Alexei Kovalev was traded to Pittsburgh today. Kovalev played with the Penguins between 1998 and 2003, making this his second time around with the Pens. While Penguins fans everywhere hope that Kovy feels a little like ’98 we thought we’d take this opportunity to look back at a few other players who returned to their old teams for a second chance and see how they fared.
Mark Messier played with the New York Rangers from 1991 until he left as a free agent in 1997. He was a big reason for the Rangers’ Stanley Cup win in 1994 and was loved and respected in The Big Apple. After an ill-fated run with the Vancouver Canucks for three seasons, Messier re-signed with the Rangers in 2000. While Messier could not bring the Rangers back to postseason glory, he recorded 67 points in his first season back in New York. That point total was higher than any he recorded in Vancouver. Messier retired as a Ranger.
Hasek rose to prominence with the Buffalo Sabres, but he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings in 2001 as a cost-cutting move. Hasek won the Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2002 and he temporarily retired following the win. He returned to Detroit in 2003 and spent the 2003-2004 season as a member of the Red Wings. At the conclusion of that season, he signed with the Ottawa Senators. Hasek spent the first year after the lockout with Ottawa, but he was injured during the 2006 Olympics and the Senators were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. In 2006 Hasek re-signed with Detroit where he played until retiring from the NHL again in 2008. Hasek won his second Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2008, though he lost his starting position to Chris Osgood during the playoffs. He currently plays in the KHL.
Mark Recchi has the distinction of returning to a former team more than once. The current Boston Bruin was originally drafted by Pittsburgh in 1988. Recchi won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 1991. During the 1991-1992 season Recchi was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers. He stayed with the Flyers until he was traded to Montreal in 1995. After spending parts of five seasons with Montreal, Recchi was sent back to Philadelphia in March 1999.
In his first full season as a Flyer once again, Recchi scored 28 goals and added 63 assists for a total of 91 points. This was his highest point total since the 93-94 season, which was also spent with Philadelphia. Recchi played with the Flyers until the NHL lockout when he returned for a second trip with the Penguins. The struggling Penguins shipped him to Carolina at the 2006 trade deadline and Recchi went on to win the Cup with Carolina. He returned to Pittsburgh again the following year, before being placed on waivers by the Pens in 2007.
Trevor Linden was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in 1988. He became a captain in Vancouver in 1990 and took over sole ownership of the C in 1991. Linden led the Canucks to the 1994 Stanley Cup Final where they lost to the Rangers. In 1997 Mark Messier joined the team and Linden gave the team captaincy to Messier. He was traded to the New York Islanders in 1998. After spending time with the Islanders, Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals, Linden was traded back to Vancouver in 2001. Linden spent the next six seasons with Vancouver before retiring. The Canucks reached the playoffs in four of those six years.
Teemu Selanne was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in 1988 and he played is first four seasons there, but he was traded to Anaheim in 1996. He played with Anaheim until 2001 when he was traded to San Jose at the deadline. Selanne stayed with the Sharks until 2003 when he signed with Colorado as a free agent. After the lockout, he returned to the Ducks where he has played ever since. He won the Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007.
Ron Francis played with the Hartford Whalers from 1981, when he was drafted, until 1991. He was traded to Pittsburgh at the 1991 trade deadline and he went on to win two Stanley Cups with the Penguins. He left Pittsburgh as a free agent in 1998 and re-signed with the team that drafted him. Of course, the team that drafted him now played in Carolina. Francis stayed with the Hurricanes until 2003, leading them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2002 where they lost to Detroit. After a short run with the Leafs, he retired and moved into the Hurricanes front office. He is now the associate head coach and director of player personnel in Carolina.
Doug Gilmour came to the Leafs in a blockbuster deal in January 1991. He had his best year statistically in 1992-1993 when he recorded 127 points for the Leafs. He brought the Leafs back to glory and within one game of the Stanley Cup Final in 1993. He was traded to New Jersey in 1997. At the 2003 trade deadline, Gilmour was traded back to Toronto. Unfortunately, he was injured in his very first game back with the Leafs and missed the remainder of the season. Gilmour retired that summer.
Wendel Clark had three tours of duty with Toronto. He was originally drafted by the Leafs in 1985 and was the team captain from 1991 until 1994. Along with Gilmour, Clark helped bring the Leafs back to prominence in 1993. While he was still the team captain, he was traded to Quebec for Mats Sundin. He returned to Toronto during the 1995-1996 season and remained there until the end of the 1997-1998 season. He then signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent. Clark returned to Toronto one last time in 2000 before retiring.
Peter Forsberg made several attempts to return to the Colorado Avalanche. After being drafted by Philadelphia in 1991, he was traded to the Quebec Nordiques as a part of the Eric Lindros trade before ever playing an NHL game with the Flyers. He stayed with Quebec/Colorado until the lockout. Forsberg then signed with the Philadelphia Flyers, finally playing for the team that drafted him. He was traded from Philadelphia to Nashville in 2007. He sat out most of the 2007-2008 season before returning to Colorado as a free agent in March 2008. He played nine regular season games and seven playoff games with Colorado that season before foot injuries caused him to leave the NHL. He played with Modo of Elitserien in Sweden before making a short-lived comeback attempt with Colorado in 2011. He retired after two games.
Not only is Alexei Kovalev returning to Pittsburgh, but he also had two runs with the New York Rangers. He was drafted by New York in 1991 and won the Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1994. He was traded to Pittsburgh in 1998. He had his greatest statistical success with the Penguins, before being traded back to the Rangers in 2003 as a salary dump. He played 90 games over two seasons in his second stint with the Rangers before being traded to Montreal in 2004.