So this is the point we’ve come to...
It’s the middle of summer and hockey talk is barren, so I decided to task myself with the improbable: try and connect Phil Esposito, one of the greatest hockey players of all time, in some way to the Ottawa Senators.
Through a series of twenty transactions (i.e. a trade or a player being drafted with a traded pick), I have successfully connected the Sault Ste. Marie native to the Dion Phaneuf blockbuster of 2016. All connecting players will be marked in italics.
Step 1: Chicago trades Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield to Boston for Pit Martin, Jack Norris and Gilles Marotte (May 15th, 1967)
This is where it all starts. After spending three seasons playing for the Chicago Blackhawks, Phil Esposito was dealt to the Boston Bruins, where he would ultimately find the peak of his career scoring 152 points in 1970-71.
As for the return, the main piece was Pit Martin, who stayed with Chicago for another ten seasons, scoring a career-high 90 points in 1972-73. They also received goaltender Jack Norris (who signs with the Canadiens later in the off-season), as well as the next piece to the puzzle...
Step 2: Chicago trades Gilles Marotte, Denis DeJordy and Jim Stanfield to Los Angeles for Bryan Campbell, Gerry Desjardins and Bill White (February 20th, 1970)
Although the second trade in the chain is a three-for-three swap, it was essentially two teams exchanging struggling minor assets. None of these players lasted with their team for more than a few years afterwards, with Bryan Campbell being the only player to figure it out in the subsequent season scoring a career-high 55 points.
Step 3: Chicago trades Gerry Desjardins, Kerry Bond and Gerry Pinder to California for Gary Smith (September 9th, 1971)
Yes, we’re travelling back into a time when the California Golden Seals still existed before folding in 1978. This was the trade of the Gary/Gerry’s, as the two teams swapped goalies (DeJordy for Smith) while Chicago has to add in a couple smaller pieces. Gary Smith earned the nickname “Suitcase” because he was always changing teams, which makes him perfectly suitable as the next connection.
Step 4: Chicago trades Gary Smith and Jerry Korab to Vancouver for Dale Tallon (May 14th, 1973)
Although Dale Tallon is mostly known in 2017 as being the general manager of the Florida Panthers, he also used to be an NHL defenceman, with 642 career games played between the Canucks, Hawks and Penguins (he was also drafted second overall in the 1970 draft). The connector in this trade, however, is Jerry Korab, another defenceman who finished his first three NHL seasons with the Blackhawks. He doesn’t last in Vancouver long, though, as he was dealt again only seven months later.
Step 5: Vancouver trades Jerry Korab to Buffalo for John Gould and Tracy Pratt (December 27th, 1973)
We’re a quarter of the way to Phaneuf, and we’ve only moved ahead six years. Korab was dealt to Buffalo on the upswing of his career, where he ended up staying for 537 games. Vancouver received in return fringe NHLer Tracy Pratt, as well as John Gould, who ended up breaking out for 65 points on the Canucks a year after the trade.
Step 6: Buffalo trades Jerry Korab to Los Angeles for 1982 1st round pick (March 10th, 1980)
Nearing the end of the prime of his career, Buffalo decided to part ways with the long-time Sabre Korab to the Los Angeles Kings, who finished second in their division that season. Although it seemed safe at the time to give up a future first round pick in the midst of a winning time, the Kings couldn’t hold their competitiveness for two more years, falling to bottom five in the league in the year of the traded pick.
Step 7: Buffalo uses 1982 1st round pick to draft Phil Housley (June 9th, 1982)
Buffalo was fortunate for LA’s pick to be 6th overall, with which they used to draft defenceman Phil Housley. It was a great pick, especially considering the two players who went 7th and 8th scored a combined 102 points over their careers. Housley stayed with the Sabres for eight seasons, before we arrive at a blockbuster.
Step 8: Buffalo trades Phil Housley, Scott Arniel, Jeff Parker and 1990 1st round pick to Winnipeg for Dale Hawerchuk and 1990 1st round pick (June 16th, 1990)
We arrive in the 90’s with the Housley-for-Hawechuk blockbuster, as the Jets sent packing their superstar centreman for a superstar defenceman. The teams also swapped draft picks, as Winnipeg selected Keith Tkachuk 19th overall, and Buffalo selected Brad May 14th overall. As great as all those pieces were, the next step keeps us going with once again...
Step 9: Winnipeg trades Phil Housley to St. Louis for Nelson Emerson and Stéphane Quintal (September 24th, 1993)
Having spent three seasons with the Jets and reaching new offensive heights (97 points in 80 games), Winnipeg decides to capitalize on Housley’s value by trading him for... Nelson Emerson? Emerson had scored 73 points the previous season, and scored 74 in his first season in Winnipeg, although it tumbled down in subsequent years. St. Louis didn’t get a whole lot out of Housley either, as he played only 26 games before being dealt yet again to Calgary. Although that trade spawns it’s own chain, the road to Phaneuf continues with Stéphane Quintal, who was added in as a defensive grinder.
Step 10: Winnipeg trades Stéphane Quintal to Montreal for 1995 2nd round pick (July 8th, 1995)
Not a major trade by any means, the Jets unload Quintal on draft day for a pick after finishing last in their division for the 1994-95 season. Quintal went on to play four seasons with the Canadiens, taking on duties as an alternate captain.
We’re halfway to Phaneuf!
Step 11: Winnipeg uses 1995 2nd round pick to draft Jason Doig (July 8th, 1995)
The Jets selected Jason Doig 34th overall, two picks after they already selected Marc Chouinard. The pick in hindsight was successful, as the next player drafted to score more career points that Doig was Christian Laflamme, selected 11 spots later.
The Jets relocated to Phoenix a year later.
Step 12: Phoenix trades Jason Doig and 1999 6th round pick to the New York Rangers for Stanislav Neckar (March 23rd, 1999)
Doig got traded to the Rangers, where he helped their AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, win the Calder Cup a year later. Although this doesn’t connect to Phaneuf, the Rangers later traded Doig to Ottawa along with Jeff Ulmer in exchange for Sean Gagnon.
Going back is Stanislav Neckar, who was a former Sens draft pick and previously traded to the Rangers from Ottawa in 1998.
Step 13: Phoenix trades Stanislav Neckar and the rights to Nikolai Khabibulin to Tampa Bay for Mike Johnson, Paul Mara, Ruslan Zainullin and 2001 2nd round pick (March 5th, 2001)
With goalie Nikolai Khabibulin playing in the lower tier IHL, Phoenix decided the best route was to trade him to Tampa Bay, where he later became their starter for three seasons. Returning, the Coyotes acquired middle-tier players Mike Johnson and Paul Mara, prospect Ruslan Zainullin (who later decided to stay in Russia), as well as the first pick of the 2001 2nd round (used to select Matthew Spiller).
Step 14: Phoenix trades Paul Mara and 2007/2008 3rd round pick to Boston for Nick Boynton and 2007 4th round pick (June 26th, 2006)
Another minor trade that helps us get to our destination. Nick Boynton stayed with Phoenix for a couple years, Paul Mara lasted for only one in Boston, and the pick swap only helps us with this chain.
Step 15: Phoenix trades 2007 4th round pick and Tyson Nash to Toronto for Mikael Tellqvist (November 27th, 2006)
We’ve arrived at the Leafs, which is looking good if we’re trying to connect to Phaneuf. The 4th round pick is what we’re following here, as Tyson Nash left to play in Asia and Tellqvist was later flipped for a mid-round pick.
Step 16: Toronto uses 2007 4th round pick to draft Matt Frattin (June 23rd, 2007)
For those who remember the specifics of the Phaneuf trade, you may already know where this goes from here. Looking back this was a good pick for Toronto, as none of the next five picks went on to play even a single game in the NHL.
Step 17: Toronto trades Matt Frattin, 2014/2015 2nd round pick and Ben Scrivens to Los Angeles for Jonathan Bernier (June 23rd, 2013)
Wait, now we’re moving away from the Leafs? It’ll only be brief, as we continue to follow Matt Frattin through the jungle of trades. This one made Jonathan Bernier became a Toronto Maple Leaf, a time that we won’t want to forget.
Step 18: Los Angeles trades Matt Frattin, 2015 2nd round pick and 2014 conditional 3rd round pick to Columbus for Marian Gaborik (March 5th, 2014)
We continue to follow Frattin, who has a tendency to be included in larger trades, this time for Marian Gaborik, despite having a career high 15 points as a forward. The 2015 pick included in the trade is the same one that LA previously acquired from Toronto, serving as an extra link from the previous step. Oddly enough, that same pick later ended up back in Toronto’s hands, after Columbus traded up to select Gabriel Carlsson. The pick was used to select defenceman Travis Dermott.
Step 19: Columbus trades Matt Frattin to Toronto for Jerry D’Amigo and 2015 conditional 7th round pick (July 1st, 2014)
With one step left to follow, Matt Frattin finds himself back in Toronto, although this time just through a small trade on the opening day of free agency. And for the final step...
Step 20: Toronto trades Matt Frattin, Dion Phaneuf, Casey Bailey, Ryan Rupert and Cody Donaghey to Ottawa for Jared Cowen, Milan Michalek, Tobias Lindberg and 2017 2nd round pick (February 9th, 2016)
And finally, we arrive at the 2016 blockbuster for Dion Phaneuf. You can make an argument that I’m bending the rules in the final step considering Frattin never even played a game for the Senators organization (instead he was loaned back to Toronto for the remainder of the season), although he was technically still part of the official transaction.
It took 20 steps to complete, but the etymology of Dion Phaneuf being on the Ottawa Senators has a history that goes all the way back to the 1960’s.