Ah, who among us doesn’t love a good ol’ fashioned hockey trade?
Well, if you’re an Edmonton Oilers fan, you might not be the biggest fan of the concept.
The franchise has a bit of a dicey history with trades, having been part of one of the most infamous trades of all-time in the late ‘80s, as well as having a recent GM who wasn’t afraid to light an asset or two on fire if he felt in the mood.
Trades are, and will always be, a risky way to try to improve your club and one that could greatly benefit your rivals if you don’t think it all the way through.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the five worst trades in Oilers history.
5. COVID-19 pandemic stunts Athanasiou
Edmonton Oilers receive Andreas Athanasiou and Ryan Kuffner
Detroit Red Wings receive Sam Gagner, 2020 second-round pick (#45 Brock Faber), and 2021 second-round pick (#52 Aatu Raty)
Why it’s bad:
The most recent trade on the list comes in at the #5 spot simply because I can understand the logic that went into why Ken Holland made this trade.
With the Oilers looking to add a legit top-six forward to their roster ahead of the playoffs, Athanasiou checked off a lot of boxes. He was a lightning fast winger who had a good finishing touch. He had been struggling that season but was only one-year removed from a 30-goal campaign.
The price was steep, with two second-rounders going the other other way, but it made sense….until COVID-19 happened.
Athanasiou scored in his first game as an Oiler but only managed two points in nine games before the season was halted. When the play-in round happened he failed to record a single point in four games and went unqualified by the Oilers in the summer.
Overall, the team got two points in 13 games. A dud if I’d ever seen one. Thankfully, Stevie Y did Edmonton a favour this offseason by taking Kailer Yamamoto off their hands for free.
4. Edmonton gifts Parise to Devils
Edmonton Oilers receive 2003 first-round pick (#22 Marc-Antoine Pouliot) and 2003 second-round pick (#68 Jean-Francois Jacques)
New Jersey Devils receive 2003 first-round pick (#17 Zach Parise)
Why it’s bad:
Trading draft picks is risky business, trading first-round draft picks is even riskier. This is why.
When the Oilers traded pick 17 in the 2003 draft they were only moving down five spots. On the surface, trading down five spots to get an additional second rounder isn’t bad. But, it’s hindsight that bit the Oilers here.
The New Jersey Devils were able to select Zach Parise with Edmonton’s pick who went on to become the face of the franchise and scored 410 points in over 500 games in a New Jersey uniform. The Oilers, in turn, got two fringe NHLers who scored a combined 74 points.
If Edmonton had hung tight and selected Parise with their selection, it would have changed the course of the franchise. Instead they revitalized the Devils and plunged themselves into a decade of darkness.
3. Oilers swap Ryans with Rangers
Edmonton Oilers receive Ryan Spooner
New York Rangers receive Ryan Strome
Why it’s bad:
This one didn’t make much sense from the get-go. Yes, Ryan Strome was struggling to start the 2018–19 season, with only two points in the first 18 games of the season, but it was pretty obvious that he was snake-bitten. Considering the Oilers were well on their way to another failed season, it would make sense to be a little more patient with the guy you traded Jordan Eberle for just a year prior.
Instead, Pistol Pete Chiarelli fired up the trade machine and acquired Ryan Spooner from the Rangers in a one-for-one deal. It was immediately relevant that he had lost quite a bit of value on the trade.
Spooner played in just 25 games in an Oilers uniform and notched a measly three points. Strome, on the other-hand, regained his form and has since become a consistent 40-point scorer.
This trade epitomized Chiarelli’s reactionary tenure in Edmonton and his tendency to rush into deals when he felt under pressure.
2. The Griffin Reinhart debacle
Edmonton Oilers receive Griffin Reinhart
New York Islanders receive: 2015 first-round pick (#15 Matthew Barzal and 2015 second-round pick (#33 Mitchell Stephens)
Why it’s bad:
Speaking of Chiarelli, the move that is widely considered his worst came within his first few months on the job.
On a day in which the team drafted Connor McDavid, Chiarelli still managed a way to leave a bitter taste in the mouth of Oilers fans. In an attempt to find help on the blueline, and reeling after failing to acquire Dougie Hamilton from Boston, Pete decided to leverage the team’s 15th and 33rd overall selections for defensive prospect Griffin Reinhart.
Reinhart was very unproven at that point in time and despite some high draft pedigree, was struggling to adapt to the pro level, which would continue in Edmonton. He played just 29 games with Edmonton before the Vegas Golden Knights selected him in the 2017 expansion draft.
The New York Islanders capitalized with the Oilers pick, selecting the eventual Calder trophy winner and eventual superstar Matthew Barzal. They traded the 33rd overall pick to select Anthony Beauvillier, who became a key part of last season’s Bo Horvat trade.
Not the best way to kick off the McDavid era.
1. Trading Gretzky to the Kings:
Edmonton Oilers receive Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, 1989 first-round pick (#18 Jason Miller), 1991 first-round pick (#20 Martin Rucinsky), 1993 first-round pick (#16 Nick Stajduhar), and cash
Los Angelas Kings receive Wayne Gretzky, Mike Krushelnyski, and Marty McSorley
Why it’s bad:
This is an easy one—any trade involving Wayne Gretzky in the prime of his career is a bad trade for the team trading #99.
The Oilers got back some decent players in this deal in Carson and Gelinas but it was absolutely nowhere near the value of Gretzky. By now we should all know that the circumstances had little to do with what the Oilers got back on the ice and everything to do with the cash that then-owner, Peter Pocklington, pocketed.
Gretzky was sold to the Kings the same way a millionaire sells off an asset. What players the Oilers got back was irrelevant.
It worked out for Gretzky, who continued to dominate the league and set records in Los Angelas. The Oilers, however, were starting to enter a transitional period. Yes, they won another cup in 1990 but this was the first sign of an incoming exodus that eventually saw Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, and Grant Fuhr all eventually leaving the team.
If only we could have seen what the Oilers could have been if they kept the best player in the history of the league.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire