Detroit Red Wings Trade History: Best and Worst Trades of All-Time

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The History of Trade is a mini series going through each team’s best and worst trades of all time. Each team has their own history and some may cross over, but the series will try to stick to each team. This article will focus on the Detroit Red Wings trade history, finding the best and worst of all time.

The wheeled wings have one of the most storied histories in the NHL. That’s what being an original six team will do for you. But for a team with so much history, you would expect them to have a trade history to match. For their fans unfortunately, the Red Wings have been on the wrong end of more trades than they would like to admit.

Detroit Red Wings Trade History: Best and Worst Trades of All-Time

Best Trade

Despite their unlucky trade history, the Red Wings have managed to make some significant trades throughout the years. Some have brought players in who would later raise the Cup in the red and white. Others brought players in who would become club legends. But the best trade in team history actually managed to do both.

The Trade

Detroit acquires Brendan Shanahan and Brian Glynn from the Hartford Whalers for Paul Coffey, Keith Primeau, and 1997 first round pick (Nikos Tselios)

Traded Away

This deal turned into a steal, but at the time people were scratching their heads. Looking at names like Coffey and Primeau going away from Detroit left some confused. Throw in a first round pick and the trade left many questioning the brass.

Coffey was just two years removed from winning his third Norris Trophy. He was also just one season removed from putting up 74 points, including 60 assists with the Red Wings. But recent playoffs struggles had put Coffey firmly in head coach Stan Bowman’s doghouse. After the trade, Coffey would struggle. He only managed to put up 34 points during the 1996-97 season split between Hartford and Philadelphia. His fortune would continue to go downhill until his retirement after the 2000-01 season. He would put up a lackluster 121 points in his last five seasons, an average of only 24.2 points per year.

Primeau was also a big name moved in this deal, but he was included for very different reasons. Prior to the 1996-97 season, Primeau had demanded that his salary be increased. He believed he should have been making top money like Jaromir Jagr, who was taken behind him in the draft. Unfortunately for Primeau, the Red Wings did not share the same ideas about his value. His demands led to the team looking for possible trades.

Primeau would last only three seasons in the Hartford/Carolina organization. To his credit he would manage 26 goals in both his first two seasons, adding 30 in his last season with the club. He would later be moved to Philadelphia along with a fifth round pick for Rod Brind’Amour and a package of players and picks in what would go down as one of the best in Carolina/Hartford History. He would only manage one season of more than 50 points after that, ultimately retiring in 2006.

The first round pick Detroit turned into the 22nd pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. Hartford used the pick to draft Nikos Tselios. Tselios’ claim to fame was never his playing career, but rather the career of his cousin, one Chris Chelios.

The Return

Again, at the time of the trade, people were surprised by how much Detroit gave up. Brian Glynn would never end up playing a game for the Red Wings after being acquired. That point alone makes it hard to believe this trade was the best.

But then you look at the centrepiece and things start to make sense. Shanahan was coming in as a known commodity. Four of the five seasons prior to the trade the big winger had scored 44 goals or more, twice breaking the fifty-goal mark. But to the dismay of Whalers fans, Shanahan never wanted to be in Hartford. He only played one season for the team, requesting a trade after arriving from St. Louis in another blockbuster deal.

Hartford granted his wish and Shanahan was sent to the Red Wings where he would become not only a cult hero but an NHL legend. In his first game he revered himself to the fans by dropping the gloves with Greg de Vries of the Edmonton Oilers. Shanahan would go on to put up 87 points that season, with 48 goals split between Hartford and Detroit. The dream season wouldn’t end there for Shanahan and the Wings though, as they would go on to capture the Stanley Cup as well.

Shanahan would go on to play in Detroit for nine seasons. Across those nine years he would score 25 goals or more each year. He even managed to break the 40-goal mark on three separate occasions. His Red Wings career would see him put up 633 points in 716 games, win the King Clancy trophy, and, of course, win three Stanley Cups. After the 2005-06 seasons the Red Wings were unable to sign Shanahan and he went to the New York Rangers as a free agent.

His time in Detroit would be remembered across the league though. He was one of the key cogs in the Red Wings system that helped them beat the Colorado Avalanche teams of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Fans looking back now know that the deal had to be done in order to get over the hump. Had the trade never gone through, we could have had a dynasty in Colorado. Instead the Red Wings would make the playoffs in a unbelievable 25 straight seasons and, with Shanahan in the mix, win three of their four most recent Cups.

Not bad for a questionable trade.

Honourable Mentions: Detroit trades Ted Graham and $50,000 in cash to the St. Louis Eagles for Syd Howe and Ralph Bowman; Detroit trades Anders Eriksson, 1999 first round pick (Steve McCarthy), and 2001 first round pick (Adam Munro) to the Chicago Blackhawks for Chris Chelios; Detroit acquires Kris Draper from the Winnipeg Jets for $1, Detroit acquires Larry Murphy from the Toronto Maple Leafs for future considerations

Worst Trade

Despite managing to pick up both Shanahan and Chelios in separate trades, the Red Wings have not had the best luck in trades during their history. Moving pieces like Red Kelly, Turk Broda, Ted Lindsay, and Glenn Hall to rivals are tough, but the worst trade still haunts Red Wings fans.

The Trade

Detroit acquires Dan Maloney, Terry Harper, and 1976 second round pick (Jim Roberts) to the Los Angeles Kings for Marcel Dionne and Bart Crashley

Traded Away

The Red Wings really messed this trade up. Looking at the two players they sent to the Kings, its clear to see they lost this trade. Sure, Bart Crashley really never made an impact in the NHL. He managed to only play 136 games across six seasons in the NHL before being sent to the west coast. To top off his career, he would only get into four games while being a member of the Kings, putting up one point, an assist, in the process. But Crashley was always going to be a throw in for this trade; history has proven that to be the truth. But he can always have the story that he was traded with a legend.

Marcel Dionne was and to this day still is the main focus of this trade. Taken second overall in the 1971 amateur draft by the Red Wings, Dionne showed his skill in four seasons in Detroit. He scored 28 goals in his rookie campaign and followed that with a 40 goal season. After taking a slight step back in the 1973-74 season, Dionne would put up 47 goals and 121 points in the 1974-75 season to lead the Red Wings in points. He even finished third in the league behind only the legendary Bobby Clarke and Phil Esposito in points that season. Things were looking good for the young Drummondville native.

But after that season Dionne decided he wanted a larger contract. He probably deserved it, but the number he was asking for was out of Detroit’s price range so he was moved to Los Angeles. What came next was unexpected.

Dionne became the face of hockey in California, igniting a passion for the game some thought would never reach the southwest. In his first season in The Gunshine State, Marcel scored 40 goals and put up 94 points to lead the purple and gold to the playoffs. Unfortunately they would only make it to the second round, with Dionne still leading the team in goals and points.

Dionne never looked back from there as he followed that season with his first 50-goal campaign, scoring 53 and putting up 122 points. He would go on to score 50 goals in five more seasons, all consecutive, starting in 1978-79. His goal scoring ability was only outclassed by his playmaking. Dionne managed 50 assists in every season except 1977-78. His point totals would have led the league in any era. Unfortunately for him, he played at the same time as the great Wayne Gretzky.

Dionne would remain in Los Angeles for 12 seasons. He managed to score 550 goals and 1,307 points in 921 games for the team. As his career was winding down, the Kings decided to try to get some return for him and sent him to the Rangers. Dionne, Jeff Crossman, and a third round pick in the 1989 draft (later traded to Minnesota) headed to the New York for Tom Laidlaw and Bob Carpenter. Both players would have short careers in LA but not terrible careers.

Dionne will go down as one of the greatest players to ever play the game. At the time of his retirement, Dionne sat second in the NHL’s all-time goals list and third in points. He now sits sixth in points and fifth in goals. Despite the timing of his career being intertwined with Gretzky, Dionne will go down as one of the greatest players ever.

He was named to the NHL’s top 100 list last season.

The Return

Yes, its true, Dionne wanted more money and that caused him to be shipped away. But regardless, the Red Wings did not get anywhere close to a fair trade for the future Hall of Famer and legend. The second round pick they received in the deal they soon flipped to the Minnesota North Stars along with Bill Hogaboam in exchange for Dennis Hextall. Hextall put up two seasons of more than 40 points after arriving in Detroit, but he was no Dionne.

The two players the Red Wings received may have turned out worse for the team. Maloney showed signs of being a good return. His first season in the Motor City saw him put up 27 goals and 66 points. But his production was stalled slightly in 1976-77 when he only managed to play 34 games due to a shoulder injury. He returned the next season and showed signs of bouncing back. Nonetheless, the Red Wings decided his time with the club was over and they sent him to Toronto. He served as the captain of the team for one season while in Detroit. But despite the cities love, he never reached the heights some expected of him.

Harper was the biggest disappointment in this deal though. Like Maloney, Harper had a solid first season with Detroit, putting up a career high in points with 33. But his offense disappeared after that season and the Red Wings were at a loss. Harper remained with the club for four seasons, but he was never the same player as he was before. He lost his physicality and it cost the Red Wings deeply. He was signed as a free agent by St. Louis after the 1978-79 season, ending the Dionne legacy in Detroit once and for all.

In total, the two players would put up 207 points in Detroit across four seasons. Maloney only played in two and a half seasons in that time of course. In the same time frame, Dionne would put up an astounding 188 goals and 425 points. The Red Wings fan base will always remember this trade as one of the worst in league history.

Dishonourable Mentions: Detroit trades Turk Broda to the Toronto Maple Leafs for $8,000; Detroit trades Adam Oates and Paul MacLean to the St. Louis Blues for Bernie Federko and Tony McKegney; Detroit trades Terry Sawchuk, Vic Stasiuk, Marcel Bonin, and Lorne Davis to the Boston Bruins for Ed Sandford, Real Chevrefils, Norm Corcoran, Gilles Boisvert, and Warren Godfrey; Detroit acquires Terry Sawchuk, from the Boston Bruins for John Bucyk and cash; Detroit trades Glenn Hall and Ted Lindsay to the Chicago Blackhawks for Johnny Wilson, Forbes Kennedy, Bill Preston, and Hank Bassen; Detroit trade Red Kelly to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Marc Reaume; Detroit trades Garry Unger and Wayne Connelly to the St. Louis Blues for Red Berenson and Tim Ecclestone.

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