Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been counting down the best and worst trades in Edmonton Oilers history. To recap, here’s what I have so far…
The Oilers had multiple top picks at the draft in the early-1990s in the wake of the franchise’s collapse from its dynasty days in the 80s. Two of the more forgettable picks were Jason Bonsignore and Steve Kelly, who were selected fourth-overall in 1994 and sixth-overall in 1995 respectively.
Before these guys were officially busts, Glen Sather packaged them up along with rugged defender Bryan Marchment and sent them to Tampa Bay in exchange for former first-overall pick Roman Hamrlik. Hamrlik would immediately become a top-pairing defender on the Oilers, helping the team reach the playoffs in each of the three seasons he played in Edmonton.
Shayne Corson, while a good player on the ice, was a handful off the ice. He had been chased out of Montreal because of his involvement in multiple off-ice situations and his time in Edmonton wasn’t any easier. He had his captaincy stripped from him following a situation in which he argued with a scorekeeper in order to get an assist added to his name to have his stats padded.
After three seasons in Edmonton, Corson signed an offer sheet with the St. Louis Blues, which the Oilers chose not to match. In return, Edmonton got two first-round picks from the Blues, which they immediately flipped back to St. Louis for goaltender Curtis Joseph and forward Mike Grier. CuJo helped the Oilers return to the playoffs and was key in their back-to-back first-round upsets over Dallas and Colorado while Grier replaced Corson’s presence in the lineup and became a fan favourite.
Ahead of the 2006 trade deadline, the Oilers were in a tight battle for a playoff position in the Western Conference. The team was clearly underachieving largely due to poor goaltending, so general manager Kevin Lowe addressed the issue by dealing a first-round pick to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Dwayne Roloson.
This was viewed as a huge risk at the time, but it certainly paid off. Roloson had a shaky start to his Oilers tenure but quickly pulled it together. He played all but one game down the stretch for the Oilers, helping the team clinch the eighth seed in the West. Then, in the playoffs, he found another gear, playing a key role in Edmonton’s surprise run to the Stanley Cup Final.
Doug Weight was a top prospect that Glen Sather had tried to pry out of New York when he dealt Mark Messier to the Rangers right before the start of the 1991-92 season, but it didn’t work out. Over a year later, though, Sather was finally able to get his guy.
The Rangers were in a desperate fight to make the playoffs in 1993 and needed reinforcements. They wanted Tikkanen for his pesky play and two-way acumen, so Sather demanded Weight in return. While Tikkanen won a Stanley Cup with New York in 1994, the Oilers added the true star to their lineup that they hadn’t had since the end of their dynasty days.
Before I get to my choice for the best trade pulled off in Oilers history, let’s take a look back at some other great trades the team has executed over the years. In no particular order, here are the honourable mentions…
Sending a second-round pick to the North Stars for Kent Nilsson
Ahead of the 1987 trade deadline, the Oilers added a former Battle of Alberta adversary to their lineup to give them a boost for the playoffs. They sent a second-round pick and cash to Minnesota to acquire Kent Nilsson, who would go on to score 19 points in 21 games in Edmonton’s Stanley Cup run that spring. There’s something funny about an all-time Flames great finally winning the Stanley Cup with the Oilers.
Swapping Andy Moog for Bill Ranford
Seeking a gig as a starting goaltender, the Oilers dealt Andy Moog to the Bruins in exchange for Bill Ranford, Geoff Courtnall, and a second-round pick. While Moog would have many good seasons in Boston and later Dallas in his post-Oilers career, Edmonton got a young goaltender who would help them win the 1990 Stanley Cup. Ironically, it was Moog and the Bruins who Ranford and the Oilers beat in 1990.
Dealing Jimmy Carson for Joe Murphy, Adam Graves, and Petr Klima
As big of a debacle as the Wayne Gretzky trade was for the Oilers, this deal that happened a couple of years later helped soothe the pain. Jimmy Carson didn’t want to be in Edmonton, so the Oilers flipped him, along with veteran Kevin McClelland, to the Red Wings for Joe Murphy, Adam Graves, and Petr Klima. If not for this deal, the Oilers might not have won their only post-Gretzky Stanley Cup.
Getting Jason Smith for a fourth-round pick
A part of the return the Leafs got when they shipped Doug Gilmour to New Jersey, Jason Smith eventually became a castaway in Toronto. The Oilers nabbed him for a fourth-round pick and Smith would go on to become a mainstay on the Oilers’ blueline for nearly a decade. “Gator” would also serve as the team’s captain for five seasons.
Both of the Tommy Salo trades
It’s always impressive when you can win a trade involving a player twice. The Oilers grabbed Tommy Salo from the Islanders after an awful arbitration session in which general manager Mike Milbury left the young goaltender in tears. Edmonton sent Mats Lindgren and an eighth-round pick to Long Island for Salo, who would have some excellent seasons for the Oilers. In 2004, the Oilers dealt Salo to Colorado for a little-known prospect named Tom Gilbert. Salo only played five games with the Avs and left the NHL after that while Gilbert eventually became a good NHL defenceman.
Turning Dustin Penner into Oscar Klefbom
Though he was labelled as a bit of an underachiever given the hype surrounding him as a player when the Oilers signed him to an offer sheet, Dustin Penner had some good seasons in Edmonton. That said, his most important role to the franchise came when he was traded to Los Angeles for Colten Teubert and a first- and a third-round pick. Penner went on to win the Stanley Cup with L.A., but Edmonton drafted Oscar Klefbom, the team’s current top defenceman, with that pick.
Bringing Ryan Smyth home
Though trading him away at the 2007 trade deadline was one of the worst moments in franchise history, there’s a happy ending to the Ryan Smyth story. The Oilers re-acquired Smyth five years after the trade, sending only Colin Fraser and a seventh-round pick to the Kings. Smyth obviously wasn’t the same player in his second go-around with the Oilers, but seeing him finish his career in Edmonton was great.
Giving up a few picks for Cam Talbot
One of the good things Peter Chiarelli did during his time as general manager in Edmonton was acquiring Cam Talbot from the New York Rangers for a second-, third-, and fifth-round pick. Maybe this was Glen Sather doing the Oilers a favour, but Talbot helped the Oilers return to the playoffs in 2017 with one of the best seasons in Oilers history.
Swapping Milan Lucic for James Neal
It didn’t take long for Ken Hollan to endear himself to Oilers fans. In July of 2019, Holland shipped Milan Lucic and his supposedly unmovable contract to the Calgary Flames for James Neal. Lucic was a massive boat anchor in Edmonton while Neal would go on to score 19 goals in his first season in Edmonton. Most importantly, Neal’s contract isn’t buyout proof like Lucic’s deal is.