When it comes to making the best of what started out as an unquestionably bad trade, it doesn’t get much better than 23 years ago today when the Edmonton Oilers rid themselves of Shayne Corson and ended up with Curtis Joseph and a prospect named Mike Grier in a tidy bit of business with the St. Louis Blues.
Full disclosure, I was never a big fan or Corson during his days with the Montreal Canadiens, even though he was unquestionably an effective player. I liked him even less after the Oilers sent away Vincent Damphousse and a fourth-round draft pick to get him, along with Brent Gilchrist and Vlad Vujtek in August of 1992.
Damphousse, who put up 89 points in 1991-92 in his only season with the Oilers after being acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs, had 97 points with the Canadiens the season after being dealt for Corson. He also won a Stanley Cup. Corson’s arrival, meanwhile, coincided with the Oilers missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history – they’d miss in for straight seasons.
While not all of that falls on Corson, of course, the Damphousse-for-Corson swap is widely seen as one of the worst trades in the history of a franchise that was being gutted by cost-cutting put in place by owner Peter Pocklington. Not all that far removed from hoisting the 1990 Stanley Cup, the Oilers were awful during the three seasons Corson spent here.
ENTER CUJO AND GRIER
GM Glen Sather mitigated that mistake 23 years ago today by getting Joseph and Grier after some twists and turns. When the Blues signed Corson, a Group II free agent, to an offer sheet July 28, the Oilers were awarded the Blues’ first-round draft picks in 1996 and 1997. Instead, Sather sent the rights to the draft picks back to the Blues for Joseph, a free agent who had played parts of six seasons with St. Louis, and the rights to Grier, a ninth-round pick from Boston University who’d yet to play an NHL game.
The rest, as the saying goes, is history. Joseph was a key cog in helping the Oilers back to respectability in the three seasons he spent with Edmonton. Most notable during his time here were upsets over the Dallas Stars in the first round of the 1997 playoffs and over the Colorado Avalanche in 1998. Joseph packed up for Toronto for more money than the Oilers could afford to pay, but he was the backbone of the turnaround in franchise fortunes.
Grier, who made his NHL debut in 1996-97, played 448 regular seasons games and 34 more in the post-season in six seasons with the Oilers as a productive third-liner, notably with Todd Marchant and either Rem Murray or Ethan Moreau. Grier, a hellacious hitter and one of the most popular players to wear Edmonton silks, twice scored 20 goals for the Oilers.
Corson for Joseph and Grier, a swap I’d make all day every day, happened 23 years ago today. Enjoy the long weekend.