992 Draft; in 1997-98 he had been with the Bolts for as long as Taylor Hall has been with the modern Oilers. In his entire Tampa Bay career he had played in five postseason games and the Lightning were about to shift their focus to a new No. 1 pick: Vincent Lecavalier. Despite a varied skillset, Hamrlik had also never been seriously considered for a major individual award (he finished seventh in Norris voting in 1995-96). He had a long run of ugly plus/minus numbers and was at times regarded as something of a giveaway machine.

Offered the combination of immediate help in Marchment and youth with upside magic beans, the Lightning decided to move on.

Hamrlik immediately was thrown into the fire, jumping from just over 20 minutes per game to more than 25. After the trade of Boris Mironov the next season he became the Oilers’ No. 1 defenceman, combining physical play and offensive ability. Sather ultimately ended up stealing away a 23-year-old first-pair defenceman from the Lightning for a trio of lesser players.

Edmonton couldn’t keep Hamrlik forever; budget constraints eventually led to him being dealt to the Islanders for (among others) Eric Brewer. Brewer of course would ultimately be traded to St. Louis as the centerpiece of the return for Chris Pronger.

I can’t think of a real parallel to Hamrlik in the league today, and there certainly isn’t an exact parallel to Marchment and magic beans on the current Oilers roster. Something like Nail Yakupov, Griffin Reinhart and Justin Schultz would probably be in the range, though it’s a long way from being an exact fit.

93-RNH-18

I bring the trade up today because it’s one that could work either way. Something like the Yakupov/Reinhart/Schultz trio for a defenceman like Hamrlik would be hard to pull off today, but would improve the Oilers as a team immediately. On the other hand, the 1997-98 Lightning had some things in common with the present-day Oilers; the danger is getting the modern equivalent of Marchment and magic beans for a player like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Travis Dakin

    We can’t trade Yak! Once McSaviour is back he will start lighting the lamp again! They had instant chemistry at the beginning of this year and I believe they will be perfect together once they are both healthy again!

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    The Hamerlik trade was one of Sather’s better ones. A mediocre Dman for a high end player and a few prospects moving back and forth.

    Every player is different, but I’m not cure if the Oil have any players quite like Kelly or Bonsignore at the moment. Bonsignore was whispered as being the next Mario at times during his draft year, because of his size and skill. Unfortunately he was a privileged lazy kid who never new how to put in an effort. Steve Kelly skated well but had no other NHL calibre skills.

    Who is suggesting that the Oil should trade RNH (or Ebs or whomever) for prospects at this time, that would be asinine. But if a trade could net a top pairing Dman like a Hamerlik…

    The Oil may have salary cap issue on a few years, then a trade of a roster player for prospects may be forced.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Did not know two of Edmonton’s many first round failures were moved in the same trade.

    I suspect there was very little pain involved in moving Bonsignore and Kelly. By that time, Sather realized the same thing that apparently the rest of the hockey world – not named Barry Fraser – knew, pre-draft. That Bonsignore had “a heart the size of a pea” and that Kelly skated like the wind but had the Hockey IQ of a house plant.

    I can’t remember anyone who rode three years of success into 20 years of ineptitude more than Fraser.

    Surprised more teams don’t allow their head scouts to work out of Puerto Vallarta.*

    * Actually, not surprised at all.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I don’t think we’ll see a Yak, Shultz, Reinhart for X dman just because of cap hits.
    If X player had a cap hit similar to all those 3 combined, then maybe a trade like that could go down, but to tie up 7-8mil, or more into one player when the likes of Drai, Nurse, and McDavid will be needing to get re-up’d over the next few years.

    I would like to see a Shultz plus the 1st rounder this year gone for a better top 4 dman though.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I also remember the day Kelly was drafted, everybody was chanting for Doan, but when Slats got to the mic and said Steve Kelly, I’m pretty sure all of Rexall(then Coliseum) went dead quiet.

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    Yak clicked with Connor as Drai did with Hall.
    We don’t trade bona fide centres cause it’s stupid (Nuge)
    The odd man out is Eberle.

    Reinhart has size, character (see Oil Kings) and they gave up a pretty penny to get him, they won’t give up on him after a quarter of a season, they won’t.
    Nurse is a beast.
    Odd man out: everybody else on D if you can get a Drew Doughty.

    There’s somewhere a deal to be made and I would do it while we are still on the playoff hunt. It won’t last forever , we are one defender away from making it happen (stay in the fight)

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    Best Sather trade was getting Cujo.

    You can get a really great D-man without trading for him.

    I’m not sure why the MSM don’t talk nearly enough about offer sheeting players, instead they want to trade RNH and Eberle all the time.

    However, if I’m playing GM I’m going hard after these players.

    Rasmus Ristolainen

    Seth Jones

    Boone Jenner

    Chris Kreider

    Kreider should be a top priority as should Seth Jones.

    A decent offer to both players and NYR & NAS would be stuck.

      • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

        Not if the Oilers manage the roster better.

        The Leafs are too focused on Stamkos to think about three year from now.

        The oilers have a lot of dollars coming off the books in the next three years as well.

        Plus, the Oilers could potentially walk away from Schultz, Pakarinen and Gazdic creating more roster and cap space, with the option of dumping a high contract, the Oilers are in good shape.

  • ThinkingOutLoud

    Thinking about contracts & caps, Once we start winning, I wonderr if some players might be willing to take a hometown discount to stay once their’s are up?

    Also, I wonder if backdoor contracts are a thing yet? Like intsead of 5 million per they sign for 4 with a guaranteed “job” with the organization paying the extra one after they retire? I’m sure it’s against the rules, but how many billionaire owners got where they are playing by the rules?…

  • crackerjack14

    McDavid’s raise will come in 2018. Nuge will have 3 years left on his contract (Hall with two). I’m assuming Eberle may already have been moved by then to make room for Draisaitl’s contract It seems likely that Nuge would be moved then for picks and prospects. Too far away to make an accurate guess as to what the return would be though.

  • crackerjack14

    “Despite a varied skillset, Hamrlik had also never been seriously considered for a major individual award (he finished seventh in Norris voting in 1995-96). He had a long run of ugly plus/minus numbers and was at times regarded as something of a giveaway machine”

    This seems like a description of Schultz. Everyone at ON seems to hate him, even when he plays well or shows improvement. Wonder how long before people change their tune? Or is he just doomed as an eternal goat because he isn’t a big burly bruiser with a big slapshot?

    Seems to me many of you would have been calling for Hamrlik to get traded before he even got here!

  • Dan 1919

    It seems most fans are still in complete denial of it, but Chiarelli is going to have some very tough decisions to make going forward in order to fit into this cap world NHL.

    If a package was ever put together for a #1D(who would presumably have a hefty cap hit), you can be assured one of those three Oiler names would be a lot bigger name than Yakupov/Reinhart or Schultz, as there would have to be more salary going out to get under the cap.

    I would be interested to hear what you think about the future cap in three years JW? Do you think something will have to give personal wise, or do you think the cap can be juggled when McDavid, Draisaitl, Nurse, Davidson all sign.

  • I tried it at home

    Does Brownlee know youre stealing his Best Old Oilers storyline? Lol. Anyway, trading Mush, Kelly, and Bonsignore was a classic Sather trade, something fans got used to in those days. I’m just having fun thinking what would of happened to that trade if Tambo was in charge. *crickets* oh. yeah. never mind.

  • YakCity1039

    What about Hedman from TB? The Lightning are treading on thin water with Stamkos. Their entire team is due for new contracts this year and next. It’s an interesting situation.

  • Reg Dunlop

    @Vanhellian ‘He became the Oiler’s no. 1 defenceman, combining physical play and offensive ability’. By comparing Schultz to Hamrlik you deserve to have your mouth washed out with soap.

  • Aitch

    Oh man, I’m glad you finally started referring to Bonsignore and Kelly as magic beans in the article, because Phil Esposito may have been the only one who thought they still had “high draft value”.