August 07, 2008

Gretzky For Yzerman? Linden? Leetch?
Alternative Gretzky Trades

"At the point in time, I said, ‘Look, if I'm moving,
the only two places I want to go to would be Los Angeles or Detroit'"

- Wayne Gretzky

Which begs the question: What would have a Detroit trade look liked?

Using the actual Kings' trade as a template, the asking price likely would have been the same $15 million US as well as the three first round draft picks.

The Kings had Martin Gelinas as their top pick just a couple weeks earlier at the NHL Entry Draft. Because the Kings cupboard was quite bare that made him the team's top prospect by default.

Detroit selected Kory Kocur with the 17th pick, but I suspect he would not have been the top prospect that Edmonton would have wanted in return.

Detroit did have both Joe Murphy and Adam Graves in their system at the time, and obviously Glen Sather had interest in them, as he acquired them later on, ironically enough, in exchange for Jimmy Carson. Hindsight might suggest Adam Oates would have been a great prospect, but at the time he was still establishing himself, plus he was far from a great skater Glen Sather usually insisted upon.

Speaking of Carson - the only player Detroit would have had to match him would have been Steve Yzerman. Yzerman was just weeks away from elevating his status from the very good to the league's top 5 best players. Prior to the 1988-89 season, both Carson and Yzerman produced at very similar rates.

Gretzky for Yzerman, Murphy, three first round picks and $15 million? I think the Oilers probably would have fared a bit better had they dealt with Detroit.

I also suspect Glen Sather may have opted for Bob Probert over a prospect like Murphy. Probie was Slats' kind of guy.

Just for fun - Because I'm a Vancouver fan, and because Vancouver was supposedly in the mix for Gretzky, at least until #99 narrowed the choice to Detroit or LA, I wonder if Vancouver had enough to complete the trade?

Again assuming Vancouver would match the same $15 million and the same 3 future first round picks, Vancouver had a great prospect but no superstar to offer.

The great prospect was Medicine Hat, Alberta native Trevor Linden, drafted 2nd overall three weeks before the big Gretzky trade. Linden almost certainly would have gone to the Oil.

But the Canucks had no top center to offer, not like Carson or Yzerman.

Tony Tanti had 5 consecutive years at 39 or more goals. But in Edmonton he would have been a third line right winger behind Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson.

Greg Adams had a strong season the year before, but he usually played left wing. Petri Skriko might have complimented Edmonton's Finnish contingent nicely. The Oilers may have had interest in defensemen Doug Lidster. But the Canucks had no real immediate talent to offer.

Not that that would have mattered, necessarily. Ultimately, Gretzky was going where Gretzky chose. If he chose Vancouver Edmonton would have had to have made do with probably a different package, perhaps including more draft picks or prospects.

By The Way: The other team reportedly kicking tires was the New York Rangers. They were similar to the Canucks in that they didn't have a star player in his prime to give back. But they did have perhaps the best prospect out there, at least in hindsight: Brian Leetch.

Conclusion: A Gretzky trade to either Detroit or Vancouver or even New York would have change a lot of hockey history in all of these great hockey markets.

1 comment:

Rishi said...

I have always wondered what it would have meant for the NHL had Gretzky gone to Manhattan in his prime to pla for the Rangers. We clearly saw how the NHL benefited from Gretz's days in Hollywood, but I think New York would have been a whole new level.