There is an old adage in hockey that serves as a reminder that no player is truly untouchable on the trade market.
“After all,” the saying goes, “even Wayne Gretzky was traded.”
But there should be an important amendment stapled onto the end of that statement, directed at general managers in the NHL.
It should read, “After all, even Wayne Gretzky was traded — within his own division.”
In the summer of 1988, the Edmonton Oilers decided the best return for Gretzky was offered within the Smythe Division from the Los Angeles Kings. Instead of sending Gretzky out of the division or conference, they took a haul from Los Angeles that included teenage 50-goal-scoring sensation Jimmy Carson, three first-round draft picks, former No. 7 selection Martin Gelinas and $15 million in cash.
The Gretzky anecdote is a reminder that general managers should consider taking the best option on the table in a trade — even if it sends a game-breaking talent to another club within your division.
In more recent history, the Boston Bruins didn’t shy away from trading 21-year-old Phil Kessel — fresh off a 36-goal campaign — within the division to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fall of 2009. Boston acquired a pair of first-round picks and a second-round selection in exchange for Kessel, who promptly inked a five-year, $27 million contract with Toronto.