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 New Jersey Devils trade history, finding the best and worst of all time.
New Jersey Devils Trade History: Best and Worst Trades of All-Time
The New Jersey Devils have never been known for their success in the trade market. It’s harsh, but the Devils have always been below par in this aspect. The team doesn’t tilt one way or the other. They’ve made good deals, and have made bad deals. No extremes pop up on either side, but there are a few that stand out above the others.
It’s actually fairly hard to pick out a single trade that stands out. Not because they have a few blockbuster deals, but because there aren’t any giant deals. The deal we’ve picked out actually makes up for the team’s worst deal. Only a year after making what would end up being a terrible deal, the team made a great one.
Most modern day hockey fans aren’t overly familiar with Turgeon. He was a notable player, though. Turgeon started his career off with three impressive seasons with the Hartford Whalers. He fell off a bit after that, though. Aside from his third season, where he recorded 79 points, his highest scoring seasons was a 49 point year with Hartford and his 47 point season in New Jersey.
Turgeon went downhill very quickly. The Whalers dealt him away, and it seemed it was his final chance to prove himself. He did fairly well for the struggling team, finishing sixth on the team with points. For second line minutes, that wasn’t too shabby. It wasn’t ideal, though, and he was on the block because of it.
After the deal, Turgeon’s career fell apart. He played a total of 75 games in Montreal with only 32 points total. After two struggling seasons Montreal traded him. He had a half decent stretch with the Ottawa Senators before finally leaving the NHL. He went overseas to play in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland. In his last years, he was a point-per-game player over there. Considering where his career started, though, that’s not all that impressive.
In return the Devils got one of the most influential players in their history. Claude Lemieux, or Pepe as he became known as, was a force to be reckoned with to say the least. Standing just over six feet tall, Lemieux was a fiesty and dirty player. Some of his most famous plays were ‘cheap’ plays. Probably his most infamous was his hit on Kris Draper in Game Six of the 1996 Western Conference Finals. The hit was also the cause of the line brawl between the Detroit Red Wings (Draper’s team) and the Colorado Avalanche (Lemieux’s team).
Lemieux was a lot more than a top line goon, though. He’s one of the most overlooked right wingers in history. He was a star winger, who had an uncanny ability to come in clutch for his team. A lot of Devils fans don’t remember Lemieux for how big of a goon he was, they remember him for his ability to score in crucial moments. His scoring abilities seemed to skyrocket in the playoffs, too.
In the 1995 postseason, Lemieux was unstoppable. He tallied a total of 13 goals in 20 games. Netting so many goals despite the fact he was shadowing stars like Jaromir Jagr. He was sly and able to steal the puck from the star players; then turn around and skate 200 feet to score. He was truly the most exciting player to watch, even though Scott Stevens, Bobby Holik, and Scott Niedermayer were all on the team.
For Lemieux to steal the spotlight from those players was really special. That alone was worth giving up Turgeon, but Lemieux did so much more than lead the 1995 Playoff push. He tallied 297 regular season points in 423 games as a Devil. His playoff stats, 57 points in 82 games, were what gave him value though. At least, a lot more value than Turgeon ended up as.
Despite how much New Jersey has struggled in recent years, they haven’t made many terrible trades. There are quite a bit of ones that didn’t pan out, but not many are notoriously bad. One sticks out like a sore thumb, though. Ironically, it directly relates to their best deal. It only took them a year to realize their mistake, though, and they fixed it quickly.
New Jersey Devils trade away Pat Verbeek in exchange for Sylvain Turgeon from the Hartford Whalers.
From his rookie season Verbeek was destined for success. The highly skilled forward was arguably one of the team’s biggest steals in the draft. He had an 88 point season in the OHL before he was drafted. Still, he fell all the way to the third round of the draft. Following the draft he played one more season in the O, tallying 107 points. After that, he played six full years with the Devils. In those he had a 47 point season, and three other seasons of over 50 points. His Devils career peeked with a 77 point career in 1987-88. He was a legend in the making. Plain and simple, he was good.
Verbeek was traded away in a one-for-one deal and became a Whalers legend. He tallied three season of over 80 points, and had plenty other high scoring years. He went on to play for the New York Rangers, Dallas Stars, and Detroit Red Wings. Now, Verbeek is one of the players slowly waiting for his call from the Hall of Fame. He played in a staggering 1,424 NHL games. In those he tallied 1,024 points, including two 82 point years and one 89 point year. A little more impressive, though, is his 2,905 penalty minutes. That’s right, 2,905. That’s an average of one penalty per game. This makes his point numbers even more impressive, if he spent almost 3,000 minutes in the sin bin.
We’ve already given our spiel about Turgeon. It’s kind of easy to see what New Jersey was thinking when they made the deal, though. Turgeon had 72, 62, and 79 points in his first three years respectively. Verbeek didn’t hit any of these numbers until his fifth year of play. Leading up to the deal, Turgeon’s career had started to go downhill. In the season before the deal, Turgeon had 30 points in 42 games but wasn’t able to finish off the year. Those aren’t terrible numbers, and taking his earlier numbers into account the Devils could’ve assumed his was back to his old ways.
The problem was, he wasn’t. The Devils traded away one of their best players of the time for a failing player. The team needed someone to be the star of the team in their bumpy first years. They took a risk in Turgeon, dealing away their current star. The risk didn’t pay off, but it did land the deal a spot as the worst trade in their history.