If there’s one thing the hockey offseason consistently yields, it’s stories about the anniversary of the NHL’s biggest trade — on August 9, 1988, the Edmonton Oilers shipped away three veteran players and received Jimmy Carson, another player, picks and cash from the Los Angeles Kings. It has become known in the annals of history as The Jimmy Carson Trade, and no transaction since has come close to eclipsing it.
It changed the landscape of hockey forever.
Carson went on to score 49 goals the following season and the Oilers won the Stanley Cup in 1990 after trading Carson for Adam Graves, Petr Klima and Joe Murphy. That coupled with the fact the players dealt to the Kings never won the Cup there and faded into the ether makes this a trade Oilers fans hold close to their heart and isn’t a source of sadness or controversy at all.
The trade in many ways is now an anomaly, but what makes it very special for the purpose of today’s writing is it occurred in August.
Cycling through a list of NHL transactions since 2006, it’s apparent that teams aren’t doing their major business in August. At some point, Mikhail Grabovski is going to sign a contract to play professional hockey. Whether that contract is with the NHL remains to be seen – I mean, good lord, someone sign the guy already – but a case can be made that if he signs before August ends, it will be the most meaningful transaction in August 2013 barring a cap-space-saving trade.
August is a graveyard for game-changing NHL transactions. Yes, teams do a lot of their best work when it comes to in-house moves, such as re-signing players and coaches to long-term extensions and locking up draft picks to entry-level contracts, but when it comes to infusing new talent via signing or trade, it’s very rare and usually features veterans desperate for a one-year deal. It’s akin to that show where the people bid money on storage lockers, then rummage through them to find a valuable gem no one else saw.
Your team is what it is at this point, history says, so while Grabovski will help your club, be it the Washington Capitals or Ak Bars Kazan (my No. 1 source for downloading illegal music in college), this month may as well not even happen. We need to get that remote control from “Click” where Adam Sandler can fast forward through uhhh I mean I’ve never seen that movie and cried shut up leave me alone.
What have August transactions since 2006 yielded? Here are the 10 most impactful moves (re-signings and extensions excluded) that have happened in August over the past seven years and how it affected the team.
1. August 15, 2008 – Edmonton Oilers name Bob Stauffer radio analyst
OK, just kidding. In all seriousness, August is when teams announce new TV and radio announcers and things like minor-league affiliate agreements. This is why powerful hockey journalists tweet pictures from their cottage in August while people like me surf through transaction logs to find set-ups for bad jokes.
To the real list!
10. August 11, 2006 — Petr Sykora signs a one-year, $2.9 million contract with the Edmonton Oilers
The veteran presence of Petr Sykora made a difference tonight.
— Allan Walsh (@walsha) June 7, 2012
Player results: Sykora did what he usually did during his career — he scored 20 goals. He put up 22 goals and 53 points and played in all 82 games. That Allan Walsh tweet has nothing to do with Sykora’s one season in Edmonton, but it remains the funniest tweet I’ve ever read.
Team results: One year after losing in the Stanley Cup Final in seven games, the Oilers began their drought of seven seasons of missing the postseason.
9. August 18, 2009 — Todd Bertuzzi signs a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Detroit Red Wings
Player results: The 34-year-old showed he had something left in the tank, putting up 18 goals and 44 points in 2009-10. He was even more productive in the postseason, putting up 11 points in 12 games.
Team results: A rarity on this list, Bertuzzi’s team reached the second round of the postseason. Of course, this was a step back, as Detroit had reached the Stanley Cup Final the previous two seasons.
8. August 17, 2009 — Vinny Prospal signs a one-year, $1.1 million contract with the New York Rangers
Player results: Prospal felt like he had something to prove at age 34 after the Lightning bought him out of the final three years of his contract, and he had a nice season in New York. In 75 games, Prospal had 20 goals and 58 points, but a knee injury limited him to 29 games in his second and final season with the Rangers.
Team results: As is the case with almost everyone on this list, the Rangers missed the postseason during the first year of the deal. The Rangers did, however, lose in the first round to the Washington Capitals the following season.
7. August 28, 2010 — Clarke MacArthur signs a one-year, $1.1 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs
Player results: One of two players on this list to become available after a team passed after arbitration, MacArthur was sent on his merry way by the Atlanta Thrashers, and man, how did that team have such a hard time finding success? MacArthur proved to be a steal for the Leafs, as he posted a career-best 21 goals and 62 points in 2010-11.
Team results: The Leafs missed the playoffs that season, of course, but MacArthur remains a valuable piece for the team (Edit: And by “the team” I mean “the Ottawa Senators” because that’s where he plays hockey in exchange for money now.)
6. August 25, 2010 — Raffi Torres signs a one-year, $1 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks
Player results: The missile with no working guidance system was worth every penny in 2010-11. He had 14 goals and 25 assists in 80 games, but made his biggest impact felt in the postseason. He devastated Brent Seabrook in a first-round game against the Chicago Blackhawks, knocking the defenseman out for two games, then crushed the Sharks’ Joe Thornton with in the conference finals that left him at far less than 100 percent for the deciding game of the conference finals. He also scored the only goal of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final with 19 seconds remaining in regulation to beat the Bruins.
Team results: As you probably already know, the Canucks lost to the Bruins in seven games of the Stanley Cup Final after winning the Presidents’ Trophy.
5. August 25, 2010 — Willie Mitchell signs a two-year, $7 million contract with the Los Angeles Kings
Player results: Injuries sidetracked Mitchell in his first season, but he had 24 points in 76 regular-season games in 2011-12. That was a career-high in points for the 34-year-old, who also appeared in all 20 postseason games on the way to winning the Stanley Cup.
Team results: This is the only move on the list that subsequently led to the team winning a championship, although it happened in the second year of the contract.
4. August 29, 2008 — The Ottawa Senators trade Andrej Meszaros to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Filip Kuba, Alexandre Picard and a first-round pick
Player results: Meszaros was a point-producing defenseman with Ottawa, but when the club and restricted free agent couldn’t come to terms, he was shipped to the Lightning. Meszaros only spent two seasons in Tampa, where he was a huge disappointment. Meanwhile, Kuba went on to spend four seasons with the Senators, posting a career-best 37 assists in his first year in Ottawa.
Team results: The Lightning never reached the postseason with Meszaros on the back end. The Senators missed the playoffs in Kuba’s first season and failed to get out of the first round in two of his three other seasons.
3. August 29, 2006 — J-P Dumont signs a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Nashville Predators
Player results: The Buffalo Sabres walking away from an arbitrator’s decision to award Dumont $2.9 million turned out to be the Predators’ gain. Dumont had 50 goals over the term of the contract, including a career best 29 goals and 72 points in 2007-08. Dumont parlayed those two seasons into a four-year, $16 million deal with Nashville, but never matched his numbers from his first two seasons.
Team results: Despite Dumont’s success in his first three seasons, the Predators were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs twice and missed the playoffs altogether in 2008-09.
2. August 2, 2007 — Dustin Penner signs a five-year, $21.25 million contract with the Edmonton Oilers (Yes, Penner signed the offer sheet in July, but the deal didn’t become official until August)
Player results: Penner was a mixed bag in Edmonton. He had a strong first season (23 goals, 24 assists), dipped to 17 goals and 37 points in year two, netted a career-high 32 goals in his third season, then had 21 goals in 62 games in his fourth season before he was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings at the 2011 trade deadline. During his second season in Edmonton, coach Craig MacTavish questioned Penner’s fitness and later, the whole pancakes thing was really funny.
Team results: Not that it was Penner’s fault, but the Oilers never reached the postseason during his time in Edmonton.
1. August 28, 2009 – The Vancouver Canucks acquire defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Lukowich from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for prospects
Player results: Ehrhoff spent just two seasons in Vancouver, but they were the best of his career. He had 14 goals and 44 assists in 2009-10 and 14 goals and 50 points in 2010-11 before signing a 10-year contract with the Buffalo Sabres in 2011. Lukowich played just 13 games for the Canucks.
Team results: Ehrhoff was a big reason for the Canucks reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2011, but a shoulder injury severely hampered him against the Boston Bruins. The deal also worked out to an extent for the Sharks, as they freed cap room to acquire Dany Heatley from the Ottawa Senators on September 12, 2009. Heatley had 65 goals in two seasons with San Jose before he was traded to the Minnesota Wild for Martin Havlat.