You're never going to believe this, but the Cam Neely trade does, in fact, make this list.
We previously looked at the 10 worst Bruins trades since 1972. And now, let's look at some happier results. But first, a couple disclaimers. The famous trade that brought Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield to Boston for a bag of pucks (actually, it was Pit Martin, Gilles Marotte and Jack Norris) doesn't qualify; that trade was in 1967. Otherwise, it would probably top the list. How often do you get one Hall of Famer, one guy who probably could be a Hall of Famer, and one solid contributor to two championship teams for nothing? In fact, it's arguably the most lopsided trade in NHL history. So let's give the deal it's due here, even though it misses the cutoff by a few years.
"Well, that's not such a great deal, Phunwin. What the hell did Reasoner and Stastny do for Boston?" Go look up who that second round pick ended up being. Go ahead, I'll wait.
Oh. Yeah. Nice one, Peter Chiarelli. So, why doesn't it rank higher? Because (and this will be demonstrated again below), draft pick trades can't really count as full value on this list. Half the value is in the trade itself, and half is in making a wise draft pick. (Maybe it's not half and half, maybe it's 40/60, whatever, you get the point.) Had the Bruins chosen someone other than Milan Lucic with that draft pick, the trade would be a bust. Think of it another way: if/when I get around to a "top 10 Bruins draft picks of the last decade", rest assured Looch would be on it.
Phil Kessel for 2 first round picks and a second round pick.
Let's get this one out of the way right now, before I get firebombed in the comments. Given a choice of taking Toronto's side of the deal, or Boston's, I'm taking Boston's seven days a week and twice on Sunday. Here's the thing though: we don't KNOW that the package of Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight will be more valuable than Phil Kessel. We THINK it will. Huge difference. This list is reserved for trades that, beyond the shadow of a doubt, were huge wins for Boston. Can't say that for this deal, not yet. In five years, when I'm doing this list again, my guess is it makes the top 10. But right now, all we know is that Boston gave up a lot of value and hasn't gotten their return yet.
The other argument in favor of this one is that Boston HAD to move Kessel and got a great return. Absolutely true. Peter Chiarelli deserves full marks for an excellent disaster recovery plan. He had David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Kessel all hitting free agency at once, and couldn't keep all three, so he dealt the right one. Here's the problem with that excellent disaster recovery plan: Chiarelli created the disaster in the first place. Too many outsized contracts to mediocre contributors like Chuck Kobasew and Michael Ryder forced the Bruins into a corner where they had to trade an ultra-talented player who looked to be part of their core. There's a big difference between making the right move under the circumstances, and making an all-time great trade.
And now that we've gotten that out of the way, please click below the fold for the top 10.
As I have said before, I love the tangible and measurable, and disdain the intangible and mystical. But Mark Recchi absolutely had a positive impact on the Boston Bruins beyond his production. The Bruins got 2+ seasons of solid three zone play from Recchi, with very good playoff production, including 7 crucial points in this year's Stanley Cup Finals. For this, they gave up nothing. Added bonus: that second round pick was swapped for Dennis Seidenberg.
Bill Ranford, Geoff Courtnall and a 2nd round pick for Andy Moog
Moog gave the Bruins 6 years of top-flight goaltending. Hockey Reference users give him even higher praise than I do (and I loved Moog), ranking him the 10th best goaltender in NHL history. That's a stretch, but the fact remains that Moog backstopped Boston to two Stanley Cup Finals, and was a top 10 goaltender for most of his time in Boston. I had this deal ranked a few spots higher until I remembered that they gave up Geoff Courtnall as well.
Jozef Stumpel, Sandy Moger and a 4th round pick for Byron Dafoe and Dmitri Khristich.
Stumpy, bless his heart, is the only guy who appears on this list on both ends of a trade. I think he and Glen Murray were traded and re-acquired by the Bruins about 50 different times. Stumpel was a competent second line center, when healthy, but spinning him for Dafoe and Khristich was a huge win for Boston. Dafoe provided Boston it's first steady goaltending since Moog was unfairly run out of town, backstopping the team to their 2001-2 division title, and carrying the mediocre 1998-9 team on his back to the conference semifinals, while Khristich had 58 goals in 2 years before Harry Sinden set a shocking precedent by walking away from an arbitration award and dealing Khristich for a second round pick. He was reviled for doing so at the time, but was completely vindicated when it was clear that the Bruins had gotten the last of Khristich's good years.
Jason Allison and Mikko Eloranta for Glen Murray and Jozef Stumpel.
Over the years, Harry Sinden and, later, his erstwhile puppet Mike O'Connell traded with the Kings a whole bunch of times, and seemingly every time, the Bruins came out with a dollar, and the Kings came out with a return anywhere between 50 cents and a handful of pocket lint. This had the look of a classic "uh oh, this guy's getting too expensive, we'd better dump him" deal, with Allison seemingly hitting his stride as a star center. As it happened, the injury-prone Allison had already peaked, and the Bruins parlayed him into Stumpel, who gave the Bruins two quality years of second line center play, and (more importantly), Murray. For my money, Muzz is one of the most underappreciated Bruins in team history: in his second go-round with the B's, which lasted 6 years, Murray scored 180 goals. He was a dominant player on both the 2001-2 and 2003-4 division champs, and scored one of the most hilarious game-winning goals in NHL history.
(Incidentally, for any Kings fans reading, it's going to get a whole lot worse in a couple spots.)
Craig Janney and Stephane Quintal for Adam Oates.
Oates only played in Boston for what amounted to five years, but he ranks 9th in the team's all-time assist leaders. I remember where I was when news of this trade broke: for my birthday, my stepdad was taking me to Boston Garden to see the Bruins play the Devils. We were listening to sports radio and they announced this deal. I couldn't have been more excited that Oates was going to be suiting up for his first game as a Bruin for my first game at The Garden. Oates was an absolute machine (45-97-142, and no, those numbers are not a misprint) for the 1992-3 Bruins, a team that won the division, but was unfortunately submarined by Cam Neely's ill health and a goaltending collapse. Janney never achieved the heights he seemed capable of in his debut with the Bruins, due to a complete lack of interest in defense or checking, and Quintal was a competent defenseman, but ultimately a journeyman. I'll give that up for five sublime years of Oates any day.
No, it's not too early to put this deal on the list. Not when Horton scored 26 goals for the Bruins, added 17 playoff points in 21 games, served as an emotional rallying point for the team in the Stanley Cup Finals, and had THREE game winning playoff goals (two in overtime, both against Les Habitantes). Boston does not win a Stanley Cup without him. Period. You can't say that about any of the other trades Peter Chiarelli made this year. Maybe they win without the deal for Chris Kelly, or Tomas Kaberle, or Tyler Seguin. They definitely do not win without Horton.
Ron Grahame for a first round pick.
Grahame had some success in the WHA, and had a sterling 1977-8 campaign for the Bruins, posting a 26-6-7 record and 2.76 GAA. Harry Sinden decided it was a good time to cash out his stock and spun him to LA for a first round pick in the 1979 draft. Grahame immediately flopped upon hitting Hollywood, and that pick turned into the 9th overall pick of the draft. The Bruins used the pick on a defenseman from Verdun of the QMJHL. You may have heard of him. He piled up Norris Trophies like they were going out of style, was a fixture on the all-star team and to this day, ranks as a skater behind only Wayne Gretzky in the all-time GVT ratings.
Since Raymond Bourque is arguably the second greatest Bruin in history, behind only St. Robert, why wouldn't this be #1? As I said, half the value was in making a great trade, the other half was in having the brains to pick Bourque in the '79 draft. (As an aside, go check out the 1979 draft sometime. That draft was bursting with talent.)
Ken Hodge for Rick Middleton.
The Rangers, like the Kings, just didn't fare well when making a deal with the Bruins. Hodge was a great contributor to the mighty Bruin teams of the early 70s, but looked to be starting a decline. In 1976, the Bruins figured he was running out of gas, and spun him for the Rangers 1st round pick in the 1973 draft, Rick Middleton. Hodge was out of the NHL in two years, but Middleton gave the Bruins a decade of excellent play, making 3 All-Star teams, and 402 goals, which places him 3rd on the team's all-time list. Middleton, like the man he was traded for, never made the Hall of Fame, but like Hodge, probably ought to be there.
But it gets worse than this one...
Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais for Brad Park, Jean Ratelle and Joe Zanussi.
Say this much for Harry Sinden: the man had a pretty good sense for when to cash out on a player's stock. The Espo to New York trade absolutely stunned the hockey world. But Espo had hit his peak and was on the decline. Even so, Espo for Park still wouldn't have been a terrible swap; Espo scored 184 goals in 422 games with the Blueshirts, so he was hardly a bust, though some of his plus/minus numbers for those lousy Ranger teams are laughable, and since almost half those goals came on the power play, it's clear that Espo had become something of a liability 5 on 5. Park was second only to Denis Potvin among NHL defensemen in the late 70s, and continued giving Boston high-level play through 1982-3, kicking the power play into overdrive, and leading the team to a pair of Stanley Cup Finals and a Conference Final.
The kicker here was Ratelle, who was 35 at the time of the trade, and should have been in steep decline. Yet Ratelle, the supposed throw-in, actually had MORE points than the mighty Espo after the trade. Ratelle was a sublime passer, a skill that ages better than most, and while it's possible that Sinden knew that and targeted Ratelle, it's a lot more likely that he just got lucky.
Barry Pederson for Cam Neely and a first round pick.
This trade has some similarities to the Jason Allison deal; Pederson inexplicably peaked at a very early age (22, when he posted a dominating 116 point season), and was never the same. The Canucks traded the local boy, Neely, who was a first round pick, but hadn't shown a whole lot in three full NHL seasons. Suddenly, after going to Boston, Neely's career took off, just as Pederson's began a steep decline. Injuries took their toll on #8, but he sailed into the Hall of Fame, and ranks 5th on the Bruins all time goal leaders.
But that's not all. That first round pick turned into Glen Wesley. Wesley gave the Bruins 7 years of excellent play, including an all-star appearance. Though he lacks the glittering career that Neely had, Wesley was absolutely a strong defenseman, and a crucial part of the team's success in the late 80s and early 90s. All told, the Bruins gave up 2 good years of Pederson for 7 good years of Wesley and 8 Hall of Fame years from Neely. That, my friends, isn't a good deal; it's a heist.
But even that's not all. This trade ranks #1 even without this little thought experiment. Keep in mind that Wesley was traded for 3 first round picks: one was a bust, but the other two were Kyle McLaren and Sergei Samsonov. McLaren gave the Bruins 7 quality years before he got sent to San Jose for Jeff Jillson, who was traded for Brad Boyes, who was traded for Dennis Wideman, who was traded for...Nathan Horton. Samsonov gave the Bruins 6 quality years before he got sent to Edmonton...for Milan Lucic. So Boston's beloved tandem of power forwards owe their presence in Boston (indirectly) to the Neely trade. Oh, and Neely became team VP, and was almost certainly instrumental in pushing for Lucic's extension and Horton's acquisition.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's a good thing Harry Sinden pulled the trigger on this trade.