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 Edmonton Oilers trade history, finding the best and worst of all time.
Edmonton Oilers Trade History
The Edmonton Oilers joined the NHL in 1979 when the WHA merged with the NHL. The team was full of young, emerging talent. By 1984 the team won its first Stanly Cup and kicked off a run that saw them become one of the most prolific teams in NHL history. Between 1984 to 1990 the team would win five Stanley Cups. Those cup winning teams produced five of the top 100 players in NHL history.
The Edmonton Oilers managed to acquire Wayne Gretzky, the greatest player in NHL history, through a ‘trade’. I am disqualifying this ‘trade’ however because it was a more like a soccer transfer than a trade. The Oilers paid the Indianapolis Racers $850,000 for three players, including Gretzky. Sorry, but that’s just not up to snuff in our trade books.
March 17, 1993
Esa Tikkanen was a major part of the Oilers success between 1985 and 1990. He developed into one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL. Between 1986 and 1990 Tikkanen score 30 or more goals three times. He even led the Oilers in scoring in 1991.
By 1993 the Oilers were no longer a serious Stanley Cup contender. Most of the core from their dynasty had moved on. Tikkanen’s best days were behind him and the Oilers were looking to inject their roster with some new blood.
The New York Rangers were coming off a Presidents’ Trophy win in 1992, but had under performed in 1993 and missed the playoffs. With an eye to the next year, the Rangers wanted to add more playoff experience (and Edmonton Oilers) to their roster to make a run in 1994. So the Rangers traded for Tikkanen to add some playoff experience to the team.
Acquiring Tikkanen paid off for the Rangers, as they would win the Cup in 1994 (ending a 54-year drought). Tikkanen had a solid season, scoring 22 goals and 54 points in the regular season. Still, Tikkanen was traded to St. Louis in July of 1994. While the Rangers found the ultimate success, Tikkanen only played in 98 regular season games for the Rangers.
Doug Weight would play eight seasons for the Oilers. In Edmonton, Weight developed into one of the premiere playmaking centres in the NHL. He would score 20 or more goals in six of the eight seasons in Edmonton, including a career best 25-goal, 104-point season in 1994-95. He also lead the team in scoring seven of the eight seasons in Edmonton. His development led to the Oilers making the playoffs for five consecutive seasons from 1996 to 2001.
In 1999, Weight was named team captain. Unfortunately, the financial restrictions in Edmonton led to Weight being traded to St. Louis in 2001. While the Oilers as a team were never able to win the Stanley Cup, Weight developed into a premier player in the NHL. He was the team leader and best player.
The Oilers trade Eric Brewer, Doug Lynch, and Jeff Woywitka to St. Louis for Chris Pronger; The Oilers trade 2006 first round pick and 2007 third round pick to the Wild for Dwayne Roloson; Edmonton trades Bryan Marchment, Steve Kelly, and Jason Bonsignore to Tampa Bay for Roman Hamrlik and Paul Comrie; The Oilers trade Andy Moog to Boston for Bill Ranford, Geoff Courtnall, and a 1988 second round pick; The Oilers trade 1996 first round pick and a 1997 first round pick to St. Louis for Curtis Joseph and Mike Grier; Edmonton trades Jimmy Carson, Kevin McClelland, and a 1991 fifth round pick to Detroit for Adam Graves, Joe Murphy, Petr Klima, and Jeff Sharples.
The Edmonton Oilers assembled one of the best rosters in hockey history between 1983 to 1990. Unfortunately for the fans of Edmonton, the teams financial issues saw them trade away their best players piece by piece. Even more frustrating is the fact that the Oilers never received fair value for these players. This means there are more than enough bad trades to pick from, unfortunately.
Again, I will not be including the Wayne Gretzky trade to Los Angeles. Yes it was more of a trade than the straight purchase to acquire him in the WHA, but again it was more about the Gretzky being sold than an actual trade. If you need a quick refresher, here you go.
October 4, 1991
Mark Messier developed into one of the most well-rounded players in NHL history. In 1990 Messier won the Hart Trophy as league MVP. He also led the Oilers to their fifth and final Stanley Cup. By 1991 Messier had grown frustrated watching key members of the team leave, either by trade or free agency. This resulted in Messier demanding a trade. The Oilers moved the star centre to the New York Rangers.
The trade had an imitate impact for the Rangers. Messier won the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 1991-92 and the Rangers won the Presidents’ Trophy. In 1994 the Rangers would again win the Presidents’ Trophy and also the Stanley Cup, ending a 54 year drought.
Furthermore, Messier solidified his place in New York sports lore by guaranteeing a victory over the rival New Jersey Devils in Game Six of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. Not only did the Rangers win the game (and series), but Messier led a third period comeback by scoring a hat trick.
Not to be forgotten in the trade is Jeff Beukeboom. Included in the trade to fulfill future considerations, Beukeboom developed in to a solid physical defensemen for the Rangers. He became a fan favourite in New York for his crushing body checks and willingness to defend his teammates. Beukeboom played regularly on the Rangers top defensive paring with Brian Leetch. His stay at home style allowed the more offensive-minded Leetch to join the offensive rush. Beukeboom played eight seasons with the Rangers before retiring in 1999 due to post-concussion syndrome.
The main return for Messier was Bernie Nicholls. Nicholls had established himself as a reliable goal scorer in the NHL. Unfortunately by the time he arrived in Edmonton, Nicholls was far removed from his 70-goal, 150-point season in 1989. In his near two seasons with Edmonton, Nicholls scored 28 goals and 89 points. After only playing 95 games with Edmonton, the Oilers traded Nicholls to New Jersey.
Louie DeBrusk played six seasons in Edmonton. Strictly a fighter, DeBrusk racked up 797 penalty minutes to go along with his 19 goals and 31 points.
Steven Rice only played three seasons with the Oilers organization. In his first two seasons with Edmonton, Rice played primarily in the AHL. He became an NHL regular in the 1993-94 season. He had a decent season, scoring 17 goals. This led to the Hartford Whalers signing Rice to an offer sheet in the off-season. The Oilers declined to match.
David Shaw‘s career in Edmonton lasted 12 games before being traded to the Minnesota North Stars in 1992.
Oilers trade Vincent Damphousse and a 1993 fourth round pick to Montreal for Shayne Corson, Brent Gilchrist, and Vladimir Vujtek; Oilers trade Miroslav Satan to Buffalo for Barrie Moore and Craig Millar; Edmonton trades Paul Coffey, Dave Hunter, Wayne Van Dorp to Pittsburgh for Craig Simpson, Dave Hannan, Moe Mantha, and Chris Joseph; Oilers trade Ryan Smyth to the New York Islanders for Ryan O’Marra, Robert Nilsson, and a 2007 first round pick; Edmonton trades Chris Pronger to Anaheim for Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid, 2006 first round pick, 2007 first round pick and a 2017 second round pick.