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Top five Oilers in-season trades: No. 4 — The Paul Coffey for Craig Simpson trade

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Zach Laing
2 months ago
The soup de jour in Oil Country these days is trade talks. After a sluggish start to the season, the Oilers are in a position where they should be active in the trade market. That inspired me to look back at some of the biggest in-season trades in Edmonton Oilers history. 
We opened this series Monday looking at the Bill Guerin trades; now we turn our eyes to the Oilers’ blockbuster Paul Coffey trade.
This trade broke out a shade over 36 years ago, and came after bitter contract disputes between Coffey and the Oilers. The high-flying defenceman would set record after record in the ’80s, winning three Stanley Cups with the team, but in the 1987 season, Coffey was looking for a raise from his $320,000 salary, up to $800,000.
Oilers owner Peter Pocklington wasn’t having it, rebutting to The Globe and Mail saying “he hadn’t played well enough last year to deserve that kind of money.”
“I said that many times he appeared to lack intestinal fortitude in games and didn’t seem to have the guts to go into the corner for the puck. I realize he had a bad back, and perhaps that was the reason,” he added.
“He was questioning my guts, my courage. That’s what hurt me the most,” Coffey told the Globe. “I helped them win three Stanley Cups, I won two Norris Trophies, played in two Canada Cups against the best in the world. In 1985, I played in the Stanley Cup final with a cracked bone in my foot and had to have freezing in my hip before every game.
“That was to play hockey for him and win a Stanley Cup for Edmonton. It’s impossible for me to go back and put on that hockey sweater again.”
And so, work was done on a trade, eventually seeing Glen Sather — uninterested in having to make a move — tade Coffey in a blockbuster with the Pittsburgh Penguins. It wasn’t just Coffey, as Dave Hunter and Wayne Van Dorp would find their way out of town.
From Pittsburgh, Craig Simpson, Moe Mantha, Chris Joseph and Dane Hannan.
Simpson would prove to be the most important part of the deal, going on to enjoy six years in Edmonton scoring 185 goals and 365 points in 419 games, winning Stanley Cups in 1988 and 1990. A strong performer in the regular season, the post season is where his game would hit another level.
In the 1988 postseason, he scored 13 goals and 19 points in 19 games. But in the 1990 playoffs, with players like Wayne Gretzky no longer with the team, he hit another level potting 16 goals and 31 points — both leading the post-season — in 22 games.
Mantha would be moving later that year to Minnesota for Keith Acton, while Hannan would play out the year winning the Cup, before rejoining Pittsburgh the following year. Lastly, Joseph would enjoy seven years in Edmonton, twice his longest stint as with other teams, scoring 12 goals and 51 points across 154 games.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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