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Best Oilers Trades Countdown – No. 4: Getting CuJo and Mike Grier as compensation for Shayne Corson

I kicked off the countdown of worst five trades in Oilers history yesterday with the team shipping Vincent Damphousse off to Montreal in exchange for Shayne Corson and two others.

While Damphousse played a key role in helping the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup in his first year with his hometown club, the Oilers subsequently went on to miss the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Damphousse also went on to have an incredible career in which he produced 1,205 points while Corson is best remembered around here for having his captaincy stripped.

Although this trade was a massive flop, Glen Sather turned it around a few years later. After three seasons in Edmonton, Corson was too expensive (and, perhaps, too much of a handful) to keep around. The St. Louis Blues inked him to an offer sheet worth $6.95 million over five years with a  $1.25 million signing bonus.

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Sather opted not to match, resulting in Edmonton receiving St. Louis’ first-round draft picks in both 1996 and 1997. Shortly after, Sather flipped those same picks back to the Blues for goaltender Curtis Joseph and forward Mike Grier.

Though I view this trade as Corson for Joseph and Grier, keeping tabs on the two first-round picks involved is interesting. The 1996 first-rounder was used by the Blues on Marty Reasoner, who would end up getting traded to Edmonton as part of the package that sent star forward Doug Weight to St. Louis. The 1997 first-round pick was part of the package the Blues sent to Los Angeles to acquire Wayne Gretzky.

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A Blues team loaded with former Oilers — Gretzky, Corson, Glenn Anderson, Grant Fuhr, Craig MacTavish, and Charlie Huddy — lost in Game 7 of the second round to the Detroit Red Wings, a game well-known for this iconic Steve Yzerman goal.

Corson came nowhere near completing that five-year pact in St. Louis. He scored 46 points in 76 games in his first season with the Blues and then, just 11 games into the following season, he got traded. Ironically, he was dealt to Montreal, the place that he had been chased out of just a few years earlier.

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In Edmonton, Joseph would split the net with Bill Ranford in his first season with the Oilers. The following summer, Sather decided to roll with Joseph as the starting goalie and shipped Ranford to Boston for Mariusz Czerkawski, Sean Brown, and a first-round pick.

In 1996-97, the Oilers started to reap the rewards of the Corson trade. Joseph was the team’s ace in net, appearing in 72 games and posting a .907 save percentage. His play was good enough to result in him finishing fifth in Vezina Trophy voting. Grier also hit the ground running as a rookie, scoring 15 goals and 32 points in 79 games and establishing himself as one of the hardest-hitting forwards around.

So, ultimately, the Oilers managed to basically replace Corson in the lineup with the gritty Grier while also adding one of the league’s better goaltenders in the process. All told, this is excellent value coming back for a player who had a fairly ugly tenure with the organization.

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Grier would play six seasons for the Oilers, scoring 81 goals and putting up 183 points over the course of 448 games. Joseph would spend three seasons with the Oilers, posting a .902 save percentage over the course of 177 games. It was in the playoffs that CuJo would really cement his legacy in Edmonton, though.

In 1997, CuJo backstopped the Oilers to a shocking upset of the heavily-favoured Dallas Stars in the first round of the playoffs. The highlight was this incredible save, which is probably the most memorable of his career…

In 1998, CuJo again played a key role in the Oilers pulling off a massive upset. This time, Edmonton took down the Colorado Avalanche. Again, this series featured an incredible save by CuJo…

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Though Damphousse is certainly one who got away, when it was all said and done, Sather made up for one mistake with an excellent trade down the road. Acquiring Joseph and Grier in exchange for Corson was key in getting the Oilers back to the playoffs and pulling off the two unforgettable first-round upsets of the late-1990s.